Yea, me neither.
I always believed that I’d be able to manage our family life without compromising my standards. Apparently, I was wrong.
A decade ago, my husband and I traveled to Boston to visit his old college roommate, who like my husband, was married with kids, a job, and a mortgage. They were a few years ahead of our life schedule, so visiting them was like looking into our future.
Our husbands snuck off to drink beer somewhere, so I hung out with the other wife while she went about her day as a stay-at-home mom to three kids.
Riding in her dingy minivan to school, I felt a subtle twinge of anxiety. My counterpart was somewhat tensely gripping the wheel, wearing her husband’s jacket, workout pants marred with a blob of dried schmutz, slippers and a pair of broken sunglasses that sat crooked on her face. The floor was strewn with debris – discarded kid’s meal toys, juice boxes, crumpled wrappers and tidbits of food
As she chatted about leaving her career as an attorney to raise the kids, my mind wandered. “What is that schmutz on her pants? Can’t she scrape it off with her thumbnail? With those glasses cocked sideways, she looks like she might suddenly run us all off a cliff. At least if we are stranded in a ravine, we could survive a few days on the old French fries and Skittles under the seats,” I thought.
Back at her house, she washed out two dirty cups, served us some coffee and slumped into a scratched kitchen chair with the newspaper. I could tell that skimming the newspaper over coffee each day was her one selfish indulgence, and depriving her of this little break from her chaotic routine might just sever her precarious hold on sanity. I puttered to allow her time to read.
“Hey, listen to this,” she suddenly commanded. “A man filed a missing persons report because his wife and mother of their children disappeared last week. Don’t you know, they found her, happily living in a newly rented apartment. Apparently, she loved them all, but needed a break and just ran away.”
My crazed hostess lifted her head from her paper and stared out the window for a few seconds before mumbling, “she . . . just . . . ran away.”
“I need to go freshen up a bit,” I lied, and hid in the bathroom in hopes that she would find solace and not a loaded weapon.
On the plane ride home, I thought of how the other wife seemed to be hanging on by a thread, and told myself that I would never have such a cluttered, disorganized, chaotic life.
A few days ago, I was crying like a baby while careening down the Arlington Expressway in my dirty white minivan. Wearing my standard black Nike work out pants, those ridiculous looking “shape up” shoes, and a fleece jacket adorned with dog hairs, I struggled to see through my tears and the bug guts still enameled on the window from our spring break trip.
It had been one of those days. The kids sat in their seats, unphased. They’d seen this kind of crazed display before and knew I’d soon be back to “normal,” which for me was a mental state that vacillated between Supermom and somewhat unstable.
The tipping point occurred during an after school conference with my teenage son’s English teacher. News of my son’s academic transgressions, coupled with the normal events of every day life – work deadlines, dirty laundry, the price of gas, dust bunnies, hormones — was just enough to bring me to the brink.
But, I did not drive our minivan off a cliff or run away to find a new life for myself. No, much like the old college roommate’s wife up in Boston, I maintained my grip on that invisible thread from which we moms hang and did what I needed to do to survive the chaos.
On that particular afternoon, it only took a good cry, an entire bag of Combos, and two DVRed episodes of Dance Moms for me to make a full recovery. Ironically, I was impressed with myself and mothers everywhere, who, despite it all, continue to muster the strength to face one of those days.
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