Doing Their Jobs
by Lizbeth Finn-Arnold

"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 two!"

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.

Copyright 2003 Lizbeth Finn-Arnold.
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, MomPlanet.com, America'sMoms.com, and MoXie Magazine.  She also publishes/edits an online magazine called "The Philosophical Mother" at http://www.philosophicalmother.com

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