Wednesday, September 28, 2005

confessions of a slacker mom

Okay, so I stole the title. But it’s such a good one. And it is so how I feel tonight.

I have never known guilt like I’ve known in the last seven years. It is impossible to convey in mere words the sheer gut-wrenching, panic-producing, stomach-acid-creating, I’m-a-complete-failure-let-me-lay-prostrate-on-the-floor-and-and-slit-my-wrists feeling that comes over a woman the moment she first discovers she’s pregnant and doesn’t shake loose, so I’m told, until the day she dies. They slap a cute little nickname on it—Mommy Guilt—but there is nothing cute about it. It is all-consuming. And it will eat you alive if you let it.

Today was a typical example. The first grader was home with pink-eye, but the phrase “was home” is used very loosely in our household. “Staying home” from school today meant we went for our morning walk, went to the doctor, went to the pharmacy, ran into Grandma at the pharmacy, invited Grandma to join us for lunch with Poppa, went in Grandma’s van to meet Poppa so I could get something notarized at his office, had lunch together, and, finally, came home and “stayed home.” Until the grocery trip after dinner…

Of course, since we’d run around all morning, nothing had gotten done at home. Since I work part-time (more Mommy Guilt), this is a bigger deal than it sounds. Nothing picked up, no bills paid, no calls or emails returned, no projects worked on. Nothing. And after being gone 90% of the week last week, I’m still trying to catch up from the previous week’s picking up, bills, emails, and projects, to no avail. So, I get the toddler down for a nap, head for the office with my mental to-do list on overload, and the first thing I hear is, “Momma, will you play with me?”

My stomach sinks. Nothing triggers Mommy Guilt like the pleading tone of a child asking to be played with. Especially when you can’t stand playing with your children.


There, I said it. I hate playing with my daughter. AAAAAGHHH. Seeing it in print makes me want to run from the room screaming. Mothers aren’t supposed to say that. Still more Mommy Guilt. But it’s true.

There are many things I love doing with my children. I love to sit and talk with them. I love to sing to them. I love to go places with them and do activities with them. I love to read with them, play games with them, make music with them. I’m not a bad mom. I swear. (This is the first sign of Mommy Guilt—the compulsion to swear to people you are not a bad mom.) But, quite frankly, I do not enjoy playing pretend with my children. And it’s not just my children—I don’t enjoy playing pretend with other people’s children, either. I abhorred that part of babysitting—I don’t like to be told how to pretend. Makes me crazy. And this is what my daughter wants most from me.

This is what she asks for this afternoon. This is what she asks for several times, daily. And this is the one thing that I am loathe to give her. I would rather cross everything off my to-do list than play Barbie’s with my daughter. I hate that about myself. I hate the frustration that builds to a near-panicked frenzy when it becomes apparent that I cannot accomplish both my to-do list and my daughter’s. I resolve to myself that the next afternoon I’m home, I will play with her. Then the next afternoon I’m home, I make the same guilt-ridden resolution. But the issue never resolves.

I know in my heart there is much I do well as a mother. But I worry that if it is not what is important to her, it won’t matter in the long run. Will she remember that I would talk with her every night before bed, or will she remember that I rarely played Barbie’s with her? Will she remember me constantly telling her, “I love you,” or will she remember me constantly telling her, “Momma’s got to get her work done first?” Will she remember me writing her stories and playing cards and going to the zoo, or will she remember me at my computer?

Then there are the real questions. Will the effort I’ve put in be enough to sustain our relationship through the teenage years? Does she really know she is loved and valued? Do my actions show it more than my words? Will it be enough to keep her from dabbling in sex and substances and selling her soul to please other people? Have I done the best possible job I can? Will it pay off in the long run? She adores me now—will she when she’s older? And is it lame to pray for the strength to be able to play Barbie’s with your daughter?

There are no answers. Or, rather, the answers are out of my hands. The Lord taught me long ago that there is not a bit of it that is up to me, but, much like higher math, it is a lesson I still do not fully understand. So I just pray that, much like the homework, the equation somehow always manages to balance out in the end.

I am not a bad mom.

I am not a bad mom.


Nancy L (formerly C) said...

It's nice to hear I'm not alone in not liking to play with my children. I always thought it was because they are boys. But I don't think that's it. When I was a little girl, I had PLENTY of people to play with, I'm one of 6 children, but I prefered to play alone. Mercifully, my youngest son is the same way. The oldest, however, always wanted Mom to play but when he was 8 I had a new baby to care for. And so the guilt continues.....
Sorry, I know that wasn't any help but trust me, you are not alone!!

Dean said...

Have you ever tried playing "Let's pretend Barbie is helping Mommy do the dishes?"

Really nice post, Lorie.

lorie said...

Dean- you're brilliant. "Checkbook Balancing Barbie" will make a debut at our house next week...

Nancy- glad to know we're both not alone!

Cynthia said...

Oh my gosh! You just read my guilt mail! I swear this is the bain (sp?) of my existence..."mommy will you play with me?" The fact that she's an only child drives the guilt-o-meter into the stratosphere!! I love the crap out of V but oh my gosh! Once I learned how to read in first grade, I never ever needed another playmate again. I'm hoping V will follow suit!

Thank you for gasping out the truth I certainly feel!!

lorie said...

It's my own fault, I guess. I was the same way, books or no books. Still am, probably. I just want to be the one in control of it!

Nancy L (formerly C) said...

This makes me think that it's just those of us who enjoyed being alone that don't like playing with our children! I think it's because we just can't relate to what they want!

Anonymous said...

i was an only child, so i have lotz of imagination. just call me and i'm all about the barbies. i may have to dig up my own and bring them over. it's better than playing the bratz dolls. those dolls are just weird looking. lol, yes i'm a child at heart and i used to love to pretend. hence the theatre degree :D
(seriously, if you need someone to entertain her when you're trying to get some things done, i'll all about it!)

Anonymous said...

If your daughter's love language is quality time (and it sounds like it is),is there a way you can give it to her without playing? My youngest doesn't even know she can ask the question. Her question would be, "Do some mommies play with their kids?!!" But she hangs with me in the kitchen everyday, stirring the noodles and adding the ingredients and seems to enjoy being with me.
Hmmm...I hate playing,too. So usually I'll suggest short games (NOT CHECKERS!) where there is an end in sight in about fifteen minutes. Don't lose hope!
Jill A.

lorie said...

Thanks, Jill. Quality time is defintately in the top 2 or 3. I don't mind games, though- we could play games all day. I just don't like playing someone ELSE'S pretend! So, I'm actually getting her checkers for Christmas!