I wasn’t raised by Catholic parents (although one of them has since converted…but that’s a topic for another post) and I’ve never been to a Catholic mass. What makes me feel Catholic is my sense of guilt, and I don’t think I’m over-generalizing here, since every Catholic I’ve ever met, practicing or not, wears guilt like a burka.
I feel guilty for the things I do, especially things I do for myself, like going to the gym, or spending a morning on the computer instead of tending house, running errands or planning my son’s birthday. I feel guilty for the things I don’t do, especially when they involve my children, like not signing them up for music lessons, not stopping by the playground more, not practicing greater patience or not planning my son’s birthday.
Catholic or not, guilt is just one of motherhood’s many veils.
Lately, I’ve been waking up at 4 or 5 in the morning. I can’t conclude whether it’s hormonal, seasonal, circadian or guilt-induced. Since I’m awake, I usually make a trip to the bathroom. Then, convincing myself it’s an ungodly hour, I climb back into bed and fail to fall back asleep at which point my mind kicks in and whispers unsavory things like this to me:
Mind: Everyone in the house is asleep; this would be the perfect time to go for a jog with those fancy running shoes you bought…
Me: but it’s dark and icy out.
Mind: there’s always the gym, it’s just a short drive away. You could be there and back again before anyone wakes up.
Me: I haven’t laid out my workout clothes. By the time I got ready, I’d have to turn around and get the morning routine started.
It goes on like this for an hour or more until I finally fall asleep only to be awoken, groggy and bleary-eyed, 15 minutes later by my lively 5-year-old.
This morning I argued with myself about making better use of my insomnia. I could be doing all manners of productive things like reading, writing, responding to e-mail, planning my children’s schedules better, figuring out summer plans, going to the gym, or planning my son’s birthday. Instead, I stayed in bed.
I’m wracked with guilt about it.
I think I’m a good mom…but I yell too much. I think I do fun things with my kids…but I’m an inefficient planner. I love being a mother…but I relish the time my kids are at school or with a sitter or out with their dad. I think I provide a balanced variety of activities for my kids…but am often paralyzed by the decision process (if I choose this art class on Mondays at 4 o’clock, and that swim class on Wednesdays at 3:30 will my child be too wiped for a playdate after school on Fridays?).
Having two kids only compounds matters. And since DH wants three, does that make me a bad wife?
So here’s the guilt-cake-topper of the week: our son turns three on Sunday and I’ve totally failed to plan his birthday.
Though he’s been mildly obsessed with rocket ships, space shuttles and all manner of extraterrestrial modes of transport for the better part of his twos, we will not be having a space-themed 3rd-birthday party.
I spent sleepless hours trying to come up with craft ideas, decorations, activities and food for this simple, clearly defined theme. You’d think I was aiming for the stars or Martha Stewart’s backyard, judging by the amount of time I’ve spent thinking about his birthday but nothing stuck.
I didn’t make clever rocket-adorned invites, I didn’t find cute rocket-related goodies, I didn’t come up with fun rocket-inspired activities. When I went out shopping for inspiration, I found very few rocket-y items. Evidently, not everyone thinks rockets are as out-of-this-world as my son does.
At 3, all it takes to make a good party is a few friends, pizza and cake. When I turned 3, I’m not even sure I had a party and if I did, clearly I don’t remember it. For our first child—who is more social and mature and aware of such things—we had her third birthday party at our house complete with friends, activities and food. But then she has a late-April birthday and it’s easy to entertain kids outside.
February birthdays are a different beast…they require much attention and grooming. And this year, I failed at both.
So, I’ve decided to do what many a mom in a birthday-planning-pinch has done—and if you’ve been following my blog for a while, you’ll understand why, when I say:
It is with great remorse that this year we will be celebrating our son’s 3rd birthday with Chuck.
Hail Mary, full of Grace.