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Job Stress

The other night Brian and I revived
argument #27 from our Greatest Hits list, entitled “My Life
Is Harder Than Yours”. To be fair, I’m usually the one
to start said revival, when I can’t take another long day
with the two girls and feel (usually wrongly) underappreciated. You
can probably write the script yourself, so I won’t bore you
with the details; what I wanted to bring up here was actually the
point at which we got into a good, earnest discussion – the
point after all the acrimony and accusations and martyrdom (mostly
on my part).

We were lying in bed and I was trying to put myself in
Brian’s shoes, and understand how his day truly is stressful.
The weight of responsibility for this big family is heavy on his
shoulders, especially in light of our last year and its eight
income-free months. So he’s constantly working while looking
over his shoulder, fearing the axe. Then add in the usual anxieties
– job deadlines, co-workers that he doesn’t get along
with, and so on – and he really does have a stressful job. I
get that.

But I know that my job stress is different, and I struggled to put
it into words. Aside from the obvious – that he gets two days
a week off from said stress, even if those days are spent doing his
other job, which is full-time dad – I knew there was
something unique about my job stress.

“I think,” I said haltingly,
“that I feel the weight of this job because I know how
important it is. If you get frustrated and lose your cool and storm
off, your co-worker thinks you’re a jerk for a while, then
you apologize and make up and it’s done. Even if it’s
not resolved, you don’t really care because he’s not
your responsibility at the end of the day. If you screw up, there
are big consequences, but they just aren’t as big as the
consequences of my mistakes.”

I went on, saying, “Every day I think, Is this going to be
the day I lose it and yell at Maddie? Is today going to be the time
she always remembers as the time Mommy hit her? Losing my cool is
something she might remember the rest of her life, and it’ll
shape how she interacts with people forever! The mistakes I make
could turn her from CEO to serial boyfriend stalker, always looking
for love in abusive relationships, or could make her Mommy Dearest.
And that’s a whole lot of job pressure to live with, day in
and day out.”

I’ve been thinking about this ever since our conversation. I
know, I know, there’s a lot of grace in this job, and Maddie
won’t remember most of her life up to this point. But
conscious or not, my actions and choices have shaped her and will
continue to do so, more than anyone else in her life. So I feel
this pressure to be a good mom – to continuously make good
choices, to keep digging down just a little deeper for that last
little drop of patience in my dry well – at all times.
I’m not saying I expect to be perfect, and this isn’t
about being a Good Mommy in the Martha Stewart way; I know being a
good mom’s not about weaving my own crib sheets or
hand-stenciling the bathroom for my angels. I just – I
don’t know. God’s given me these incredible gifts in
Maddie and Cora, and I want to be a good steward of these gifts and
make the most out of the raw material he’s given me.

I think about that parable concerning the three servants –
one was given say 15 bucks, one was given 10, and one was given 5.
And the servant given the most money did the most with it, to the
master’s great happiness, while the one given the least
amount of money simply buried it in the garden, afraid of losing it
but unable to multiply it. And one of the points of the parable is
that from whom much is given, much is expected. In other words,
it’s like Peter Parker’s Uncle Ben said in Spiderman:
“With great power comes great responsibility.” And I
see how much I’ve been given, and want to parlay that into
the biggest reward possible: I don’t want my mistakes or
failings as a mother to keep my girls from reaching their true

So I’m what you’d call a deliberate parent, making
conscious choices along the way and looking five steps ahead with
every decision I make, to see how it’ll affect us down the
road. And that’s just a little hard to do all the time, and
sometimes if I think about it too much I start to freak out.

Which is the point at which I bring back up Argument #27, hoping
I’ll at least get a little sympathy, a little pat on the
back, a little “You are the queen in all ways, infinitely
superior and overworked and underappreciated and worth a price
above rubies!” Which, of course, doesn’t happen,
because I’m being a selfish brat to pick an argument like
that, and deep down somewhere I know it.

So from now on, when I feel that way I’m going to bring out
my only fail-safe pick-me-up: a piece of good chocolate, five
minutes alone (even if it’s in the bathroom), and a quick
phone call to a sympathetic girlfriend.

That’s the mommy equivalent to a break around the water
cooler, and those breaks give us the refreshment we need to dive
back into our high-stress jobs.


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