This morning, as I was walking with Jake bundled on my back, like I do every morning, I got called a “dumb-ass”. More specifically, I got yelled at for being a dumb-ass, by a lady parked on the street. Apparently, she thought it was too cold for us to be outside, even though we were both bundled up to our eyebrows.
It really bothered me. A lot bothered me. Enough that after about two hours of stewing, I had to sit down and think through exactly why it bothered me.
I realized that I can take people saying stuff to me about my personal appearance, the state of my clothes, looking askance at my nose ring, saying it’s “dramatic” in that really snotty tone of voice for me to have blue hair, and on and on. However, if someone makes a comment about Jake or my parenting skills, it really, really hurts.
Every mom that I know struggles with this very thing. We get upset and angry, offended and teary-eyed when people are critical of our parenting skills. I have no idea why some people are so free with their criticism to young mothers, and since I only desire to have one break-through at a time, I’ll have to deal with that later.
I hurt a thousand times more when someone is critical about Jake or my parenting skills because it is my heart and I have sacrificed so much to have this life.
This is not the martyr section of this essay. I am passionate about what I do with my life. I don’t love everything about my life right now, but I believe in it whole-heartedly. So, please understand that I’m not whining in this next bit.
I’ve always known that when I had kids, I wanted to not have a job. I wanted to be with my kids and raise them myself. So, when I had Jake, I got a job that enabled me to stay at home. Losing that job set into spiral a string of events that landed Greg and I in Colorado, a thousand miles away from all of our friends and family and everything familiar, so that he could have a better job and I wouldn’t have to work. Having only one income is tougher than I thought it would be. We haven’t been out to eat in months. I shop at Goodwill for my clothes (ok, I actually like thrift storing, but I would have to shop there anyway). I clip coupons and do our grocery shopping very creatively every week. There have been a few times that I’ve had to see what we have in the cupboards and be creative on meal planning because we couldn’t afford to go to the grocery store. Our vacations will be camping and a financial “splurge” for us is buying a $4 bunch of sunflowers. And, I know that every family with one income can match me story for story.
Being a stay at home mama in a new place is very lonely. It’s hard to make new friends. Most of the people I should be getting to know right now also have small children and trying to find a time to talk coherently while everyone is playing nicely is almost impossible. So, that leaves a lot of time with Jake and I hanging out together, which is alternately fun and mind-numbing. I do try to read good books and think smart thoughts, but since it all has to be crammed in before Jake gets up, during naps or when he’s being quiet, it’s tough to have a thought beyond, “What is that banging noise and where is it coming from?”
Then there’s Jake’s health problems. I don’t know how many times I’ve been told, once again by total strangers, that I don’t feed my kid, that he’s too skinny, that I should just make him eat, or told to just relax and he’ll eat when he wants to. Then, there was the time I let Jake fall when I could have caught his arm, but would have dislocated his shoulder if I had (Jake has a condition that makes his joints very soft), and was told that I shouldn’t have “let him fall”. I have prayed over Jake, fought for him at the doctor’s office, tolerated doctors who told me I was a bad parent, spent hours with Jake working him through wanting to barf when he was scared of his food, been consistent about his therapy and would pull out my own teeth if it would make him well.
To boil it all down? I love my child intensely, and even though it’s tough sometimes, I love my life and I love what I do. More than I thought I ever would.
Maybe I’m the only mama who gets irrationally angry when criticized. Based on the times I’ve seen young mothers burst into tears at the slightest provocation, I don’t think I am. It makes me want to step back and watch my own critical spirit and not be or say the one thing to another mama that pushed her over the edge.
In my constant desire and goal of being more Christ-like, I know that I need to be more gracious, loving, and kind towards those who are critical, angry and lash out like the “dumb-ass” lady did this morning. I’m not really sure how to do that yet. If you know how to do it, let me know and if I figure it out first, I’ll let you know.
In the meantime, I think we should both say “good job” to the next mama we see! Deal?