Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Matriarch Kerfuffle

I'm not going to comment on the recent hullabaloo regarding the never-ending and largely fictitious Mommy Wars (which I would like to rename as the Matriarch Kerfuffle--it's infinitely more dignified). Commenting in any direction on Hillary Rosen or Ann Romney or even the definition of work would leave me vulnerable to the slings and arrows of the outrage mafia. (Although I suspect that my calling them out might have just put me on the naughty list. If I suddenly disappear without a trace, you'll know what happened to me.)

So, instead of commenting on the Kerfuffle, I'm just going to talk about my own mom guilt, since I think that's what really fuels these particular firestorms. I don't personally know any mothers or fathers (or anyone else, for that matter) who judge other mothers for the choices they make for their families. We're all just doing what we can.

Unfortunately, somewhere in the deep recesses of my brain (and I know I'm not alone in this) is some cruel taskmaster who seems to think I could be penning Pulitzer Prize winning novels in my spotlessly clean and beautifully decorated home in between doing age-appropriate craft projects with my son, running 20 miles a week, reading the greats of the literary canon (to my son, theoretically) and cooking gourmet meals. These activities are all well within my reach, according to my task master. The problem, apparently, is that I spend an inordinate amount of time relaxing on my duff.

I've started to realize that the Judgie McJudgerson I'm housing in my head has a pretty skewed view of how time works. Sure, I probably spend a little more time than necessary reading humor articles online. My checking my email ritual has certainly grown to be a 40 minute exercise that doesn't necessarily need to happen before I start every writing project. And I certainly hit the snooze button--or, alternatively, let LO snuggle with me instead of getting up and making breakfast since, due to him, I haven't needed an alarm clock in a long long time--for a longer period of time than most people need to read the morning paper. (Did I just show my age with that comparison? For you Gen-Yers, that means "for a longer period of time than most people need to check HuffPo, TMZ and Twitter in the morning.")

But, ultimately, I do get a great deal accomplished each day. My taskmaster just doesn't count it for anything.

"Big whoop," she says. "So you unloaded the dishwasher before starting breakfast. Shouldn't you have done that last night anyway? And it's not like you cleaned up the breakfast dishes."

(That voice, by the way, sounds like the mean girls in middle school. Because I'm sure they all would really care about the relative cleanliness of my kitchen. It's up there with who has cooties as one of the most pressing issues of their existence.)

While that tween-voiced taskmaster has always been a part of my daily productivity struggles, motherhood has added quite a bit to her repertoire. Because it never occurs to her (or me, I guess), that adding a toddler/my particularly stubborn little cuss to the mix of my day makes things take thaaaaaaaat muuuuuuuch loooooooonger. But the mean girl still expects me to get about the same number of things done per day that I could accomplish when I was still a carefree single girl. Back then, I could devote untold hours at a time to a particular project until it was completed.

And therein lies the real difference between my pre-motherhood productivity and post-motherhood half-assery. I keep having to stop whatever I'm doing in the middle and try to pick it up later after whatever diaper explosion/tears/fitful nap/minor crisis has been dealt with. I'm not so good at that.

I don't know that anyone is particularly good at it, to be honest. And so we've all got our own version of the middle school mean girl barking at us when the house is a disaster area, the child is getting most of his nutrients from ketchup, and your last workout was when you picked up two gallons of milk at once.

So, in an attempt to call a Kerfuffle detente, I invite you to list five things you did yesterday. (I'll admit it, I'm stealing this activity from CafeMom, a website that is otherwise a complete and utter wasteland.) But I felt like this was a good activity to help me remember that my duff is not nearly as well-acquainted with my couch as my personal mean girl seems to think it is. This will prove once and for all that we're all working our collective asses off. I'll get us started.

Yesterday, I:

1. Took LO to his 9:30 swim lesson.

2. Ran to the accountant's to sign our tax forms.

3. Wrote an article about the relative wisdom of purchasing a house in 2012. (Conclusion: it depends!)

4. Went shopping at WalMart with LO, who showed off his natural sorting skills by taking items from low shelves and placing them in nearby bins, despite his mama's repeated requests for him to "stay close" and "put that down."

5. Fried up some potatoes and made a gravy to go with Sunday's leftover brisket.

In the interest of ending this ridiculous sense that parents are somehow different from each other, please, tell me five things you did yesterday. I'll bet you got more done than you think you did.


