This week was a pretty rough week to be a mom. Mom-wise, had I been measured on my performance over the last seven days, I would have fallen somewhere between “raging wreck” and “why bother?”
Having recently moved into a job that temporarily involves an 1.5 hour commute on both ends, the routine at home has taken a slight shift. And by slight shift, I mean its been whacked over the head and dragged through the streets of suburbia all the way into downtown Toronto.
Last week, despite my best efforts, I just couldn’t do anything right. Thanks to traffic, I was up and out of the house by 6:20am, leaving work at 4pm and barely pulling in before 6pm to pick up my daughter from daycare. I was too tired at night to prep dinner for the following days which meant leftovers, frozen dinners and one spontaneous pizza night which followed my being $8 late to pick up my daughter form daycare. Sorry, I meant 4 minutes late but since they charge lagging parents by the minute, it’s practically the same thing.
This would have been manageable had I not also faced some of the worse toddler meltdowns in the history of toddler meltdowns. From not wanting to eat, or bath or sleep, to having to be wrestled into her car seat one morning following 30 minutes of systematically putting on and then removing every item of clothing I chose for her (and refusing to choose for herself). That morning I hit my limit. Every parent has one, and while triggers and expression will vary, it’s essentially the extent to which you can be pushed by your child before you ultimately lose your shit. I threw her toothbrush, socks and shoes into the front seat of the car (I’d managed to squeeze her into clothing by that point) and took off to daycare wondering what the hell I was doing wrong.
The next day, we were munching on our pizza and I, someone who normally makes a sincere effort to prep healthy meals for the family, was overcome with tremendous guilt. I felt guilty for being an absentee parent and incapable of balancing what other working moms seem to have mastered in their sleep.
There I was sitting across from my beautiful daughter, who was happily digging into her cheese pizza as if she’d won the dinner jackpot feeling like a complete failure as a mother. AND wife (my husband and I were like ships passing in the night, one filled with chores, clean up and packing for the upcoming move). AND human being. Workouts became rare, friends and family were being neglected, and I hadn’t dried my hair in days. When was I supposed to do it all?
Eyes cast to the floor, I barely heard the woman in line ask my daughter if she was enjoying her pizza. While my daughter offered her a coy smile in response, I immediately offered up the obligatory I-dont-give-my-daughter-take-out-on-a-regular-basis excuse that “mommy was late picking her up from daycare, so now it’s pizza day” and waited for the look of judgement I was sure would follow. But it never came. Instead the woman looked at me boldly and said “Mommies all just do the best we can, and sometimes that means pizza.”
I could have cried. This woman who I had never meant had entered my village and said the one thing I needed to hear at that exact point in time. The funny thing is, had anyone else said it, I may have brushed them off, but there’s something about having a stranger reach out and reassure you that you’re doing OK that feels a little more sincere. Maybe because it’s unsolicited, maybe it’s because strangers have no obligation to coddle you even when you’re legitimately screwing the fuck up. Maybe it was just good timing and a friendly face who happened to be in the right spot, at the right time. I left the pizza place, smeared with tomato from cute toddler hands smudging my clothes, feeling reassured that I wasn’t on a fast track to worst mother of the year award. I also left thinking about how if it takes a village to raise a child, how lucky I was that at that very moment, she’d stepped into mine.