Today, I’m tired of being a mother.
I’ve always wanted to be a mother. I’ve always looked forward to it. When I was a teenager, I got attached to my Baby Think It Over and didn’t want to give him back to my Family Studies teacher.
I like to be needed.
Even PH’s Quidditch team has voted me their “Quidditch mom.” I already have refreshments ready for practice next week, and I’m going to make sure they’re wearing sunscreen. I may get a shirt.
However, there’s another side to me. I warned PH about it before we got married, but I think he already knew it:
I have a strong need to be cared for.
I am an only child. I like to be doted on, to be spoiled a bit. I like to have someone to lean on. Luckily, PH was always very good at that. He took care of me, I took care of the animals/baby, and it worked.
Over the last year, it hasn’t been working so well.
Overall, PH has been doing better. He stepped up wonderfully when I was sick, taking over a lot of the parenting while I slept, but it took its toll on him. As my functionality improved, he collapsed into a dip that he’s only just starting to emerge from. When he is in a dip, all of his physical and emotional energy are devoted to staying alive. I become the only functional parent and I still have to work at two jobs. I feel like my entire life from dawn to well after dusk is consumed by the overwhelming needs of others.
Owl needs me to get up in the morning. Owl needs me to play with him. Owl needs me to pull down his pants even though he is perfectly capable of doing it himself but needs the parental care and attention. The house needs me to wash its dishes and sweep its floors and clean its counters and scrub its toilet. Then my dog training clients need me. PH needs my love and support. Then work needs me.
And boy, how does work need me.
I’m not sure what is more demanding, my three year old or my job. In a strange turn of events, this particular workplace perceives me as competent. Since all my workplaces since 2007 had considered me to be a useless waste of space, I find this turnaround both flattering and bewildering. I didn’t mind being asked how to do insanely simple tasks, because it felt so good just to be needed instead of hated.
But with no one to actually take care of ME, I’m crumbling under the weight of it all. I’ve given and given and given until I’m hollow and still more is needed so I’m starting to just hand out pieces of myself and I’m not being gracious about it.
I’m losing my ability to handle it. I resent having to put on Owl’s shoes on the days when he wants me to do it. Sometimes I snap at him and make him do it himself anyway, even though I know that this really isn’t about shoes (Owl is Mr Independent and loves to do things by himself, so if he wants help it’s usually because he’s feeling lonely or insecure in some way, probably because Mommy has turned into a resentful ball of snark).
I’m no better at work.
Don’t know why your user profile has corrupted on your laptop? Neither do I. No, I don’t feel like fixing it for you. I am not an IT person, just someone who knows how to use Google. Google the solution. That’s what I always do. No, I don’t really feel like showing you how to do something that I’ve already shown you three times. I realize that you’re new, but I still don’t have the patience.
Today, I lost it completely.
Our power went out at work today, which caused mass confusion of course. Whenever the power goes out, the server turns off, and we need to get it booted back up and the database turned back on before things work properly again. The server has been turned off for some reason or another a couple of times lately. The first time it happened it took me about forty minutes to figure out how to log into it remotely from another computer (our server has no monitor or keyboard or anything attached to it), get past the windows start-up screen and start the database. The second time it happened they called me and I talked them through it over the phone.
So today, when someone observed that the same problem was going to happen, I explained briefly how to log on to the server from another computer and breezed out the door. It is my afternoon off. For three precious hours on Wednesday afternoon I don’t have to work OR take care of Owl, who is at daycare. I don’t need to sleep, or wash the dishes, and PH knows better than to try and socialize with me.
Today I had less time than usual, because our Daycare Lady is on vacation and Owl is attending PH’s company daycare a half an hour drive away.
I ran a couple errands (bank, grocery store, public health office to get a copy of Owl’s vaccination records for the company daycare) and collapsed on the couch with a bar of chocolate. I sent PH upstairs (we can talk in the evenings after Owl goes to bed. That’s our Social Time) and opened up my laptop.
“Ring ring ring ring BANANAPHONE!” yelled my cell phone. It was work. I picked it up, and the girl on the other line was an intelligent and highly competent receptionist in her mid twenties.
