Once when I worked a 9-5, I was in the middle of a stellar yearly review. Receiving top marks in every category. I felt proud, seen and appreciated. As the paperwork was stacked and papers clipped, there was a pause. There was just one thing my supervisor wanted to discuss. There was a concern: when I walked in, in the morning, I was never smiling. I looked unhappy and therefore unapproachable. This was not seen as professional and inviting. This little piece of critique hit me hard. I worked in the field of people!! I was the support person of the organization. I was the one who understood the thoughts and feelings of others. How could I be unapproachable? The review ended amicably and I was left alone with my thoughts. True to form, in solving this problem I had more questions than answers.
Why did I look so unhappy? I loved my work. I loved going into an office full of creative minds and many colleagues I was lucky enough to call friends. Was I unhappy? It was then when it all hit me, and literally the pictures and video clips of my memory flooded my mind. What happened every day before work?
I got out of bed. Sounds simple enough. It's not. I'm never rested. Add in an auto immune disease that included chronic fatigue, that was medicated by a pill whose largest side effect was fatigue and yep, I'm tired. I usually finished mommy duties between 9 or 10 in the evening and would work while I "relaxed" before bed. One of the drawbacks of continuous accessibility and connectivity of modern business.
I hurried the kids through the morning routine so they'd make it to the bus.
One, two or three of my kids always felt sick. One, two or three were always nervous about social situations. One, two or three were having a particularly difficult time about school being hard academically, socially or behaviorally. Because as any parent of multiple children can tell you, they don't always take turns.
The cereal, pancakes, waffles, oatmeal didn't taste right, was not at the perfect temperature, didn't exist inside the empty box that was put back in the pantry or freezer.
I prompted the kids to do their household responsibilities, clean up after their breakfast and so on.
I ignored six eyes rolling, several under their breath, and audible negative pieces of feedback on the day's parenting skills.
We finished homework, came up with a new, never been seen, highly innovative way to practice spelling words.
I handled 1-5 meltdowns, yes adults have them too.
I fired off work emails that wouldn't wait, remembered a permission slip that needed to be signed, hair that needed to be crazy, a dollar that needed to be sent in to the school store.
Filled a water bottle and forgot the ice or added ice where there shouldn't have been ice.
Ran a brush through my own hair. Straightened my clothes, decided whether today I'd stand in front of the mirror to critique my post-three-children middle aged body or maybe just not look.
Got in the car, chastised myself for not being in the car at the time I planned.
Drove to work all the time "working in my head." Working out concerns with my kids, my husband's email he asked for help with, projects I'd dive into at work.
Walked into work.
It was there thinking through my mornings that I paused, still confused. I wasn't unhappy. I liked the mornings, in a complain-y, funny comments on social media, exhausting way. The "garbage time" as Seinfeld called it. Yes, it's a hustle and it's hard, but I felt lucky to have this time to be Mom. Many moms have to leave for work before their kids are even awake. It was hard, there is nothing harder, but I was happy to have it.
Why does walking into work with my "resting thinking face" mean I'm unhappy? It doesn't. I think that we need to work on this as people, humans and parents. We need to think about what happiness is. Please, let's not start telling parents how to be happy. I love constructive feedback. I like to grow and learn. Believe me, I am deeply flawed, it makes up me and I'm cool with it. But for now, I'm going to keep my "resting thinking face." I'm going to keep doing the hard work that sometimes shows on my face. Hey, if you're wondering what I'm working on "in there" be sure to ask-- I love to talk!
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