So I've been watching this show called The Goldbergs, which I like because of all the random 80s references, and also for the catchphrase of the mother, which is the inspiration for this rambling. I Have Failed As A Mother. There are so many ways in which this is true, there's not room for them in a katrillion blogs, so I'll just give you the highlight reel.
I loathe the grocery store with an unhealthy loathing that borders on pathological. Therefore, I am often found staring into a refrigerator that has nothing in it but several juice bottles with a centimeter (or less) of liquid in them, some rotten broccoli, leftovers which have begun to reproduce, and wine. In the freezer, I'll find organic chicken and vodka. Aside from that bit of solid proof that I am, in fact, a suburban mom, I'll slowly realize that I'll have to subject my children to *gasp* SCHOOL LUNCH because there is nothing edible in the house. Have you seen school lunch the last couple of years? I wouldn't feed it to a feral cat, and yet my children are subjected to it on about a weekly basis because I can't bring myself to endure Kroger. I Have Failed As A Mother.
I have a job as a high school English teacher, which I love just as much as I loathe the grocery store. I'm fortunate to work with fabulous people. I teach bright-eyed youngsters who are as riveted by the subtle nuance of Thoreau and Fitzgerald and Longfellow and Dickinson and Charlotte Perkins Gilman as I (this may just be fantasy, by the way, but it gets me through the day). This job often keeps me at school until 4:00, 4:30, or later. My kids get home around 3:15 and must fend for themselves, pending my eventual arrival home, at which time they swarm around me and start demanding dinner. See above re: the grocery store. Sometimes dinner is, well, sad (or delivered by the pizza delivery guy, who looks at me with a thinly veiled smirk that says, "Cook some real food, lady"). I Have Failed As A Mother.
My kids have gone to school in stained clothing. I've missed ball games/dance competitions/concerts. Sometimes those kids don't brush their hair and they skip breakfast and they forget their homework. Sometimes I ignore them so I can meet a writing deadline, go to Orangetheory to sweat out some aggression, grade papers, update social media, or just be catatonic for awhile. I Have Failed As A Mother.
Then I really think about the pressure I put on myself. Why am *I* fixing lunch for three kids who are in middle and high school? Why am *I* doing their laundry? Why do *I* feel responsible for keeping them entertained? Why don't *I* learn to use the Curbside Pickup option at Kroger to save myself from enduring the store itself? How did this happen? Perhaps the real way I Have Failed As A Mother is by not fostering more independence in those kids. Not so long ago when I was a kid, it would never have occurred to most moms to feel guilty or even bat an eye about these things. In fact, my mom hardly ever even knew where I was; if I wanted clean clothes, I knew where the washer was; and dinner came in brightly covered packages in the freezer and were microwaveable. She did not feel like she had Failed As A Mother, and I grew up to be a pretty resourceful person.
I did ask my kids the other day if I had Failed Them As A Mother. The daughter rolled her eyes and went to her room, which was expected but not helpful. My sons told me not to be ridiculous and one of them hugged me. They seem to be all right in spite of my Failures As A Mother. In fact, it seems I am the only one who notices. Perhaps, one day, I'll look back on all these Failures and laugh. I certainly hope so.
Courtney is a most fabulous writer and teacher of gifted middle school students. She is the author of two novels - see the "Cate Books" page of this site for information! Watch for updates about future books that need to be part of your personal library. In the meanwhile, enjoy her pithy life observations.