A couple of friends sent me this awesome video for Mother’s Day: “Tina Fetner Announced as 2009 Mother of the Year.” Don’t I have the sweetest friends? And for the last couple of weeks, I have been feeling like mother of the year. I even drafted a couple of blog posts about it, but then it all came crashing down with about three motherFAILs in a row, and I realized that I was just faking it, living far above my mothering means. I will never be mother of the year, at least not as the position is currently defined in the social world around me.
It all started when a friend of Kid moved into the house just around the corner. Kid’s friend is great, his whole family is really nice, and I loved the idea that we could carpool to Kid’s Montessori school, which is about a 15-minute drive away (yes, I am taking down the ice caps, but it’s for the children). Friend has two younger brothers and an awesome stay-at-home mom who somehow manages to keep her sense of humour even though she has the toughest job in the world.
Stay-at-home moms may be rare in most social circles these days, but in Kid’s social world at the private Montessori school, they are in the majority. And from the perspective of us work-for-pay moms, this is the clique at the top of our social hierarchy. They pick up their kids at the correct time of 3:30pm, and in doing so, they get to meet each other every day to chat and form a community. We leave our kids to languish until 4:30 or 5pm and pick them up individually. They iron professionally made labels into their kid’s clothes. We hand-write our kids’ names with a marker. They pack litterless lunches with a protein, a green veg, an orange veg, a grain, a fruit and a treat – no nuts! We thank the stars for the chance to pay $5/day for a hot lunch we don’t have to make.
The stay-at-home moms also organize the social lives of their children, arranging playdates and helping each other out by watching each other’s kids. They watch our kids, too, but the exchange becomes lopsided very quickly. I need help all the time, and it is rare when I can pay it back. So even though my family time is often taken up with hosting playdates, I still can’t do anything more than once every couple of weeks. So I shouldn’t have been surprised to hear one of my Kid’s friends tell him that he wasn’t allowed to invite him over for any more playdates until he got invited over to our house. And, he added, not realizing he was twisting the knife he had jammed into my heart, that our new neighbor’s kid was “the only one” to invite him for playdates regularly. I was just as crushed as way more crushed than Kid, well aware that this was another item on my long list of failings as a mom.
When the new family moved in, I thought I saw my chance for redemption. Classes were finished, after all, and I can pick up my Kid at 3:30pm, can’t I? I can invite the other kids over for playdates, and I can invite the moms over for tea, and play in the park, and do all the things that the stay-at-home moms do. I can take my kid to soccer twice a week after school, I can organize fun weekend trips to museums and hiking trails and everything! I can have it all! And I did have it all, for two glorious weeks. Two weeks of carpooling, of conflict-ridden playdates with best friends who turn out to behave really badly with each other, of nice chats with my still-awesome stay-at-home mom friend.
But then again, I couldn’t get the grocery shopping done. And I haven’t cooked a real meal in two weeks. And four loads of laundry are piled up. And my hockey gear is in a smelly heap in the living room where it has been airing out since Saturday night. I didn’t realize that I was building up a time debt with this spending spree on Kid, but that is exactly how I managed the two weeks. It wasn’t until I started failing that I realized this. Like yesterday, when I had a late meeting at work. I had planned to leave Kid in the aftercare program, but I forgot to tell my carpool pal, who picked up Kid on time and then was stuck with caring for him for an extra hour before I showed up. Yesterday was the second week in a row when this happened. Add into this forgotten car seat transfers, forgotten snacks into backpacks and a general grouchy mood due to sleep deprivation, and I had to reassess my situation.
And here I am, sitting in my running clothes, blogging instead of running. Coat draped over a chair, toys strewn about the living room, hockey gear still not picked up. Is that a bag of wet towels and swimsuits over there in the corner? I am afraid to look. And I am done with my little experiment of trying to be mom of the year. I realize now that it wasn’t for Kid that I tried it–it was about me climbing the social mom ladder. Kid is perfectly happy playing in aftercare. He is just fine eating hot lunch, and if we plan out a modest schedule for playdates, he can have his friends over every once in a while, and that will have to be good enough. We can carpool in the mornings, but not in the afternoons, and I can have my extra hour back each day to get my work done. And that is the best I can do.