A Recalcitrant Wife and Mother Tells All

Tag: mommy guilt

Are you a Mary or a Martha?

When I was pregnant for the first time, somebody gave me a beautifully hand printed copy of the following poem:

The Value of Values

Oh Mother! Oh Mother! Come shake out your cloths.
Empty the dustpan and chase off the moths.
Hang out the washing and make up the bed.
Sew on a button and butter the bread.
Where is that mother, whose house is so shocking?
She’s up in the nursery, blissfully rocking.
Dishes are waiting and bills are past due.
The shopping’s not done and there’s nothing to stew.
And out in the yard there’s a hullabaloo.
But I’m playing “Kanga” and this is my “Roo.”
The cleaning and scrubbing can wait until tomorrow.
But children grow up as I’ve learned to my sorrow.
So quiet down cobwebs and dust go to sleep.
I’m nursing my baby and babies don’t keep.

I thought it was a really sweet gift at the time.

Only, that little lyric really f#*ked my sh!t up.

Because three children and two incredibly hairy pets later, I feel guilty all the time that my house is “so shocking” AND that I never spend enough quality time with any of my babies.

And this has really been on my mind this week, as I’ve struggled with all the to-dos leading up to Valentine’s Day… the making, the baking, and the faking.  Kidding on that last one… just wanted to see if you were paying attention.

To make matters worse, a few days ago in my weekly Bible Study class we learned about the parable of Mary and Martha in the Gospel According to Luke (10:38). Do you know that one? Oh, it’s a humdinger. In a nutshell, Jesus goes to visit two sisters in Bethany named Mary and Martha. And while Martha is running herself ragged with all the housework, Mary is just kicking back with JC, listening to his tales and soaking up all his glory. Martha gets all pissy and basically says, “Hey Jesus. WTH? Would you please tell Ms. Lazy Bones there to get off her culo and help a sister out, yo?” And Jesus is all, “Chillax, Martha, dang. You are stressing out about all the wrong things, baby. Mary gets it. You should take a tip from your sister and check yourself before you wreck yourself.”

Well, more or less. Just go with it. Or better yet, go dust off your Bible and read the real version. It is only one paragraph. Go ahead… I’ll wait.

Isn’t that a great Bible story? I just love that one. Mainly because I am such a Martha, but I wish I were a Mary. And by Martha, I mean a frazzled nag with messed up priorities who wastes way too much precious time sweatin’ the small stuff. And by Mary, I mean a calm, cool, collected Earth Mama who is just oozing peace and harmony. How about you? Are you a Martha, or a Mary? Discuss amongst yourselves.

You know what else is so great about that one little paragraph of the New Testament? It clearly demonstrates Jesus’ “openness to and acceptance of women among his followers.” (NOAB, 4th edition, p. 1851) If Jesus didn’t think women were worthy of his discipleship, he wouldn’t have been sitting there teaching Martha how to be a better person. He would have been like, “Shut yer yap and bring me a camel pot pie, woman.” Something to ponder, your Holiness, the next time you are wondering WWJD with regards to female Deacons and Priests. Just sayin’.

Anyhooo, my point is, now the author of the poem above AND Jesus are telling me to prioritize my life differently. But you know what my Priest says? He says we can’t all be Marys or nothing would ever get done. And I say, AMEN to that.

So in summary, we all probably need to be a little of both. A little Martha so you and your family don’t starve to death or resort to hamper-diving for undies come Monday morning; and a little Mary so you can remember to slow down and enjoy the time you have with your loved ones. Because really, that’s why we’re here… to build the Kingdom on Earth, and the only way to do that is by loving each other. Of course it’s much easier to love each other with full bellies and clean undies, but whatever.

Also, if I may be so bold; easy for Mary. If Jesus were in my family room, I think I’d rather hang with him than fold the loin-cloths too. But since what I have in my house right now is a bunch of wild-eyed hooligans shouting “It’s MINE!” “NO, it’s MINE!” “GIVE IT TO ME, YOU LITTLE TURD.” “You’re a dum-dum. I’m telling!” … I think I’ll just duck into the other room and try to look busy. Yep… Martha wins by a nose. Sorry Mary. Better luck next time.

'Christ in the House of Mary and Martha' painted by Vincenzo Campi (circa 1536 - 1591)

Image credit: http://www.bible-art.info/Martha_Mary.htm

© Copyright 2011, The Bearded Iris.

