It’s certainly true that I’m not an extrovert or an optimist or a glass-half-full kind of person, but I like to think that even if I don’t always look on the bright side, I am typically not the type to spew negativity or just be a straight-up grouch either.
I cheer on my kid and her friends at volleyball games even when I’d secretly rather be reading a mystery novel in a bubble bath (which is always); I generally offer positive feedback and constructive criticism both at work and at home; I always try to remember to say “thank you” for any kindness shown to me, both big and little, and encourage my kids to do the same.
Above all, I try to stay grounded in gratitude. My kids can drive me nuts, but they are everything I ever wanted, and they are healthy and sweet and hilarious. My husband can irritate me, but he is attentive and loving and puts up with my plentiful neuroses. My parents can get under my skin, but I am so thankful that they are in my life — I have so many friends who have either lost parents or are estranged from them. I actually have a great relationship with my parents and my in-laws, making me doubly lucky. My job can be stressful, but I take joy in what I do, have truly delightful and talented coworkers, and am paid a good salary. At the end of the day, I have so many things to appreciate, and I try to be mindful and not take it for granted.
But that doesn’t always work. Sometimes — even though I of course recognize fully that I am being a huge brat and have enormous good fortune in my life — I get cranky. Instead of being grateful that I have clothes, I am annoyed that the baskets of laundry just never seem to stop coming. Instead of being grateful that my kids have so much to say, I wish they could just be quiet for 10 minutes and leave me alone. Instead of being grateful that I have a soft bed to sleep in, I get pissed that there are crumbs in the sheets. And so on.
I have outlined the six things I am currently most tired of below (despite being appreciative of having healthy kids and enough food and a house and a car, etc.):
- Driving. Some of my mom friends lament that driving “used to be so exciting” as a teenager or that they “couldn’t wait” to get their licenses, but now they just feel like glorified cabbies, lugging kids to and from school and to and from music lessons and to and from soccer practice and to and from birthday parties. I agree, except I was never excited to get my license in the first place. I was completely terrified of driving and only really learned how when I went away to college and had to have reliable transportation to be able to hold down a job. The only thing I hate worse than driving is parking.
- Feeding my children. Yes, it’s amazing to watch them grow and thrive, and I do sometimes take pride in them asking for seconds of something I’ve made. But there are also days when I can’t believe just how often they seem to want food. It’s particularly exhilarating when Georgia begs for something (Nutella on toast, macaroni, ham roll-ups, carrot sticks) and then either doesn’t eat it at all or chews it up and spits little masticated, soggy hills of Nutella toast, macaroni, ham, or carrots all over her plate.
- Homework. I know full well, on an intellectual level, that Ruby’s homework is not my homework. When I’m at my best, I can calmly say: “I’m not going to remind you again to do your math worksheet. I don’t need to help you because I already know my times tables. You can do it tonight, or you and your math teacher can discuss the consequences tomorrow.” But when I am not at my best, which is almost 100 percent of the time at 9:45 after a long day and with a sinkful of dirty dishes in the kitchen and Cheerios strewn all over the living room floor, I usually end up arguing back and forth with Ruby while also trying to remember how to factor or if 37 is a prime number.
- School functions. I love the kids’ school. I adore the wealth of extracurriculars it offers, and I enjoy spending time with the other parents. But in addition to driving the kids there every morning, which is a 75-minute commute from home to school to my office (see No. 1 above), and then picking Ruby up from cheerleading/volleyball/play practice, I also find myself at the school in the middle of the day for fundraising committee meetings or at night for performances or football games or on the weekends for open house or sports practice.
- Homeownership. Much like I love the kids’ school, I love my house. It’s my favorite house I’ve ever lived in. But a tree fell on the roof in December, and so my husband’s and my shared Christmas present to each other was the ever-romantic “tree removal and roof-patching.” Then our fridge broke a couple of times between April and August, when it finally gave up the ghost and we had to buy a new one. Our AC went out in mid-July because of course it did, and now our dishwasher seems to be on the fritz. When I first had Ruby, I had one moment when I was holding her and she was screaming and in some part of my sleep-deprived brain, I thought, “Christ, when is this kid’s mom going to come get her?” Then it hit me: “Oh, right. This is my kid. I am the mother. No one is coming to get her.” I think that way about the house sometimes, too: “Oh, no, I better call the landlord.” Then I remember I am the landlord.
- This election. And that’s all I am going to say about that.