"Stop driving me crazy, " I
barked at my children in the drug store.
Two-year-old Jared was wound up, and
not about to let my cranky mood dampen his excitement. Five-year-old
Olivia was apparently also ignoring my mental and physical collapse.
"You don't need to touch
everything," I screamed. "And stop pushing."
My yelling only seemed to incite them
to more random acts of destruction. I tried a new tactic.
"Please, guys, please be good.
Mommy doesn't feel well."
I was feverish and lethargic, having
just left the doctor's office where they confirmed that I did indeed
have a sinus infection. I wanted to pick up some decongestant, and
go home take my antibiotics and pain reliever and crawl into bed.
But my children were creating unbelievable obstacles.
"LET'S GO!" I shouted
with utter disgust. "I can't DO ANYTHING with you
At that moment, a well-meaning, older
woman said to me calmly, "You know, dear, it's their job to
drive you crazy."
"Yes," I growled angrily,
"but they don't have to do their job so well!"
I stormed off with my children, my
decongestant, and whatever other trinkets my children had stashed
into my shopping basket. I was in a bad mood, felt lousy, and
was annoyed by the unsolicited public advice of a nosy older woman.
But mostly I was sickened by my own words and actions.
I know I had every excuse to lose it
that day in the drug store. But I still never imagined that I
would someday be seen as the "Angry Mother" -- the woman
who smacks(or berates) her kid in the supermarket line. Before
I had children, I assumed that "Angry Mom" was stupid,
evil, weak, and pathetic.
But my own actions that day in the
drug store taught me a very valuable lesson: "Never judge
another mommy unless you've walked in her mommy shoes."
So maybe we should all try to give
moms a break, and stop assuming that a haggard mother is an abusive
medusa just because she snapped at her adorable kiddies at the end
of a long day, in the end of a very long week, in what has been a
very long year. Given the right pressure and circumstances, I
suspect that even Mother Teresa would have lost her cool with a
couple of toddlers in tow.
It's difficult being a mother in our
society. Sometimes I feel as if I'm under a microscope with
all of America to see and judge. The people on airplanes who
give you dirty looks if your children cry during a flight, are the
same people who are horrified when you raise your voice at your kids
in K-mart. I imagine some people (probably single people with
dogs) think that children should sit quietly and obediently on their
mama's laps at all times.
But children are not domesticated
animals! And I do agree that it is their job to be children,
even if that sometimes drives their mothers and observers insane.
Lizbeth Finn-Arnold is a mother, freelance writer, and independent
filmmaker who works from her home in Aberdeen, New Jersey. Her
essays have appeared in Welcome Home, Books and Babies, PhillyMama.com,
and MoXie Magazine. She also publishes/edits an online
magazine called "The Philosophical Mother" at http://www.philosophicalmother.com