The Army teaches officers how to deal in expectation management. Don’t tell the brigade commander he’s going to have Time Warner Cable in Iraq. Make sure he knows its going to be like dial up, then he’ll be happy if he gets DSL.
The Army also warns about expectation management when you come home. Don’t come in and take over, it tells Dads coming home to kids they don’t know and a wife who has done it all for the last year. Tell her she’s done a good job and ask where you can help out. Don’t expect the kids to be all over you. They might not want to talk to you or be afraid of you or worse, might not know you.
Except that these expectations deal with the majority of folks in the Army: dads and husbands. There really isn’t a good guide out there on how to deal with the mommy guilt, what to do when your kids says I don’t think you love me or is just plain stubborn because she can be. They don’t tell you what to do when you just want to scream. Actually they do tell you what to do: get pills and get counseling.
But that doesn’t alleviate the mommy guilt that makes me wonder just how good of a parent I am, am I doing the right thing. Do my kids know that I love them, even if I have to take some time for myself? Or do I really need to sacrifice everything that makes me who I am in order for them to be reasonably well adjusted adults.
I made a comment on Twitter this morning about the Virgin Mary screwing me (and all mothers) by raising the bar to impossible heights. I mean, hell, she raised the savior of humanity, I’m just hoping not to raise an ax murderer. (FYI, I am Catholic and I do pray to the Virgin Mary, so I’m hoping She understands, if anyone could, the trials and tribulations of trying to be a good mom). But no one ever pictures the Virgin Mary losing her temper or arguing with Jesus about what to wear to school or would He please eat so He’s not late.
No, instead the ideal of being a good mom, for me, would mean less self doubt. A little more calm. A lot less yelling and a lot more hugs.
And it would have helped if the Army recognized that moms go through a whole lot more when they come home than the dads do. Most Dads have a wife who has held it together for the last year and they get to fit back in. They don’t have to start completely over from scratch with two kids who thought you’ve abandoned them and who feel guilty for loving the grammy who took such awesome care of them.
And the only people who really understand just how challenging this is is another mom. But all of our situations are different. All of the demands we place on ourselves are different. I want my kids to be well fed and well rested and happy. I’d like to start the morning off without screaming and crying and yelling just to make it out the door. I thought those were pretty reasonable expectations.
Guess I need to readjust the bar. Hope the Virgin Mother will help me with that, cause it’s a pretty big struggle right about now.