Today I learned the secret to Target’s success.
At 8 pm I found myself climbing into the car and heading to my local Target store. For the next hour I found myself sitting in the parking lot on the phone with a good friend and crying – trying to pull myself back together.
Sometimes I swear motherhood is designed to see just exactly how resilient you are. Today was a day for mommy and daughter to hang out. And I have been looking forward to not having a million things competing for my attention so I could just spend some time with her. But I am quickly learning that I am not that person.
I will always have a million things competing for my time and attention.
I like to be busy and I need to feel useful. I do realize the slightly preposterous implication of that sentence. Of course raising my daughter is of the most paramount use I can be – but I have a harder time seeing the forest through the trees.
Let me explain.
My daughter loves to color and read books. Which are both perfectly great activities – but I sometimes fail to see the value of these things in the journey to raise her to be a well rounded and responsible adult. I know it’s there but sometimes coloring just looks like coloring and reading a book is just reading a book. While I am sitting there reading with her, I see all the things around me that are needing attention but aren’t getting it. Yeah, that load of dishes should really be washed but the second I try to get up I have a little demanding mini me pulling at my legs saying ‘mommy, come color with me’. And it is really hard to explain to her that mommy will be better able to give her the time and attention she craves after I do something to make me feel like I accomplished something … like that load of dishes.
I realize that both things have importance. A clean home changes my mood dramatically and puts me in a better frame of mind, but my daughter is only going to be 2 and wanting to color with me for so long. When she is 18 and moving away for the first time, what am I going to be thinking? ‘Gee, I sure wish I had done those dishes in a more timely manner’, ‘Hmm, I really wish that when she was little I had a nice organized, spotless home’, or ‘Man, what I wouldn’t give to have one more night to cuddle my little baby girl’?
Based on what I can already see my guess is I will be wishing for one more day, not a cleaner home. And all the warnings from well meaning parents of older children that ‘those days go by so fast’ or ‘before you know it they are all grown up’ only reenforces my hunch.
But now and then the pressure to get my house in order and to keep everything clean and the absolute insane guilt I feel for not being able to make sure my home is spotless when my husband walks in the door after work get the better of me. Today was one of those days and it was fueled by the copious amounts of things left to get done before our little boy arrives and accelerated by a minor plumbing leak I discovered in the basement.
I figured if we could just make it to nap time and I could lay down and rest with her for a little while, the afternoon would seem all better. Most days are fixed with a nap and a snack. And after being awoken from an hour and a half of slumber by a sweet little voice saying ‘mommy, wake up’, I was in a pretty good mood. Until I went down to the basement to find a fan I never located (I hear they are great for fort building) and got distracted by the state of the basement and that pesky leak.
Of course my excited girl was calling for me, she was impatient for the promised fort and movie on this gloomy, rainy day. It took me two hours to pull myself together enough to get the fort up, the tv on, the popcorn made and crawl my pregnant body into the fort with her.
I want to be clear – my daughter wasn’t particularly ‘naughty’ today, maybe a little extra whiny and needy but not ‘bad’. It didn’t matter though. By the time daddy walked in the door I was done. Over the day. Ready to move on to something new, to feel useful and productive or at least part of society. Staying home this past week has been doing a number on me.
So he let me leave.
And where do I go? Just that big red bullseye across the highway. After my second vent/breakdown today, I finally made it into the store. And it hit me. Target is successful because they put there stores in the middle of the suburbs where all the crazy stressed out moms who feel disconnected from the world live. I don’t know if they knew that gold mine was sitting there for the taking when they built their first suburban store – but it is working for them now. Of course there are other stores in that area, but Target has this amazing assortment that still allows me to be mom while I am on my ‘vacation’. What I mean is, I could have gone somewhere else for the few items I needed, but at Target I was still able to browse items for my family.
That’s right, I left my home to get some me time, which was spent thinking about my family. I actually even called to check in and make sure my little girl was okay … while she was at home, with her daddy.
I have heard a million times that you don’t know love until you are a parent. I don’t know if that’s completely true – but I can tell you I never knew guilt until I was a mommy. And no one warned me. Not that I would have believed it if they had, but I really had no idea. And not in the I-knew-my-life-would-change-but-I-didn’t-realize-to-what-extent kind of way. I mean I DIDN’T KNOW there would be guilt – pretty much all day everyday. And I thought I would have less of it as she got older, as I eased into parenthood … but there is more, especially as she becomes more and more vocal and articulate.
And the worst part is, I am not doing anything ‘wrong’. My daughter is well cared for and loved. She is smart and funny. She is sassy and strong willed. She is sweet and loving. And we make the best decisions we can for her knowing everything has a trade off – but no matter the choice we make, I feel the guilt of the ‘what if’.
So today, after loaning a parking space from Target for an hour, I went inside and parted with a little bit of money. Seriously, in Target terms, I spent pennies. Brought home a future project for me and the little one to complete, and thanked Target for the little sliver of sanity I was able to get back my little Target vacation.