02 Oct The Brutal Results of 72 Hours of Uninterrupted Motherhood
In many ways I have a life with great balance; almost every day I spend a certain part of my day working and I spend most of the rest of my time momming. I also have a husband who works and is an involved dad, so I rarely feel like I am momming alone.
Then this past weekend my husband took our oldest child on a father-daughter camping trip and I stayed behind with our four-year-old daughter and two-year-old son. As a working mom, I had anticipated the long weekend with excitement. It would be a chance to live the other life – a life where I would focus exclusively on my kids with no work, no spouse and no sitter in sight. It would be enjoyable, full of love and laughs.
The reality was that in just 72 hours I went from being the mom I always strive to be to the mom I never want to be. The imbalance seemed to kill my normal disposition, my self-control and my patience. I came undone.
Here are two of my mommy meltdowns:
1. Saturday arrives and we head to my daughter’s soccer game. We had to park the minivan far from the field and I gathered both kids and the heavy bag out of the car. Both kids wanted me to carry them. I arrived to find the whole team wearing navy blue socks over their shin guards. I had mistakenly dressed my daughter in white socks. My two-year-old was asking another mom for ice from her cooler and then sucking on it, dropping it in the grass near a pile of bird feathers and putting it back in his mouth. My daughter was complaining that she was too hot to play soccer and kept walking off the field to sit in my lap. My son claimed that he was hungry (even though we had just eaten breakfast!) and started crying for food. There was a man on the field enforcing the no food rule.
Uninterrupted Mom Reaction: I lost my patience with my four-year-old on the soccer field, was too lazy (aka depleted of energy) to kick a ball with my son on the sidelines and like a broken record I kept telling him to stop sucking on ice instead of providing an alternative. I was impatient and nothing close to Happy Mom.
Balanced Mom Reaction: I would have been eager to be at home after my full day of work the day before, looking forward to date night Saturday night and had all the energy in the world for my kids in between. I would have been laughing at these hiccups, empathizing with my kids and sweetly encouraging my daughter back on the field while I gleefully played with my son on the sidelines and distracted him away from the ice.
2. I promised my daughter that I would take her to the new Dylan’s Candy Bar in Los Angeles. For three days she had mentioned her excitement in every other sentence. We set out on our 45 minute drive to the store and when we arrived I discovered that the store is in an outdoor mall – not a stand-alone. This was like thinking you had front row seats and arriving to find you are seated in the balcony. It took us 15 minutes to find parking and then we had trouble finding our way through the mall mob to the store. When we arrived, my 4yo wanted a candy bag for Dad, a bag for her 6yo sister, a bag for her friend and a bag for herself. She held her bag and I was holding the rest. My 2yo insisted on carrying his own. We walked through the insanely crowded store and I struggled to keep track of the orders. “I want that one!” “That one is for Daddy’s bag.” “No, I don’t want this candy, you take it.” I turned around to find my son covered in chocolate. My pleas about waiting until paying to eat the candy were incomprehensible to a 2yo. Then 4yo said she had to go to the bathroom – now! But by then we had six full candy bags to pay for so I glanced over at the cash register and saw that the line was snaking around the store.
Uninterrupted Mom Reaction: I was anxious, stressed and I scolded my daughter for having to go to the bathroom again – and now. I insisted she hold it in as we waited in line because I couldn’t think of an alternative. I wasn’t fun. If my daughter enjoyed herself it was despite me, not with me.
Balanced Mom Reaction: I would have viewed this as a candy store, not a life sentence. I’d have been singing as we looked for a parking spot. I would been coming up with ways to make it even more fun for my daughter. I would have pointed towards my son and said, “Look at him with his cute chocolate face!” I would have found a staff member and asked him to hold our candy bags while we walked hand in hand to the bathroom.
I ended the weekend hating how I had behaved. In my uninterrupted motherhood I became Bitter Mom fast. Gratefully, my Mommy meltdowns don’t happen in my normal model of mixed motherhood – part work, part momming. I now understand why so many moms count the hours until their Stay-at-Home martinis. I realized that I am a better mom because I work. It is because I get to change channels that I have more energy for my most important job.
To read this article on Forbes, please click here.
Samantha Ettus is a bestselling author & corporate speaker. The Pie Life: A Guilt-Free Recipe for Success and Satisfaction will be released in September.