  1. I can't do five. I'll do a multiple of five. Here's 25 things I did yesterday, in order...

    1. Woke up and got out of bed after only 6 hours of sleep
    2. Fed a hungry baby
    3. Made breakfast for a two-year-old and a fruit salad to munch on during the week.
    4. Changed both kids
    5. Made breakfast for myself
    6. Changed a kid again
    7. Started to eat breakfast while feeding baby again.
    8. Picked up train tracks from the two-year-old.
    9. Wrote a 500-word article
    10. Played with two-year-old
    11. Held a fussy baby while working on a website
    12. Vacuumed and steam cleaned living room carpet.
    13. Made lunch and ate it/watched two-year-old eat lunch
    14. Wrote two 250-word blog posts while baby slept and two-year-old watched Super Why!
    15. Called about a Craigslist add. Went to bank to get money for train table. Had table delivered and set up train tracks for when two-year-old woke up from nap.
    16. Made dinner
    17. Tried to reason with grouchy two-year-old who refused to eat dinner
    18. Played trains
    19. Fed baby and put baby to bed.
    20. Picked up and re-did train track.
    21. Put two-year-old to bed.
    22. Wrote two 500ish-word articles while watching TV.
    23. Took a shower
    24. Read a book for about 30 minutes.
    25. Fell asleep.

    1. @StacyL I thought I was pretty productive yesterday, but I feel exhausted just reading your list!

      And now I need a nap... you should take a break or something today! :)

  2. I do like Matriarch Kerfuffle much better. Here's my five things:

    1. Got up, ready. Got the kids up, ready. Dropped them off at the babysitter's (Ok that's three things)
    2. Went to work, edited a front page story and began coverage plans for a project.
    3. Came home, played in the back yard while my husband cooked dinner. Ate with the family.
    4. Had a rousing game of chase around the house with the girls before bath time and then bed time.
    5. Spent some time with the husband while researching above project and surfing the Internet.

  3. 1. Went to work
    2. Played with Sadie in the yard (tried to get her to stop throwing dirt at people...namely me)
    3. Made dinner and had it on the table at 6 (record as she actually played by herself for over 5 minutes!)
    4. Made "Bang'n Blueberry Coffee Cake"...I'll drop off some tonight :)
    5. Cleaned some rooms in the house

  4. The reverse to-do is a great way to feel like you accomplished something - because we always do!

    Yesterday, my most significant accomplishments were not killing my child (she was in an outrageous mood), feeding myself and my family, and helping a friend move a swingset.

  5. Loving "Matriarch Kerfuffle"! Yesterday, I...
    1. Woke up at 6am so I could get a shower in before The Kid woke up (and still have a little time to eat breakfast).
    2. Gave The Kid breakfast and played with him for two hours.
    3. Left for work after my mom (our caregiver 2x a week) came over.
    4. Worked a regular 8-hour day, complete with potential-intern interviews, meetings, lesson planning, and lots and lots of emails.
    5. Got home after The Kid went to bed (thank goodness for those two hours with him in the morning) and spent some great quality time with Jake.

  6. I love "Matriarch Kerfuffle"! I'm a regular-job-working mom, with the luxury of working in a family-friendly environment (a children's theatre) where my schedule can be flexible as long as I put in the hours I need. Yesterday, I...

    1. Woke up at 6am so I could get a shower and a cup of coffee before The Kid woke up.
    2. Gave The Kid breakfast and played with him for two hours.
    3. Left for work after my mom (or caregiver 2x a week) came over.
    4. Worked a regular eight-hour day, complete with potential-intern interviews, meetings, lesson-planning, and lots and lots of phone calls and emails.
    5. Got home after The Kid went to bed (thank goodness for those two hours in the morning!) and spent some quality time with Jake.

  7. I'm so happy you acknowledged the Mean Girl living in your head! I wonder if there are moms out there who don't have this? And are there dads who have the same issue, or men better at not killing themselves to reach perfection?

    Anyhoo, my five things I accomplished yesterday:
    1. Got child dressed, fed, and out the door to daycare (with her daddy's help).
    2. Reviewed co-worker's work and made suggestions.
    3. Had lunch with boss.
    4. Picked up child from daycare.
    5. Ran 2 errands with relatively well-behaved child!