Just recently I have been noticing a growing sense of dread coming over me when the 7 o'clock hour rolls around. This is the time of the evening when my youngest daughter has taken to calling me to chat about her day. When I say chat I guess I really mean complain. For 30 minutes to an hour, I get a run down of what's been happening since the last time I spoke with her (within 24 hours at most.) Her list of complaints gets longer by the day and sometimes I think my brain will burst from all the negativity. Here are some of the things she complains about:
....being really, really tired, her feet hurting from walking to and from class, how much homework she has, how overly liberal her professors are, how hot it is in her dorm, how her roommate is super messy, how her roommate keeps her up at night because her classes don't start till the afternoon, how the food in the cafeteria sucks, how much she hates the showers in the dorm, how her head is aching from one thing or another, how uncomfortable her bed is, how she is out of diet coke with caffeine, how there is still an infestation of ladybugs in her dorm room even though I've called to complain about it numerous times as has she, how late the buses always are, how heavy her book bag is and how it is making her shoulders ache, how hot or cold it is outside that day, how slow her computer is, how her phone is getting on her nerves, how she hates her haircut, how she's bored, how she's out of money, how she forgot her favorite top at home the last time she visited and that's what she wants to wear tomorrow....and on and on and on...
Since August 14th, I have been getting these calls on a nightly basis, and it's taken until this past week or so to finally feel I'm at my limit. At around 6 PM, I start feeling edgy, anticipating the call, and when I see her name pop up on my phone, I think, "Oh, here we go again!" I flip open the phone, take a deep breath, and ask her about her day.
A number of years ago, when my children were young, I wrote a poem called, A Good Mother. The poem listed all the things a good mother would do that I did not do. It starts, "A good mother wakes up in the morning and makes her children eggs..." because that's what I've always thought good mothers should do. Me? I served toast and cereal because it was easy and fast. I slipped eggs into their diet at night when I would occasionally serve breakfast for dinner, but I never felt I should get credit for that because it felt like I was cheating. Truth be told, I was too lazy and grumpy to make eggs in the morning and as far as I was concerned, that's what a good mother would do.
That poem felt like a purging of all the awful things I felt about myself as a mother--all the "shoulds" I couldn't manage to do---all the ways I felt I was falling short. I'm not sure what happened to that poem but if I find it, I'll post it here so you can see where my head was at. There is a quiet sadness about stay at home mothers that nobody seems to notice. We never hear enough good things about how important and difficult our job is. Never.
That poem came back to me today when I started writing this because I imagine if I wrote it today I would probably say something like, "A good mother would listen to her college age daughter complain without watching the clock to see when the call might be over." After hanging up with her, I find myself heading to the kitchen to look for something crunchy to eat like pretzels, or something crunchy AND sweet like Frosted Mini Wheats which I eat out of the box until I have my fill. I crunch and crunch and crunch and crunch. Can y'all hear me wherever you are?
If I'm extra lucky, on those same nights I get a call from my daughter, my husband will be out of town and call me to recount his list of complaints so that I get a double dose of downers. I can be bobbing around the ceiling like a helium balloon all day, and in no time, my feet are planted back on the ground where good mothers and good wives listen with compassion, and promise with conviction, that tomorrow will be better, for sure.