The One Percent

Ninety-nine percent of the time, I’m a perfectly cheerful, friendly human being.

One percent of the time, I’m bitchy.

I feel like I’m always being judged on that one percent. All the good things I do count for nothing compared to the bad. No amount of tender loving care erases the moments of weakness.

I’ll run errands with the kids all day, patiently keeping them entertained and in check, then in the last store I’ll break and snap at them – only to notice someone staring at me and wondering what kind of mother these poor children have.

I know my kids will never remember all the times we painted, or went to the park, or played Sorry all day long, the way they’ll remember the time I screamed at them to shut up while struggling to park the van, the way I told them that was enough TV for one day, the one time, one time, I didn’t look when coming down off a stool in the closet and stepped on my daughter’s leg.

ONE. TIME.

I’ll be kind and gentle (but firm) with the children all day, taking full advantage of teachable moments, but when my husband comes home from work and I’m rushing to make dinner and handle homework and keep everyone from killing each other, he’ll hear me tell the kids to get out of the kitchen RIGHT NOW and he’ll say that’s a little harsh, isn’t it? and I’ll look at him with daggers in my eyes and I’ll know that out of all the great moments of the day, this the moment we will have to discuss later this evening.

I like to think that I am not so snap with the judgements, that I can make room for other people’s weak moments in my life. That I can put things into perspective and be generous with my thinking and believe in the basic good of people who sometimes do bad things.

But I’m sure I have done the same, been the same. Formed an entire opinion of someone based on a passing instant in a shop. Made huge assumptions about a family member’s mood or intentions based on one comment. Thought back to a holiday and had it tainted by one bad word by someone I met in passing.

I need to do better. I need to be better. Be the change you want to see in the world.

13 thoughts on “The One Percent

  1. CapnPlanet

    Interesting post, and I know how you feel. But it might be worth turning this around and viewing our kids through the same lens. If you yell at your kids for taking too long to get dressed, you might be forgetting the times when they do it without wasting time – those often don’t stick in our minds. Likewise if you get exasperated when they can’t find a “lost” toy that’s in plain sight and easily recovered if they’d take the 5 seconds to actually look around the room, you might be ignoring the many times they’ve actually looked and found them, because they happened without you even knowing about it.

    They’re almost certainly not achieving a 99% success rate, but give them credit for the 50% (or maybe much more) they are getting. Life is actually hard for them in ways we often fail to appreciate on a daily basis.

  2. I feel like I want to give you a hug right now. We’ve all been there. What I truly believe in my own life is that the kids need to know that it is possible to push me too far. I am a person with feelings and there will be days where they can push me past what I can take – bickering, nagging, demanding. I have snapped at them, and now that they are 7 and 10 they understand that I am not a saint, I do not have endless reserves of patience, and it is possible to really piss me off. They are learning to respect me as a person with feelings and my husband knows that for me to be snapping at 6pm means I’ve had one hell of a day already.
    We are too hard on ourselves as mothers, I think. We can’t be perfect. We can’t have endless patience, do everything right, keep it all together ever day.
    And when I’m out and I see another mum who has reached her breaking point, I give her a little sympathetic smile. I’ve been there and I get it.

    1. CapnPlanet

      Nicely put. I agree 100% that when this happens our kids can learn something useful from it – nobody is perfect, especially parents, and kids need to understand that. They will also learn that it’s normal (and even healthy) to get upset and let off steam, and that we can get mad at someone and still love them.

  3. Being a lazy commenter, I’m always happy when I go to comment on a post and realize that someone else has already said what I wanted to say, only probably better. 🙂

    I think you’re being too hard on yourself. I’ve somewhat come to terms with the fact that the kids (and my husband) don’t always see me at my best. I try to be calmer, but I also try not to beat myself up about it if I do do get cranky. They all have their cranky moments, too, and I still love them.

    And sometimes–when you’ve asked a kid to get dressed five times in the last half hour and they’re STILL in their PJs and you need to leave the house–a little bit of shouting might actually be called for. Not that I’m speaking from experience, mind you. That certainly didn’t happen in our household this morning. (FIVE times! Yeesh!)

