I often hear mothers of young children complain that they never take any time for themselves. Every time they get a few free minutes those minutes get filled instantly with the concerns of their families, so that they never get a day or even an hour off without thinking of something the kids need that the moms can use those free minutes to do for them.
I wish I had that complaint. Sometimes I think my Mom-Brain is not plugged in.
Let’s take this week for example. It was busy, as the weeks leading up to Christmas tend to be. The kids had their school concert on Thursday night, along with sundry other activities.
On Wednesday a rare and special thing happened. A problem with the water system in St. John’s cut off water to some homes, schools and businesses, but not others. As a result, I had the day off work, but my kids were still in school.
I think a Real Mom would have looked at an unexpected free day a few weeks before Christmas and thought, “Great! I can get the Christmas shopping finished! I can wrap gifts! I can clean the house! I can organize everything my kids need for the concert!!”
What did I think? “Hey, I can grab my laptop, head to Starbucks, order a raspberry mocha and spend the morning writing and sipping coffee.” Which is exactly what I did.
Then on Thursday afternoon, as snow was coming down thick and fast and the roads were icy, I headed out with an hour and a half to spare before the concert to pick up a white shirt for Chris and black tights for Emma. As I was rushing from one place to another it belatedly dawned on me, “You know, I could’ve done this yesterday when I unexpectedly had the whole day off. It wouldn’t have taken that big a bite out’ve my day to have swung by Sears and picked up those few things the kids needed.”
The fact was, when presented with a few free hours, I didn’t even think for one second of stuff I needed to get/do/arrange for the kids. My Mom-Brain is clealy dysfunctional.
I know I’m not a bad mom. In some ways I think I’m a good one. I never have trouble thinking of my kids when it comes to enjoying their company or listening to their problems or spending time with them. But organizing the minutae of their daily lives … well, that really is not my forte, and it slips out of my brain given half a chance. Sometimes I’m running on Teacher-Brain or Writer-Brain and while I never fully forget that I have kids, I’m certainly not likely to remember that they need white tops and dark bottoms for the Christmas concert, or even that there is a Christmas concert coming up.
I really believe we have all our unlived lives tucked deep inside us, and one of my unlived lives is the one where I’m a single, childless, full-time writer living in an apartment somewhere, dedicated to nothing but my writing. I don’t actually want to be living that life. My husband, my children, and my job are all things I love deeply and I would be so much poorer without them. Yet that single, childless, jobless writer, responsible to no-one but herself and her manuscript, is trapped somewhere inside looking for opportunities to pop out. When I have a few free hours, she bursts out and makes me live her life for those brief hours.
So there’s that, and the fact that I’m hopelessly forgetful, which is a less romantic but equally true explanation as to why this Thursday evening found me skidding around the snow-covered streets of St. John’s in pursuit of black tights and a white top.
It all ended well, of course — I got my writing done on Wednesday, and my kids appeared in full costume on Thursday night and did a wonderful job. As always, the few stolen hours were paid for in hurry and stress on the other end, but no harm was done.
Still, I think if any nice retired grandma out there has a still-functioning Mom Brain she doesn’t need anymore, I think I could use it. I would plug it into my own brain like an external hard drive so it could take over when needed and remind me that I do have children and there are probably things I could be doing about that.