… and then my show-and-tell fantasy was shattered.

When I saw the sign on Ms. Evelyn’s preschool door that it was Pet Week, I should have just walked away.

But that was when the Mommy Guilt reared its ugly head and I found myself signing up to bring Ike into school for show-and-tell on Friday.

Ike, formerly known as The Devil: our 75 pound black-lab mix, adopted from the Humane Society six years ago. The dog who once tried to exhume a freshly buried dead basset hound next door. The dog who once ate an entire popcorn garland in the making… string, needle, and all. The dog who once ate a full box of crayons and shit a rainbow. The dog who attacked the new mailman who was just trying to deliver a children’s book entitled The Kissing Hand.

Long story short, Ike is not the most well-behaved dog in the world. Certainly not the kind of dog that most intelligent parents would willingly bring into a room full of three year olds.

But poor Bucket Head, I thought to myself. He’s the third kid… I never have time or energy (or desire) to do anything special with him. I’m going to bring his dog into school and watch him bask in the glow of being in the spotlight for once. It’s going to be great! Boo-ya!

It wasn’t great.

Don’t worry — no children or teachers or school supplies were hurt in the process. He didn’t gobble up a child’s lunchbox or poop in the classroom. He didn’t even hump the pillows in the reading center. It wasn’t that bad. But it definitely wasn’t what I expected.

First of all, I wasn’t expecting that one of the kids would be absolutely terrified of dogs. When we burst into that preschool classroom, cute little Carmella jumped onto one of the tables and started screaming at the top of her lungs “I’m scared! I’m scared! Help me Ms. Evelyn! Don’t let him get me!”

Ike doesn’t really like screaming. He doesn’t even like singing. This is a dog who assumes the pounce position and immediately starts to bark whenever it gets too noisy at home. So Carmella’s little freak show was definitely not going to get our visit started on the right paw.

Let me illustrate the scene with a little math equation for my engineering friends:

1 spastic dog + 1 screaming preschooler = chaos ²

Never fear. I brought a secret weapon! In my hand I had a little quart-sized plastic baggie filled with dog biscuits. My plan was to have Ike sit and let the children approach him one by one to give him a treat. In my mind, I had this fantasy of Ike calmly doing all his tricks… sit, stay, down, shake, speak… one after the other. The children and teachers would ooh and ahh over how smart he is. And Bucket Head would get to show all his friends that he is the coolest kid ever for having such a smart dog and fun mom!

What really happened is that Ike pulled me so hard into the classroom that I dropped the baggie onto one of the tables and was using both hands, arms, and legs to corral him away from screaming Carmella and over toward the circle-time rug. While I was doing this, Bucket Head sauntered over to the baggie, opened it, and emptied all the dog biscuits onto the table. All twelve of those three year olds (every one except Carmella) ran to that table like a SpongeBob piñata had just exploded. Before I could even open my mouth to intervene, the kids had circled me and Ike and had started throwing the biscuits at us. You probably know this already, but three year olds don’t have the best aim. Ike caught a few of the biscuits though, and the ones he couldn’t catch, he just lunged for like a starved tiger, practically ripping my arm off with each fevered pounce. I kept trying to get the kids to back away with the treats but the scenario had downgraded from a melee to a feeding frenzy, and it was really hard to hear over Carmella’s cries from on top of the table. Once the biscuits ran out, Ike started to bark for more. Ike has a really loud bark. And Carmella didn’t like the sound of Ike’s big boy bark.

Just like what happens with every piñata, there was that one kid who didn’t get any treats to give to the dog. And naturally, that one kid was pretty upset about it. He did what any three year old would do in that situation; he started bawling like Carmella.

The two teachers in the room were pretty busy at this point soothing the two crying kids, and Ike was starting to foam at the mouth from the all the excitement. It was clearly time to go.

It really hadn’t been the show-and-tell fantasy I had hoped it would be. But luckily, Bucket Head looked none the worse for wear. As we were leaving, I overheard his best friend say to another boy: “I’ve been to Bucket Head’s house lots of times and Ike really likes me.” The other boy said “Lucky!” So maybe it wasn’t as bad as I thought. Next time though, I’m definitely bringing the cat.

With big slobbery dog kisses,


© Copyright 2011, The Bearded Iris.

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