Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Pooball Effect

I was talking to another working mom the other day who was dealing with the fact that she was going to have to find a new preschool for her son because the preschool we use now has too many kids in each classroom, and it freaks him out.  She wasn't worried about her son per se, but more about the disruption of having to find a new school that would work for him, and about having two drop-offs (her older son is really happy at our preschool), and about just having to change the whole routine they were all accustomed to.

I totally empathized.  Sometimes I think the only way working parents can make everything gel is by adherence to a pretty strict routine.  Knowing what time you drop your kids off, where, how you sign them in, and that there going to be relatively safe for the eight or so hours you're at work is pretty priceless.  If you don't have the routine, then you're much more likely to forget lunchboxes, class pictures, briefcases, meetings, etc.  Then you're more likely to be cranky, more prone to conflict with your kids, more likely to think you can't hold it all together.

And, of course, the whole "holding it together" is mostly an illusion.  Things come up all the time over which you have no control, and staying organized is really unimportant in the face of big things (I'm not totally screwed up in my values here) like loving your kids, and spending time with them, and just letting everything go to shit once in a while so that you can relax and be together.

But in realistic, day-to-day terms?  The routine is really, really important.  And when those unexpected things happen to mess up the routine, it's amazing how it can throw everything else off.

Like the kids being sick for the last week.  Eric had to stay home with the girls today again, and I was home with them yesterday and last Friday.  Eric was on two days last week, too.  So that's a lot of missed work, a lot of stress on the parents missing work, a lot of worry about the sick kids, and so on. 

We hung in there pretty well until today.  Eric was grumpy from the get about having to stay home with the kids (I had a five-hour meeting at work that was pretty much mandatory).  Then I got to feeling grumpy at him for being grumpy, and felt guilty about not being home to do my job as mom.  Then I had a bad day at work that made me wonder if I had made the right decision going on the tenure-track, which made me wonder why I was busting my ass at a job I was going to fail at, all the while also failing my family at home. 

So, recap:  Feeling like a failure as a mom?  Check.  Feeling like a failure as a wife?  Check.  Feeling like a failure as a professional?  Check.

The reality, of course, is that I'm not failing at any.  What was happening is that the routine was disrupted, and the illusion of control and management was disrupted.  One area--parenting--was getting the shakedown, and so the shakedown spread to the other areas.

Snowball of parenting guilt-anger-resentment poo.  Making it a pooball, I guess.  Which is what I felt like I was eating all day long.  Big, stinky pooballs.

Here's to eating less poo tomorrow.

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