The Mom’s Code: Going Back to School
Written by Eileen Wacker
Somewhere in my motherhood journey, Me, Myself and I became separate players on my personal team. Growing up, I was encouraged to do my best. Overachievement was admired. I worked really hard most of the time and had some pretty good jobs. When I got married, I had to learn to compromise. I’ve never been a fan because true compromise involves giving in, at least partially, on something you care about because it is more important to move forward than to be right, stuck at the top of some pyramid, all alone. Initially, I was horrible at compromising and then big battles with my beloved ensued so I got better at it. I reasoned I have to give some things up for the good of the team.
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The definition of team got revised when we had kids, four of them, in six years. When they were born, I, as a mom, was born. Things shifted forever and a complete reprioritization drifted down, dressed in the cutest clothes, smelling like baby powder. I was in awe of their complete innocence and total dependence on me. I was determined to be the best mother I could be. They decimated my defenses. I added two dogs into the mix in a moment of weakness and agreed to work from home. Operating in a haze of chaos, I shifted/separated into Me, Myself, and I to cover as many bases as possible in my crazy-paced life.
I rely on my inner compass to make good mom choices but there is a lot of white noise. Last week, my kids had strep throat and the flu, my husband was traveling, I had a work deadline, and there were a lot of shenanigans in one of my kid’s sports caused by a hypercompetitive mom. All three parts of me started to collide and I had to referee the different points of view of Me, Myself and I.
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I said, “I’m the boss here, the leader on the ground. Let’s remember what we signed up for.
Myself, take a seat over there. You agreed that you would never sleep again. You’re holding down the family. You’re in charge of laundry, dishes, a clean house, groceries and everything else related to the home, including clothes and shoes that fit every growing human in the family. It’s endless and every day. Don’t expect personal hygiene to be important to kids and please work from home so you can morph into a net and catch all the problems that crop up at the house. To keep things interesting, we’ve had food allergies, learning issues, an open heart surgery, crooked teeth, broken bones, and other surprises. And it’s your job to get up with the kids to feed them, nurse them back to health, and talk about their hopes and dreams.”
‘I’ continued, “That’s where we shift it over to Me.
Those hopes and dreams are your jurisdiction. Me, you were assigned to the kid’s schedules. Sounds easy but it’s a killer. Finding the right schools, doctors, activities and friends. Growing talents and policing the academics is an impossible task. Me, you might feel like you don’t have a lot to work with. Those little humans are filled with flaws and you need a money tree to afford all the activities and sports, never mind dental work. Most of the people in your world are connected with your children in some way, at least for the next eighteen years. You’ve chosen wisely but, Me, please limit the social engineering. The art of using the playdates as a climbing ladder for you and the children is unappetizing. We know it’s a jungle out there in the mom world. Many moms go to great lengths to secure any and every advantage for her child. And stomp on any mom or child that gets in the way of her plan.”
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Me said, “All my hopes and dreams shifted to my children. I’m not sure when this happened. People have asked me many times, ‘What are you hoping for?’ My answer inevitably ends up, ‘I hope my daughter makes the team’ or ‘I hope my son holds it together academically at school’ or ‘I hope my little girl has a happy day at school and someone invites her to something’. This is what happens to all the mom-Mes out there. I never sit and reflect about, “What are my hopes and dreams? What’s in it for ‘Me’? What do I want to accomplish? Because the mom-Mesare reacting to everything thrown in their path.”
‘I’ grew impatient with Me’s soliloquy. “Me, you accepted a long time ago that we needed to prioritize and it was kids first, then marriage, and we would have to give up a few things like our careers and our bodies. We are too deep in this to shift course. We have to keep the train on the tracks, especially with sick kids.”
‘Me’ backpedaled. “I’m not unhappy. But it’s constant, relentless and repeats every day. Of course there are true moments of celebration sprinkled throughout. This is what keeps our hearts so inflated with love. I just want it recognized that this enormous love has exquisite pain associated with it. And, also the puppy has a better haircut than me!”
I laughed and said to Myself, “That reminds me. Keep trying to maintain your sense of humor. Without it, you’re dead. I’m not kidding; keep the lightness, even when you are exhausted, because you are the center of the home.”
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Me responded, “Every day at least for a little while, the children are happiness hijackers. They don’t go along with the intricate plans I have painstakingly put in place. How am I supposed to build brilliant, talented, and kind individuals in this complicated, competitive world when kids don’t cooperate at all? The first week of any new schedule is a killer. No one is where they are supposed to be and they are complaining, late and have all the wrong clothes and shoes. Myself is not organized when we have a new schedule. Sorry Myself…”
Myself said, “I gave up everything of myself to gain a different kind of everything. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I’ve never wanted to trade it. I love the little time bandits. I just get tired sometimes and bone crushing weariness flows through me like a crazy uncontained river. So it takes me a few weeks to get a new normal going in the house every time a new season hits. Back to school is like the gong show, and the holidays, well, I don’t know where to begin.”
Me said quietly, “It’s not fair that I’m expected to pretend everything is perfect and make everything look perfect all the time. I’m not complaining, I’m communicating what it’s like out there for moms. I have no Me time! I need to work out. I need a shower alone in the bathroom with no one banging on the door. I’ve been sitting in this darkened corner for a long time and I need to get out. I want to get dressed up and go somewhere. It doesn’t mean I’m not all in on this parenting thing or that I don’t adore my children. I just feel like I lost me.”
Myself grew reflective. “I sometimes have low moments despite a happy marriage, relatively J nice children, a beautiful home and a nice lifestyle. But sometimes I stand on our balcony and stare at all nature’s beauty and majesty and feel isolated and lonely. How can this be when I have four kids that need me from 6 a.m. until the final meltdown at 8 p.m.?”
I said, “It’s because I miss Myself and Me sometimes and I feel a little sad. But I don’t want to be a princess crying into her chop chae so I put my head down and carry on.”
I continued, “We need to be a support system and sounding board to each other. We’ve had some soul crushing moments caused by unbelievably competitive and underhanded tactics in the mom world that we cannot control or avoid, but we have to stay united. All we can control is our reaction, which is far more positive when we agree certain behaviors are helpful and others are destructive. Let’s agree to a mom’s code and set a few boundaries to simplify things.
1 Stop trying to appear and be perfect and, raise perfect children. Let’s kick perfect to the curb as chasing it is wearing Me out. I’m ditching Whole Food bags as the new designer bags for good moms. Soaring Kraft Mac n Cheese sales let us know that there are a lot of secrets and cover-ups in pantries across America.
2 Lessen the hyper-parenting so Myself gets a little break. The kids can cut their meat, set an alarm, and wait ten minutes to be picked up. And although I need the exercise, I don’t have to run up and down the sports field with water, sunscreen, and tissues for my kids.
Having reached this conclusion, I suggested we end with a toast. I got a glass of wine and toasted to Mefirst. “Here’s to agreeing that compromises suck, but they are a necessary evil in every marriage.” Then I toasted to Myself. ”Here’s to children being the greatest gift and responsibility, all at the same time.” I offer one last toast to all moms. “Here’s to all the mothers out there. You’ve given up your bodies, put your dreams on hold, and execute an agenda that would kill a CEO every day. I celebrate you. I salute you.” Every day for the rest of my life I will be a mother. But today, I’m embracing all the pieces of what makes me who I am.