“Our power is back! I tried to get into the server like you said but it keeps telling me it can’t connect.”
“I know this sounds like a stupid question, but did you turn the server on?”
“Uh… no actually. I thought it turned itself on?”
“No… it needs to be turned on, just like the other computers.”
She hung up. I reopened my laptop.
“Ring ring ring ring BANANAPHONE!”
“It still says it can’t connect.”
“Huh. I don’t know why,” I said. “Check to make sure that we have internet access and maybe try it from another computer.”
“Ring ring ring ring BANANAPHONE!”
“I still can’t connect.”
“Well, the other way would be to hook up peripherals to the server and just do it directly.”
“How do I do that?”
“Just unplug the monitor and the keyboard and stuff from another computer and hook it up to the server.”
“…Unplug the monitor?”
“Yes,” I said impatiently.
There was a very long pause.
“How do I do that?”
“What do you mean?” I snapped. “You find the plug, you unplug it, you plug it into the server instead, ditto for the keyboard and the mouse, and there you go. The server’s just another computer. It just doesn’t have anything attached to it. If you plug in the monitor and stuff you’ll be able to log onto Windows and turn on the database.”
There was another very long silence.
“But… where do I…”
Oh, for crying out loud. “Never mind. I’m coming down. I’ll do it the f*** myself.”
I stormed out of the house, walking away from my laptop. I knew that by the time I finished this, it would be time to go and get Owl. Farewell, precious free time. I’ll see you in a week. All the way down, I raged to myself about how no one ever taught ME how to hook up a monitor, how I had just figured it out for myself.
Even as I went, I knew I wasn’t being fair. It’s not fair that I was suddenly expecting people to do things for themselves when they’ve always been able to turn to me for the help they need, just because I didn’t feel like playing Mommy today.
But that didn’t stop me from storming in and tossing my purse on the floor like a duelist throwing down a gauntlet. That didn’t stop me from hunting down the staff member in question and dragging her out of the office by her ear and insisting that she watch me do it so that I wouldn’t get that phone call ever again.
“Don’t treat me like I’m stupid,” snapped the poor girl. She’s not stupid. She’s bright, and efficient, and a hard worker. I like her very much, and have never considered her to be lazy or incompetent. But right now, she was the person who had robbed me of the last hour in the week where I wasn’t supposed to be needed by ANYONE.
“I’m sorry,” I said, “but I’m VERY FRUSTRATED RIGHT NOW.”
I was too angry to say anything more conciliatory than that. All I could do was choke back all of the mean, unfair things that I wanted to say but knew that I would regret. I was already feeling the beginnings of shame over my tantrum, but I couldn’t overcome my rage.
I showed her how to unplug a monitor. I showed her how to remove mouse and keyboard USBs. I showed her how to lug them over to the other side of the room and plug them into the identical ports in the server computer. I TURNED THE SERVER ON. I stared sullenly while it booted up. It stopped while booting up and asked me if I wanted to start Windows in safe mode. I chose to start Windows normally.
“That’s why we couldn’t connect, Windows wasn’t loading,” I said.
We waited silently while it ran a disk check.
We waited silently while Windows loaded.
I logged into Windows. I clicked the database icon. I clicked “Start”.
“There.” I said.
My coworker checked at another computer. Things were up and running. Everyone cheered.
“Yay! Thank you, Carol!”
“You can’t go home ever, Carol, we need you!”
Once upon a time I would have been proud to be needed so much. But lately, I’m sick of it. When do I get to need someone? When can I call for help? Who could I even call? The world is full of people who love and emotionally support me. But that only goes so far, because love and support doesn’t get the dishes washed, or my son’s bottom wiped, or the server booted up. Ultimately, there’s no one I can really fall back on. PH has always been my tower of strength but when he is fighting his own battles, I am the one who has to battle everything else. I’m the last resort.
And I’m breaking down. And then what will happen?
I moved the peripherals back. I filled out an overtime sheet and got the vet to sign off on it. I looked at the clock.
Then I burst into tears and went home sobbing.