I don’t know who needs to hear this, but just because I decided to procreate does not mean I signed on to be the only person capable of answering any and all questions for the rest of my life. And yet, here I am, telling my 8-year-old where his shoes are for the 365th day in a row. It’s a part of motherhood I never heard about prior to seeing those two pink lines, even though it’s one of the things I spend the most time doing. It’s not always difficult to answer questions, mostly because 90 percent of the time I know where the lost shoes are. But it also isn’t always easy, especially when it comes to the questions I ask myself, quietly, all day long, as I try to convince myself I am doing a good job being a mother. Questions aren’t always avoidable, but there are times I really wish they were. Here are a few of my least favorite scenarios, so you can know you’re not alone in your frustrations, mama.
When your questions lead to more questions
You’re in the checkout line at the grocery store and the sweetest grandmother in front of you is about to push her cart away. She turns around and waves to your little one saying: “Can you say bye-bye, sweetie?” This is a normal question; nothing offensive about it, and yet it could be a mother’s worst nightmare because it often leads to many more questions. What if he can’t say bye-bye? I’ve been in this situation before, and what I said out loud was: “No. No, he can’t. He can’t speak yet.” Followed by “Yes, I know he is tall for his age.” But what I didn’t say out loud was: Does everyone think he should be speaking by now? Do I need to call my doctor? Is there something wrong with him? Is he going to be ready for preschool in two years? Is it because I don’t read to him often enough?
The number of questions that buzz around in a mother’s head after someone asks something seemingly innocent is infinite. So it’s just easier to engage in such a way that won’t lead to being asked additional questions. Just simply responding with a “bye-bye” is fine on its own.
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When it’s none of your damn business
Every married couple has been in a position where someone asks the question: “So when are you going to have kids?” Because that’s the obvious next step, right? Wrong. Mind your own business.
Then, if you do eventually decide to procreate, and give birth to a beautiful little girl, there is always the obligatory follow-up question: “So, are you guys going to try for a boy?” This seems friendly enough. I mean, you’re just making conversation, no harm no foul, right? Wrong. Maybe I’m not planning to try for a boy. Maybe I don’t even want a boy. What if I can’t even try again? Maybe I miscarried. Maybe I can’t have any more children. Maybe it’s as simple as I’m just content with my family the way it is and I feel awkward proclaiming that. Whatever the reason may be, this question is not one I want to be forced to answer.
When you can answer it your damn self
It’s mom’s night out and you are blowing everyone kisses as you head for the door. You’re almost free when you hear: “Hey babe before you leave, what should I feed the kids for dinner?” Oh, dinner time…a mother’s favorite time of the day. Am I in charge of meal planning, grocery shopping, fridge organization, and more often than not, cooking? Yes. Does that mean I don’t need a break sometimes? No. No, it does not. Do you enjoy receiving questions via email that are work-related when you’re off the clock? I doubt it. So, partners, I implore you to just figure it out. In this scenario, I grant you permission to act decisively, and if you end up making the wrong decision, just apologize for it later. Trust me, it’s worth the risk.
When it’s not just the hard questions
It has been an overwhelmingly long week and it’s only Tuesday, so you’re at Grandma’s house trying desperately to pretend these kids aren’t your responsibility while you let her feed them junk food and allow them more screen time than you’d otherwise feel comfortable with. She makes their favorite mac and cheese for lunch and casually asks: “Do you think we should use a plate or a bowl?”
This is not only an innocent question, but it’s also pretty easy to answer. Who would know better what a child would prefer than his mom? After all, we all know how particular our children can be when it comes to, well everything, but especially what dish they consume food out of. But here we are, and she does not have the energy to answer this question. She’s had enough debates. Because it’s not just the difficult questions that can overwhelm a mother, it can also be the simple ones that come at us when we are already overwhelmed with all of the thinking that goes into motherhood.
As moms, our brains are tired and full, so if you see us out in the wild, please don’t add to our stress and frustration. There’s no easy way to portion the questions we are force-fed day in and day out. So from now on, if you ask what you think is a simple question and a mom acts annoyed, or confused, or stares blankly at you because the voices in her head are louder than your voice, you’ll know why.