Post Paper Blues

Any of you guys do theater? Or used to do theater? You know the day after a show closes? The feeling of profound sadness and moodiness and emptiness and loss because it is over? I haven’t had that feeling in more than a decade.

Except I had it yesterday. Of course the paper that I spent the last week writing is not some important or significant thing. It’s just a research paper for a class, one of probably several million that are being handed in this week across the country as the semester winds up. It doesn’t contain brilliant analysis, I didn’t synthesized information in a particularly innovative way. I actually have a sinking feeling that it isn’t very good. But the truth is I worked hard on it. Harder than I’ve worked on anything in a very long time.

The paper was assigned the first day of class, while I did research throughout the semester I only had three or four pages done on the Saturday before it was due. So from Saturday till Wednesday I lived and breathed that paper. It gave me a sense of purpose that was much more straightforward than being a Stay at Home Mom. And my feelings about it were less fraught. If I fucked up and I get a bad grade I’ve let myself down. But if I fuck up during my day job I’m inflicting damage upon a human being. And let me tell you, I fuck up every day.

When T hits his brother or is rude to me, when C throws a tantrum after being told “No!”, when T wakes terrified in the middle of the night, when C can’t fall asleep without a pacifier in his mouth I feel like I have failed them. When they behave in a way that embarrasses me or infuriates me I remember that I spend more time with them than anyone else. They are a moment by moment reflection of my work. Their behavior is my report card and most days I feel like my grade wouldn’t be a passing one.

I worked really hard on this paper. I used parts of my brain that haven’t been used for a long time. I got a break from my day job and I while I felt guilty for not being with the boys, I didn’t feel as guilty because I wasn’t just hanging out, I was doing something kind of unpleasant that I had dreaded for a long time. The truth is I’ll be crushed if I get a bad grade. I really want to apply to the new grad program that is being developed in Food Studies and if I don’t do well in this class I doubt I’ll be accepted. I’ll also feel pretty bad about myself. One of my biggest fears is trying as hard as I can and not being good enough. But at the end of the day if I screw this paper up there are no repercussions for other humans.

The stakes are high with this childrearing business. I know that probably seems laughable to people. I get that the stakes are higher when you are earning the paycheck that puts a roof over your family’s head. But the stakes are high as a SAHM because you don’t get do-overs. You are trying to mold your children into decent people and contributing members of society. If your kid is a self involved shit, well, a lot of that falls on you.

I’m not saying T or C are self involved shits, by the way. First of all, it is way too soon to tell. Second of all, one and three are hard ages. They are pushing back, trying to figure out what power they have in this world. They are constantly frustrated and constantly learning and constantly improving and constantly taking steps back. They are doing incredibly hard work. When they act out they are testing me, they are learning where the boundaries are. And one of my millions of fuck ups is interpreting their bad behavior as my failure. I get frustrated. And I lose sight of my job, which is to calmly help them navigate the acting out. I fail, I fail, I fail. I want to do better for them.

ice cream goatee

I’m not a fan of facial hair. Unless it is made out of ice cream.

he is totally scared of monsters

He is totally scared of monsters.

toilet car crash

The Mom business would go smoother if I didn’t freak out so much when I found things like this. Because at the end of the day it isn’t a big deal. Duh. I just find that hard to remember when I’m preparing to plunge my hand into the toilet as I contemplate the number of times we have crapped in it since I cleaned it last.

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4 thoughts on “Post Paper Blues

  1. “Their behavior is my report card and most days I feel like my grade wouldn’t be a passing one.” No. Just no. I don’t buy this. We guide them. We teach them. But they are their own little beings. My mom always said “I will not take credit for your success, nor will I take blame for your failures.” Cut yourself a little slack.

  2. Sustained applause for completing your paper. That is huge! I only pray I can blog the same words someday soon. Also congratulations on considering a graduate program! I have to tell you since starting mine, and working as a graduate assistant, I am shocked on most days how little face-to-face interaction with other people is required of me – on most days it is all of 0%. I’m sure this depends on the field of study – but I thought that might appeal to you. I can also relate on the child behavior as litmus test comment. After attempting a yard project with my husband yesterday, which went really unwell, Emerson starting yelling in long strings of babble and waving her hands dramatically at dinner. It did not take me long to key in on the fact that her gestures and inflection were mine – and she was clearly imitating Ben & I fighting – it was really quite impressive. 😦

    • Fingers crossed that your writing gets done!

      Thanks for the words of encouragement for grad school.

      And I’ve read that it is really good to fight in front of them as long as you are also resolving issues in front of them. Teaches them they will have to address conflicts and then resolve it….

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