  4. Only 1% of the time? Sheesh woman – you are a SAINT!!! I’m probably bitchy closer to 25% of the time – and I think that’s realistic. My kids are (mostly) doing well despite my craziness and my forgetfulness and my general anxiety. I’m sure a lot of their well-being has to do with my sane and balanced husband (and you know this is true because you know him well) and I still have no idea how he puts up with me. 🙂

    Yes, we do tend to judge each other on their worst moments but you know what, we also don’t have to do that. I have had so many public bad moments that I’ve stopped judging any parent on anything. Honestly. Except for extreme outbursts and obvious child abuse, I’m not going to judge how any parent does anything. Kids in pjs in the shopping mall? That’s just fine. Breakfast at McDonald’s? Yep – ok. Yelling in public at a crying kid? They’re probably both at the end of their rope – and we’ve all been there.

    Extend love and empathy, not judgement – the entire world will be a better place.

    And you and your kids are great – remember that.

  5. I remind my kids of all the fun things we do together. You know, right after they call me mean.

    You are a good mom. And, I think, much more patient than I am. But remember, we also need to be patient with ourselves.

  6. “Be the change you want to see in the world.”

    Fuck that.

    That is, fuck the world. Life is tough enough worrying about you and your family without having to feel like you have to live up to some ideal that, if we all followed, would make the world great.

    Do what you need to do to get by, and things will be fine.

    The challenge with that statement (a far more reasonable goal to achieve) is defining what you feel is good enough to get by. There’s no right or wrong; it just has to feel good.

    That’s your challenge right now: you don’t feel good. But, from what I can tell, this feeling is based on perceptions and external factors, not with anything you’re doing wrong.

    Challenge 1: SirMonkeyPants sees you at the end of the day, not the beginning. Get him on board with the fact that we all have breaking points (even him). Get *him* (not you) to recount all the times you were an awesome mom. Having him say those things out loud will help him take notice. You could frame it as “Tell me all the awesome things I did these past few days.”

    Challenge 2: You’re worried about what others (i.e., non-loved ones, strangers) think of you if you yell at your kids. This is a tough one that takes practice. The only solution is teaching your brain that other people’s opinions actually don’t matter at all. Like, *at all*.

    Challenge 3: You don’t give your kids enough credit, possibly based on your own childhood experiences. You are not our mother. I repeat: YOU ARE NOT OUR MOTHER. We don’t remember “the good times” because there weren’t any. Talk to Mr. Chatty some day, for example. He remembers both good times and bad times in his family, but overall loves his parents dearly. That’ll happen with your kids. Trust me.

    Challenge 4: You’re an overachiever who constantly doubts that you’re performing at an acceptable level. For this one, compare yourself to other moms. Actually, scratch that because you likely don’t know what’s behind closed doors. Instead, imagine how awful you *could* be and how amazing you *could* be and put your real self somewhere on that scale. If you have a good enough imagination staying without reason (i.e., you’re not a millionaire who doesn’t require sleeping or eating), you’ll find you probably fall in the 90th percentile. Then it becomes a matter of accepting. At some point, you say to yourself “If I keep struggling to be better, I’ll miss out on what’s happening right now.”

    When you realise you’re doing the best you can with what you have and you don’t feel the need to get better, life gets much, much better.

    Related to this is my beloved Pareto’s Principle: you’ll put in 20% of the effort to be 80% awesome. The other 20% of awesome will take the other 80% of the effort. Do you really think it’s worth it?

    You’re doing fine. We *all* love you.

  7. Javamom

    You have described my nightly evening ritual. I thought why is this happening to me? Well it’s happening to many of us….Last night during the evening meal I actually physically took my plate and walked to my bedroom where I finished my meal in silence. Sigh. Thank you for sharing.

    1. Ooh, I have done that too. There have been times when I have left the dinner table because I simply can’t eat with the constant bickering or complaining about the food. Also, I know that I will overeat when I’m stressed, so I just give myself a time out.

  8. Sara

    Since getting pregnant for the third time and being the mom of three I have learned the art of the genuine apology. I snap and snarl more but I’m at least learning that my kids will accept my apologies when I’m being bitchy for no reason. I have lived with someone who never genuinely apologized for anything so I figure at least I’ve got that going for me now 😉

    And can I get a ^^wss to what fame throwa commented. Wise words.

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