The end is nigh.

With the cowered citizenry of the republic having paid their annual obeisance to the taxperson, the time comes for TFBIM to return to the more-or-less normal state, and I get to do likewise. We can each now spend the school hours doing office-ish stuff, but with flexibility to perform any parenting-ish sorts of tasks as the need arises.

The question which visits me annually is "what have you learned?" As usual, the answer is "Um, let me get back to you on that."

Part of what makes me different from all the other parents I run into during my "Mr. Mom" time is lack of introspection. I sit with the kids and I make sure they grind out the homework, but I don't particularly cherish this time, nor do I expect I'll ever look back on it with my mind's eye tinting the whole memory a roseate hue. I bathe them and feed them and schlep them around because these are things which must be done, not because I bask in some otherwordly parenting glow, or because I feel empowered or any of that. Kid has to go to the dentist and I take him and I sit in the waiting room and I read. We go for lunch and I buy him a treat for being all brave.

This year, becoming more firmly positioned as a temporal fixture, more of the SAHMs have seen fit to engage me in conversation. While I am generally vexed that my reading has been interrupted, I am polite and I make nice. Besides, this gives me a glimmer of an insight into the way they think. Mind you, I can't make sense half the time why they think what they think or even how anyone could even begin to make sense thereof, but I still find it fascinating. I expect the reverse holds true and they have no idea how I can think whatever it is I think. Which is fair.

I'll give you an example to illustrate.

We're waiting in the walker pick-up section. One mom I recognize starts talking to me about this and that and she admits that when she dropped off her daughter last week at ballet, she forgot ____ and had to go home and get it and bring it to the girl at the ballet class, arriving just in the nick of time. For reasons which I cannot fathom, this woman was wracked with guilt. So, there I am, talking in public to someone's wife who is on the verge of unbelting a bucket and a half of tears and trying to:

1- Sound vaguely sympathetic (which wouldn't actually do anything, but I have learned that one must be seen as trying) and
2- Making sure my shirt didn't get soaked and
3- Not looked as puzzled as I was by the thought percolating in my head of "What? You got her the ___ in time, right? No harm done, right? So what's the big deal?" You'll be happy to know I also learned to not articulate thoughts like these.

There are some people who have an automasochistic mechanism, I guess. As a consequence they aren't fully alive unless they have spotted and magnified 6 different flaws before breakfast. Which strikes me as an awful lot of effort expended towards the result of feeling terrible. Perhas we ought have a telethon or something.

To a smaller degree TFBIM feels some of that. She wants to be the one that goes to the parent-teacher thing and feels as if the teacher is inwardly scowling at her. I have learned it is unwise, when presented with this supposition, to say "So what?" One time, TFBIM was telling me she felt a bit bad because I had to attend a field trip with NTS and even though it made no difference to NTS and the field trip was somewhere she'd rather not have gone, she felt bad. At this point NOS appeared out of the kitchen and looked at her as only a 9 year old boy could and said "Mom, that's just weird."

Taking the forthright and honest lad aside, I explained to him that it wasn't weird. Well, yes it was weird, to us. But to other moms, this probably made eminent sense. It took some doing to explain that the differences between moms and dads was not only the plumbing but the wiring. We have strengths and weaknesses that, ideally, interlock and complement each other. The way I explained it was that, in the best case, moms were like painters and dad were like sculptors. Moms see bright colors, and muted shades and gradations and the subtlest shadings and contrasts; they sweat out the matters of warmth and light. Dads on the other hand, focus more on heft and shape and materials and dimensions.

Both are equally necessary, says I, to create a decent human being who can bring to the world not only shape, but also color; not only heft, but also light, not just warmth but solidity. Just because the way a painter goes about painting is unfathomable to a sculptor (or vice versa) doesn't make it weird. And he seemed adequately satisfied by the explanation.

But seriously, a lot of the stuff I get from these moms IS unfathomable to someone with only half the X chromosomes.



Jess said…
I like that!
Stomper Girl said…
The plumbing and wiring thing? Well said. Very well said.

But you know the generalisation about guilt and Catholics, right? So how come you never feel "wracked with guilt"? Personally, on all academic levels, I think guilt is something you don't want to wallow in too much, but it doesn't stop me paddling in it now and then...
Joke said…

Whatever feelings of guilt I experience are things I have done as a result of poor judgment, not honest mistakes. Life hands me plenty of chances to feel bad, so why help pile them on?


