“The test of a vocation is the love of the drudgery it involves. “

8 Dec

We would sit in the orange vinyl booth seats, my mother and I, in the cafeteria of the mid-range department store my father had. It would be a Tuesday, or a Friday, and she’d have a coffee, heavy on milk and sugar, and I’d have an apple-cinnamon muffin, butter melted moist in the middle, and a ginger ale or a chocolate milk.

I’d blow bubbles, hard, harder until my mother would stop the conversation she was having with Thelma or Audrey, and her hand would rest on mine and her eyes would shoot open. She’d look away again, into their faces and the ongoing saga of daughters-in-law and police academies and whatever women talked about in 1987, likely the same things we talk about now, but perhaps with less cursing.

We’d take our time going home, the 2 blocks in our small town, she stopping to speak with everyone who knew her, who truly respected her, valued her time. We’d maybe stop at the grocer, for bread, cereal. Once, she even let me get a box of Count Chocula, just for the iron on Trix rabbit inside.


We’d bake cookies, or rather, she’d eat the dough and we’d have a few cookies, filling the house with that buttery hovering. She’d make ambrosia for a wedding, a birth, and I’d watch, lustfully sighing at all the mandarin oranges I’d never get to eat. She’d make me clothes I hated. Chased me outside to play, even when it was cold.

She was there.


I can’t do it all. I look at my kids, my house, the constant frazzled mess, the dirt that’s always on the floor no matter how often someone cleans it, the utter chaos that is their room unless you’re so on top of it you go crazy, the rings in the tub, the cat litter. The TV they watch, the computer games, the brain cells I can feel leaching from their heads into some magic box that Teletoon and YTV keep, sniggering as they steal. I listen to the yelling and the threats and the tiredness that exits my voice and I realize why I can’t shake this low level depressed.

As voice inside me woke up, stretched and said sleepily “You should be home with your daughters.”

I have trouble doing it all. I think I can, but more and more I’m coming to the realization that I just possibly can’t, and it frustrates me to tears because all I see everywhere is more mess, more things to fix, to replace, creatures growing and it slips out of my hands like flour and I can’t catch it. I can’t juggle the endless demands of two task masters. But I have no choice. This is my life.

But I dream. I can dream of a world where, for a few years at least, my job is to raise my daughters, keep house, have those simple tasks, one wavelength to ride. I’d like to think I’d be happy, that focusing on my kids would satisfy some inexplicable longing in my chest. Maybe it would. Maybe then I’d have a purpose, a reason. Maybe then the fucking floor would stay clean for longer than a hour and the toilet would seemingly clean itself.

It’s all drudgery no matter how I slice it, I know. I just feel this immense sense of betrayal to myself for trying to do it all-for trying to juggle and juggle without end. Like it’s a cop out, an easy way to give half the effort in everything.

I miss so much. I miss the entire week. I am the yeller-the cop-out of bed, dressed let’s get to school, off to work, get home, eat, some play, bath, pj’s, teeth, pee, bed. Day in and day out and the sheer exhaustion of it-it’s frying my brain and eroding what little control over my mood I’ve been having. I’m tired of all this. I’m tired of never getting moments to just settle and be with either of them, tired of my sleep being disturbed, even my sick day nap virtually ruined by small loud children.

I love them-deeply. But I’m woefully tired of being someone’s Mother, and not their Mommy.

10 Responses to ““The test of a vocation is the love of the drudgery it involves. “”

  1. Gwen December 9, 2008 at 9:19 am #

    There is a lot of drudgery in motherhood. Hell, in adulthood. We didn’t see that in our own mothers, because we were little, and self-absorbed, and didn’t notice what it took to keep life so dreamy. But it was there.

    You’ve just got to be good enough, T. And when I see pictures of your incandescent children and hear about them, I’m pretty sure you’ve achieved that.

  2. bromac December 9, 2008 at 10:09 am #

    I was just telling a friend the other day that Mom’s don’t get to do the fun stuff. Every single freaking day I do the same thing after work: pick up my daughter and head home to make lunches, clean the kitchen, get dinner started, etc. But, if Dad happens to have to pick up the kid b/c I have an appointment or a meeting or something, they always go do something fun. Why is it fun when dad does it, once in a blue moon, but rsponsibility for me. Well, unfortunately, I guess, b/c we’re the ones who do it.

    I often reread The Giving Tree when I am feeling like this. It helps remind me that my continual giving, their taking, really does make a difference.

    But I think I am going to start scheduling in some of my own fun time. Maybe you could do that with the girls. Pick a day each week and just spend the off time you have doing nothing but something fun with one or both of the girls. Because, really, who gives a fuck if the toilet has a ring if you get the chance to create the types of memories you have with your own mother. The time hanging out with Mom will be remembered, the toilet ring will not.

  3. Marcy December 9, 2008 at 10:40 am #

    Absolutely, your kids are unlikely to have a messy house as their reason for therapy. (Oops, I don’t mean that to sound like they will have other reasons, lol.)

    You know, midwifery might offer more time at home, although you’d be on call at odd moments.

    Even going to school for midwifery might offer more time at home.

  4. Bon December 9, 2008 at 10:53 am #

    i’m AT home, and still baffled and bewildered by how to do it all. there are brief moments where we hit this rhythm that doesn’t even come from personal memory for me, but maybe cultural memory…moments where the cookies are in the oven and the destruction is at a minimum and no one is screaming and i look around for the cameras and then realize, shit, i’m supposed to be PRESENT too…frig. the pressure is enormous and subtle all at once.

    i’ve taken to watching “Mad Men” online (back episodes, i’m starting with season one) whilst nursing to remind me that mothers even in the golden age were sucky and distracted and rather like something out of the Stones’ “Mother’s Little Helper”…it’s quite affirming. 🙂

  5. sweetsalty kate December 9, 2008 at 12:15 pm #

    Oh, thor, my god. You are a genius writer.

    Your toilet may be growing fuzz (like mine) but you are so wonderful. You speak to exactly what’s in my heart.

  6. Cerra December 9, 2008 at 2:09 pm #

    <3, that is all I have for you. And some tears, because 2.5 months into this gig I feel like that and sometimes it’s just good to cry.

  7. superlagirl December 9, 2008 at 5:00 pm #


  8. Hannah December 9, 2008 at 8:43 pm #

    I’m home and I’m never on top of it. The constant work-work-work, never have five minutes for ME because there is laundry and toilets and dishes and diapers and all-out drudgery and crap just isn’t newsworthy anymore, so I don’t ever blog about it – but it’s there.

    I hear you.

  9. Lala December 10, 2008 at 10:23 am #

    I AM at home and I can’t do it……and I miss work. I miss having a moment to gather my thoughts, to accomplish measureable tasks. Having the luxury of deciding what I want for lunch…oh I miss that. Now my life is a series of small windows of time in which I may or may not be able to accomplish the things others expect of me. If I don’t? I am a failure.

  10. Marcy December 10, 2008 at 11:16 pm #

    I’m at home. Even though (or because?) I have a little girl to take care of now, I am much more content than I was when I was working — housework used to drive me crazy when I was working, even though it was part-time. Not to mention work driving me crazy — I hate having to answer to people and try to please them all the time and guess what the expectations are and try to meet them somehow. Now, a) I don’t do much housework, and b) it’s something I can often do with Amy or while she plays and c) none of it hovers over me like it used to. Your mileage may vary…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: