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Kelly: When Life and Art Meet Frustration

[Editor’s note: The post below was written last Tuesday, but due to an admin error it’s only getting published today. Apologies, Kelly!]

Funny thing just happened. It’s been one of those days. My secretary doesn’t really know it’s been one of those days, yet she just created and sent me this picture. Why has it been one of those days? It’s been one of those days because I yelled at my girls this morning. I rarely even raise my voice at my girls, yet I actually yelled at them this morning, out of sheer frustration I guess. Put me in the Worst Mama Ever category today. So far I’m not doing very well on the “savor the week with my girls” goal I put on the Monday page.

What caused me to lose it? I guess a combination of things really. Since my DH is working 12-16 hour days all week on a major plant project shutdown, I’m essentially a single Mom this week, a single Mom with a very demanding full-time job outside the home, a flourishing part-time business inside the home, and twin girls who will be five in three weeks. How do single Moms do it? And today is Tuesday, Water Play Day. Water Play Day requires that I goop up my girls with sunblock and swimsuit before we even leave the house, plus pack them a towel and extra change of clothes for the day. Oh, and don’t forget the money for shaved ice, Mom! Add to that the rest of the “must gather for the day” things that take place every morning and the long list of tasks awaiting me once I got to the office, and I was truly frazzled. Yet here I am talking to you.

That’s where the frustration must come out. As creative mothers, don’t we all have very lengthy to-do lists? Yet I keep adding things to my list, don’t you? The things that I want to do and the things that I must do sometimes completely crowd out the things that I absolutely must remember. What are those? Those are the reminders to stay sane. Those are the reminders to breathe and count to ten before I snap at my girls. Those are the reminders that my girls did not create my to-do lists. They did not commit me to participating in a Fat Book swap, they did not force me to procrastinate terribly on completing my calendar at work, they did not ask me to take the online Blackboard course, they did not ask for a dog for their birthday so they’d have to help take care of her, they did not even ask to play at Water Play Day. They simply asked me to love them. And I hope that those are also the reminders that it’s okay to screw up every once in a while…no, scratch that…it’s impossible not to screw up every once in a while because I am who I am. First and foremost, a living, breathing, emotional, creative creature who feels smothered when I can’t find that time for myself to create yet feel guilty when I spend time away from my children and family. So maybe Life and Art meet Frustration when we realize we simply can’t do all the things we want to do and be all the things others need us to be. So we must accept. I must accept. Accept things as they are and, just maybe, as they were meant to be.

So I go back to that list and try to remember why there is so much on it. I committed to the Fat Book swap because I want my girls to learn to take chances on new things like I do. I’ve procrastinated on my calendar because I’d rather go through the pictures we took on our family vacation. I’m taking the Blackboard class because I’d love to shift over to faculty full time to have more time with my family. We bought the girls a dog for their birthday last year so they could grow to love animals as much as we do while learning to take care of another creature. And about that Water Play Day? I selected that school for my girls for the growth it would provide them…emotionally, socially, spiritually and mentally. While I suppose there is a little selfishness in all that we do, maybe we all need to learn how to recognize the gifts we give our children by doing everything that we do. I’ll work on that. How about you? I think I’ll go look through those pictures again now….

8 Comments Post a comment
  1. cathy #

    ok, obviously, today, with working on novel in mind, i keep bouncing back here for distraction with wiggly baby on lap for re-read.

    kelly, you brought me to tears with this. i know many of us have posted one of those days blogs, but it is still validating to read another. i screamed at my boys the day before they left for their dad’s for a month on fri, even kicked 13yr old out of house saying i don’t want to see you for an hour! there’s plenty to do outside! not how i wanted to spend my last day w/them before i didn’t see them for the longest time ever. but it had been one of those weeks. it’s nice to see we’re all fallible moms as we put our cheery faces forward to the world on this website. thanks for the commiz 🙂

    July 22, 2008
  2. Kelly and Cathy — thank you for sharing so honestly. It is so satisfying when you meet a parenting challenge with a fountain of patience, love, and creative parenting skills. And it is so utterly devastating when you don’t. I feel so selfish when I let my stress take over. Sometimes I think that my frequent, low-level “I’m stressed and a little grouchy” is MORE damaging than actual outbursts. (Although I have those too, of course.) Sure, we’re all just trying to do the best we can do — learn and try even harder next time — but sometimes that doesn’t seem to be enough.