P.S. Catholic flavored guilt tends to be more of the "Oh, I'm going to Hell for this." rather than "I'm a terrible person."

P.P.S. DGB, glad you liked whatever it was you liked.
shula said…
Well, whatever the chromosome count is for you guys, I've got the precisely same number.

Call me a bad mother.
Badger said…
Okay, did we not have a recent conversation (one of those com-box ones of which you are so fond) in which you asserted that you never ever post about what it's like to be an X in a world full of Ys and I said yes you do too and you said no I do not?

Because this is kind of sounding like that to me.
Joke said…



You get that feeling because you're reading me with a malicious glint in your eye.

This was a "what have I learned" post. What I learned was that a lot of moms pile themselves with all kinds of baggage I cannot recognize for reasons I cannot penetrate.

Now, if you want, I could make an exception and post a "what's it like." That way, the world may know and admire me. Yes, even more than they do now.

Poppy Buxom said…
Sorry, but I cry bullshit. Badger is right. Every year we hear about the SAHD stuff and it always has that "I'm a square peg! In a round hole!" vibe going, even if you don't actually describe it as such.

Don't fuck with me and Badge. We have degrees in English Literature. We can read, man. We're alive to nuance, man. Also, we're female. We'll dig more significance out of a text than you'll realize is there. You said it yourself: our brains are wired that way.

As for those babes you're encountering, holy shit, I'm glad I live in the frozen north where such tender shoots don't survive.

p.s. Don't look now, but your analogy assigns heft, weight, and solidity to men, and just the surface to the female. And I don't know how thrilled I am with that.
Tere said…
Guilt is just too hard-wired in some of us to always have proper perspective on things...

I can't wait till my son is old enough to tell me I'm weird because that will effectively help me get over it and lose the guilt.
Badger said…
Yeah, have we met? I do EVERYTHING with a malicious glint in my eye. I'm pretty sure that malicious glint is both congenital AND genetic. So what's your point?

And despite the fact that I only MINORED in English: what Poppy said.

Furthermore, it's only because we're such good pals that I make these attempts to compensate for your appalling lack of self-awareness.

No need to thank me.
Poppy Buxom said…
Oh yeah, me too. Love means never having to say "you're right."

I mean, I feel it's my duty as your pal to let you know the ways in which testosterone is messing up your thought processes.
Joke said…

You think I have thought processes...


Poppy Buxom said…
I came this close to typing

your so-called 'thought processes'"

but I thought it would hurt your feelings so badly that you'd be on the verge of tears tomorrow afternoon at school pick-up time. And SAHMs find that kind of thing really embarrassing.
Joke said…
You mean water-stains on my apparel?

Poppy Buxom said…
Correction: your so-called "apparel."
Joke said…
True. The word cannot adequately contain the manifest glory that are my raiments.


P.S. If the tailoring staff at the RL on Michigan Ave. commits mass suicide, you'll have a Hell of a time with the guilt. Or, more importantly, explaining yourself to Binky Cushman.
Caro said…
I have lots of Mom guilt but I'm working on getting over it.
Poppy Buxom said…
That's right. Keep working on the glory that are your raiments.

And Badge and I will continue to pay extremely close attention to the glory that are your writing.
Major Bedhead said…
It is a wonder to me that the species has continued to propagate, what with the whole Mars/Venus bullshit.

I think a lot of mom-guilt is competimommy-ness disguised as guilt - in reality, it's all just trying to out do each other by showing just how involved they are in their children's lives.

*pulls out brush and bucket of tar* Those McMansion-living, Lexux-SUV-driving, Talbot-wearing polished-to-a-fare-thee-well, keeping-up-with-the-Joneses clones. *puts away brush and bucket of tar*

I'm doing my best to piss off everyone tonight.
Joke said…

Finally, you speak sense. Which I will reward with further glorious drivel.


Not being that kind of mom, I find it difficult to be pissed off by that. I could fake a sneer if that'd help.

LBA said…
I don't get it.
She got the %%% to the daughter on time. No guilt, no tears, no UNLOADING onto another who'd rather be reading.

I don't get it.

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