Chapter 1 – Why Do I Feel Like a Failure?

 

Ah, puppy love. Those blissful days of youth, wrapped in magic and sprinkled with giddy excitement. You meet a cute guy. Your whole life is ahead of you. What will it bring? Romantic walks along the beach? A couple of beautiful children? A mansion atop a hill? What was more fun at fifteen than planning your perfect future? And you did it too, you know you did.

Remember what it was like to be so enraptured by that other person that they were all you thought about? Could anything else possibly be more important than wondering what they’re doing right this second? Now this one. Now this one. Well, you get the picture.

That was me, at the tender age of fifteen when I met my now-husband Chris and was I ever smitten. Puppy love is like riding a tidal wave of chocolate. It’s one delicious ride—and then you grow-up. Bam! Wipe-out.

Being an adult looked so simple at that age. You go to college, get a high paying job as soon as you graduate, get married, have a couple of kids, and live happily ever after. Oh, and that awesome metabolism that allows you to consume that tidal wave of chocolate you’ve been surfing on and never get fat—you get to keep that too, right? Ha! Learn to love lettuce and mom jeans, of which you will need several sizes. One for when you are winning the battle of the bulge, one for when you are losing, and a few sizes in between for when your body can’t make up its damn mind.

These days I’ve traded in chocolate for sprouted grain bagels with healthy, pretend cream cheese. I used to eat French fries every day—every single day. Now I just smell them after buying my three children Happy Meals that they aren’t going to eat, and I gain five pounds on the aroma. And what is the precious love of my life doing right this second? It’s not laundry, dishes, or anything else remotely helpful, so who cares? I don’t have the extra energy required to waste my time thinking about it. Seriously, I can’t even get him to change a light bulb. He’s probably in his underwear staring at his iPhone, the best/worst thing ever invented.

Side note here … what is it with men and pants? I had to tell my son that the dog would nibble his manhood off just to keep him from walking around naked in front of his sisters. Was that a fib? Well, theoretically it could happen, so I’m going to say no. Anyway, it worked. He may grow up and be afraid to walk around his own home naked, and he won’t have the least idea why. Thank God they don’t remember the first five years. Anyway, his wife will thank me for it. He’ll be fine. Promise.

Please don’t misinterpret any of this to mean that I hate my life. I love my big knucklehead and our three children. They behave well most of the time. Well, the kids do anyway. We’ve got a good life together. I know how blessed I am, and I’m not complaining. It just isn’t at all what I pictured. It’s so much harder than I ever dreamed. I’m thirty-nine years old as of this writing. Each day, as I pour myself a strong cup of coffee, I find myself wondering why I don’t have this life thing licked. Shouldn’t I be super mom, running for president, climbing Kilimanjaro, and still have a hot dinner ready that didn’t come out of a box?

Instead, I’m asking if everyone has eaten while we’re running out the door. If the answer is no, I throw packaged crap at them in a desperate attempt to get to school on time. I call my Suburban the crumb wagon. While vacuuming petrified chicken nuggets and dried up yogurt smoothies from the backseat, I swear we will never eat in the car again, only to change my mind the next day when they start crying they’ll starve to death on the fifteen-minute ride home. I keep a hairbrush and those waterless, plastic, tooth-freshener things in the vehicle so they can finish grooming in transit. Why couldn’t I be one of those structured, organized moms with dinners precooked and sitting in the freezer? You know the ones. They have the pretty, crafty things posted on Pinterest, and their kids always look clean. I convince myself that their houses are probably as messy as mine, or far worse, that they are secretly hoarders. That’s why they have all that stuff to make crafts with. It’s okay to lie to yourself, right?

By this point in life, a woman thinks she should have all the answers to the big questions. Why am I here? What is the best way to raise these curious, little monkey-people God gave me? Will I ever hit the jackpot on the prize wheel in Candy Crush Saga? Seriously, the thing is rigged. If you have ever hit it, e-mail me. I want to know. Do I have all the answers wrapped up for you in the beautiful little package that is this book? Well, no.