    Kelly, you’re right: acceptance is important. But I feel like I should accept the things I cannot control — and that my own behavior does not fall into that category. I CAN control my own behavior. Isn’t that what I’m trying to teach my kids? That you’re responsible for your own behavior even when you’re upset/disappointed/angry? So it’s hard for me to cut myself slack in that department. Feels like a cop-out. I can, and should, do better. And I can’t help but feel like most everyone else DOES do better on most days!

    It helps to know that others struggle with similar issues, however. And yes, I do want to do a million different things — only some of which directly benefit my kids. Regardless of what I get done and don’t get done, above all I owe them a reliably calm mother. That doesn’t seem like too much to ask, does it?

    I think the bottom line is that kids need to have relatively happy mothers. No one is going to be blissed out all the time (at least not naturally!) but my challenge is being more disciplined about doing those things on the list that DO make me a happier (read better) mother.

    Kelly, my hat’s off to you for all that you juggle, and the fact that you rarely raise your voice at all. You strike me as a happy and energetic person — and that’s the real gift to your girls.

    July 22, 2008
  3. cathy #

    thanks for the reminder on controlling my behavior as theire example, miranda. i will add, i may seem to admit to yelling, or at least speaking more sternly than i’d like, quite a bit here, but there is an added dimension with son#2’s aperger’s. no one on the planet is louder than he is, and sometimes, for sanity’s sake for the whole family, i have to get loud, just to cut through his noise. my hope is that it is coming across in that manner. i always check in with the guys whenever there is a vocal explosion on any of our parts, so everyone knows what book we’re in at least, if not to get us on the same page. 🙂

    here’s to month of quiet til aug 16th. little blessings in strange places, as i miss them already.

    July 22, 2008
  4. Honestly, Cathy — I can’t imagine how I’d handle that added dimension. I would probably be a screaming maniac. You always sound calm and collected. My instinct says you’re better at going with the flow than I am. Although that’s really what Kelly’s post was about, ultimately. Accept, breathe. The glass half full, if not overflowing. It’s probably still the post-partum/sleep-deprivation thing, but I still vacillate between feeling on top of the world and feeling down in the ditch. But this, like everything else, won’t last forever!

    July 22, 2008
  5. cathy #

    ha! thanks, i don’t feel calm and collected, i feel often like a chicken with it’s head cut off, bouncing off the walls of one crisis or the next between breaking up boys’ arguments (which ramp 0-60 in no time)and baby stuff, just like everyone else here! i admire those of you who produce sellable art and do all of what you do besides work fulltime or handle clients in self-employment. i’m working back up to that.

    and it’s not usually sooo tough. he’s less inclined to scream as much as when he was little. he was just anticipating seeing his dad, didn’t know what to do with that energy, and we had extended ‘guests’ by day all week. and big bro loves to bait him.

    i do go w/ the flow a LOT more than i did before he was born. it is surprising to find what you’re capable of handling when life hands you a big challenge you can’t walk away from. right, kelly, mom of twins? and miranda, with your *5*, you really can cut yourself some slack. you come across very self-possessed, and organized! 🙂

    July 22, 2008
  6. i’m so glad to have found my kindred spirits here! my girls have caused to me learn two major lessons: (1), i truly can’t do it all, no matter how much i’d like to, and (2) yes, i must simply learn to accept the things I cannot control. and you’re right, miranda, i think sometimes there is a very fine line in what you can (or at least THINK you can) and cannot control. behavior is certainly one of those things. when i have friends dealing with issues of whatever sort, the piece of advice i always give them is that maybe you can’t control what’s happened/ing, what you’ve been handed, etc, but you CAN control how you react to it. sometimes i need to listen to my own advice! we all have our challenges, and we’ll all deal with them in different ways. and i think most moms probably always think that other moms out there must be doing it much better! i know i do! but just listening to others’ challenges and how they deal with them presents learning opportunities for all. miranda… have 5 children! yes! cut yourself some slack! and cathy, while i don’t have first hand experience in raising a child with asperger’s, i do have a friend, actually one of my students who’s been with me a few years now, who has a child with asperger’s so i do understand the challenges you face. the key is to seek out the blessings hidden within those challenges.. i know they are always there…just waiting to be found.

    July 23, 2008
  7. cathy #

    thanks, kelly, i do really appreciate him for who he is rather than just the challenges he presents. he’s the funniest kid i’ve ever met, and working in education most of my adult life, i’ve met a lot! think a little robin williams, a little jonathan winters. he’s also extremely sweet, when he wants to be.

    gee, looking back through this convo, i am very grateful to be here among these kindred spirits, too. this particular blog and convo is just focussed on when we hit bottom as moms. as long as we keep in mind that it does not define our entire motherhood, we’re alright.

    July 23, 2008

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