A few weeks ago, I spent an entire afternoon in a self-induced shame/stress/obsessive worry spiral.
During my daily shower [ED: This is a blatant misrepresentation of my showering habits] I realized that, if I were to fall in the shower and hit my head and die, no one would know until, like, 5:30 PM that evening. Maybe even six.
If I were to die in the shower, I thought, I needed to have things in order. My first concern (before the obvious things like life insurance, wills, etc.) was that my husband would need to remarry. For companionship, sure, but also for the sake of the children. He’s an excellent, engaged, devoted father but, frankly, I’m just not confident that he would be able to handle the constant nagging required to keep our little ship going.
So, yes, a new wife and stepmother would be necessary. But, given the circumstances of my shower-death I would have literally no say over who this Future Wife would be. After all of the various things I micromanage the hell out of, it just takes one shower fall and bam! My kids are being raised by someone else that I have NOT EVEN VETTED. In the interest of being prepared, I decided to take a quick inventory of all possible parenting scenarios so I could speak with my husband later and spell out explicitly how I wanted Future Wife to respond.
This went on for a while, until I started to feel bad — for the woman. The imaginary woman. The imaginary woman who, after my hypothetical death and my husband’s potential remarriage, would theoretically be raising my children.
This poor imaginary woman loves my husband enough to take on two children that aren’t her own, I thought. And here I am criticizing her before she even has a chance to begin! What kind of unsupportive piece of sh*t am I? Future Wife should be cut some slack! I understand better than anyone else how hard it is to raise these kids; I mean, I started an entire blog, in part, to bitch about it to everyone I know.
And, really, who the hell am I to judge? Do I really uphold these very values I’m trying to impose on someone I’ve never even met?
Once I landed on this thought, whoa boy; it was on. I went through every parenting struggle I’d faced during the previous weeks and tried to see if Future Dead Me would approve of my approach. If I thought Future Dead Me was being harsh to Future Wife, Future Dead Me was BRUTAL about Current Me. I was able to fill the rest of the afternoon with an intense bout of self-critique. Another productive day in my life as a stay at home mom!
Typically, I give my mother credit for my ability to turn virtually any train of thought into a series of wildly imaginative, horrifically depressing outcomes to worry about. My mother, you see, is blessed with that dangerous mix of an analytical mind, a ripe imagination, and a firm belief that the worst-case-scenario is always lurking just around the corner. For example, in college, I went through a phase where my bank account was frequently overdrawn because I didn’t fully understood how debit cards worked (I know, it’s embarrassing). I spent a few oblivious weeks racking up overdraft fees, without a care in the world. My mother, meanwhile, was painfully aware of each overdraft. By the time we actually spoke about the situation, she had convinced herself that I was seriously, seriously involved in the drug trade. I’m still not sure why that would make me bounce checks, rather than suddenly have a lot of extra disposable income, but perhaps that just added to her worries – not only was her daughter selling drugs, she wasn’t even good at it! Had she done nothing right as a mother?!
After a lifetime of conversations like this, I’ve always attributed my tendency towards manic worry to my mother. But then, we had old friends from New York visiting us for a week before we left for France (hi, Jen + Dan!), and now I think maybe this whole loony tunes worrying is just a mom thing. Like preferring jeans that are high enough to tuck your own stomach skin into, or always having snacks in your bag (even if, in my case, “snacks” means loose raisins covered in purse-dirt at the bottom of my bag).
In an incredibly stellar guest move, Jen insisted on doing our laundry whenever I wasn’t looking because she knows that I hate laundry times infinity. One morning, she said lightheartedly, “I have good news and bad news. The good news is we’re going shopping. The bad news is that I accidentally washed your yoga pants and I think they are ruined and I am so sorry and I am taking you shopping and we will find another pair.”
Since everything I own is either fully washable or has already been ruined by me, there was absolutely zero damage to my pants. Against all logic, though, poor thoughtful, sweet Jen had been up for a large portion of the night worrying about them. She had convinced herself that these yoga pants were my absolute favorite yoga pants, but were so delicate that any drying would immediately destroy them. Obviously, she thought, she would have to buy me another pair. But what if Lululemon didn’t make this exact pair of yoga pants anymore, or what if Lululemon still made the yoga pants, but they were $1,000, and was there even a Lululemon in London where she could find said yoga pants? JESUS CHRIST, WHAT WAS SHE GOING TO DO ABOUT THE YOGA PANTS?
Glimpsing into someone else’s crazy made me feel understood, and relieved, and so, so happy that I am not the only one who does this. Meanwhile, our husbands both think we’re insane. So now I’m going to go worry about that, and whether I’m being anti-feminist by calling this a mom thing, and whether Jen will be mad at me for writing about the yoga pants incident, and whether she is already mad at me for not emailing her back yet which I totally forgot about until right now, and I totally have to because her son left his shirt here.