So you are probably asking yourself right now, What qualifications does this woman have to teach me anything? Well, I have been to battle and sat in the dirty, diaper-filled trenches and survived with my sanity, and more importantly a smile, intact.

Let’s face it, sometimes life is hard. More than hard, sometimes it’s total shit. Sometimes you want to cry, but you feel guilty because you know how blessed you are and it just seems selfish. How do you persevere when the kids are fighting over a half-eaten sucker, the dog is puking on your favorite rug, and (my personal litmus test for knowing when it’s time to throw in a load) your husband is screaming that he has no clean underwear? How do you ever feel good enough when all of the other moms in the pickup line look younger, firmer, and more style-conscious than you do? What do you do when your own expectations for yourself and the kind of mom you think you ought to be, exceed what is rational, or even possible, and it just leaves you feeling like a dried-up dog turd? How do you accept that it’s okay to be you? Just you. The you that you were born to be. That is what I’m here to impart, my dear readers. How to smile like a crazy person when you feel like snotting it up in a corner with a leftover, unmatched sock for a hanky. Side note: Why don’t they just make plain white socks anymore? Answer: It’s a conspiracy to make us all feel like shit. So send your kids to school in unmatched socks. It’s en vogue now. Promise.

Anyway, there’s always a reason not to be happy. For years, I could write a daily list of all the things that frustrated and worried me. I’m going to let you in on a little secret here. I’m a worrier by nature. When I was born, I laid around worrying about when my diaper would be changed and where my next meal was coming from. It’s not that I was mistreated. It’s just encoded somewhere in my DNA. I grew into an adult that takes acid reflux medicine like kids eat candy.

Now I have three children to fret about. Good God, what if I screw that up? You can’t screw that up. You can’t afford to. You see what I’m saying. I know that some of you out there do it too. It’s the curse of the perfectionist. How do you overcome this joy-stealing, life-robbing phenomenon that strikes you down in the middle of what is supposed to be domestic bliss?

For example, you wake up and step in a puddle because your elderly dog has a UTI and walks around the house dripping like a leaky faucet. You clean it up amid the cries of your infant son and finally rush to change his diaper only to find he pooped and shot it all the way up his back. You clean that up with the plan of heading to the vet and then the grocery store because you are now out of Pampers, and the toddler hides your car keys. Now you’re officially late to drop the dog off and while frantically searching for the missing keys, you step in puppy poop. And that is just a typical Tuesday morning.

The little voice inside your head, the mean-spirited bitchy one, starts in. You should have gotten the dog medicine before now. You shouldn’t let yourself run so low on diapers. You shouldn’t let the toddler play with your car keys even though it entertains her and makes her happier than anything else. You feel like a total failure and it’s not even 9:00 a.m. You haven’t had a shower or a cup of coffee yet. You’ve had these days, haven’t you? I know you have. Your scenario may be a little different, but you know what I’m talking about. Nod your head.

How do you go through the rest of your day with a good attitude after it starts off with so much ick? It’s one of those things that you start to ponder after a while. You start wondering, is this it? Is this all there is? Am I having an early mid-life crisis? What’s the cure for a mid-life crisis? Can you just get a tattoo and a nipple ring and call yourself cured?

I have the husband, the house, the kids, and the mom car. I’m even a stay-at-home mom. A freakin’ stay-at-home mom. What am I bitching about? I am so blessed and so lucky. I have everything I ever wanted and dreamed about at fifteen. Why does a little puppy poo make me feel like throwing in the towel? Oh, but wait. You can’t throw in the towel. You boarded this train, and there isn’t any getting off. You’ve already left the station, and the trees are whizzing by in a blur. It’s time to learn how to cope. You’re at risk of life passing you by and leaving you disappointed with nothing more than a pile of dirty socks and your pathetic crocodile tears of self-pity. No one on earth needs that. Trust me. I have a mountain of laundry outside my office door. Yesterday the children climbed it and stuck a flagpole in the top.

 

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