written by: Stephanie McCoy
The day begins at 6:13 a.m. with a shrill, deafening request from my daughter’s room, “Moooooooom! Where are my favorite jeans? Not the dark ones, but the light ones with the holes in the knee?” My body emits a sense of betrayal, back aching and eyes bolting open against their will. Suddenly, I am up out of my bed and onto a search for a specific clothes item. Once I find “said” jeans, at the bottom of the dirty clothes basket, they are thrown in the dryer for a quick refresh. Once that crisis is settled, my son starts in, “Mooooooooom! I can’t find my library book and I have library today. If I don’t turn it in, I can’t check out another book.” Scour the inside of the backpack, look around under the blankets on his bed, under the seats of the car. Nothing. Eventually, it reveals itself, poking out between couch cushions two and three. Family pressure.
Next, lunch construction. My mind spins with guilt while I build two school lunches, because of course, they can’t just eat the school lunch. “This bread should be wheat bread…the preservatives”, “She’s gonna know this isn’t Tillamook cheese…she’s just gonna throw it away.” “This Capri Sun should be 100% juice.” “I should be packing a bento box full of nicely cut vegetables and hummus,” “This yogurt has SO much sugar in it.” Nutrition pressure.
Onto pet care. The two guinea pigs we have cost more to feed than Kim Kardashian’s entire wardrobe. Fresh carrots and spinach for breakfast, healthy “small animal” pellets for lunch, and more fresh veggies and Timothy hay for dinner. Clean the cage with their premium bedding, resupply the water and food, and give them a quick “we love you” chat. “They are not getting out enough.” “What if they don’t feel loved because I don’t talk to them enough?” The cat receives his daily load of love, fresh food and water, and a one-sided conversation. “We’re not home enough, maybe I should consider part-time cat daycare. Does that exist? Wait, never mind, I could never afford that.” “Maybe he needs another cat ‘friend’?” The thought of adding a pet to keep the other pet from being lonely doubles my anxiety. Pet pressure.
Time for drop-off at the school. As we all stumble out of the car, my insecurities unload right along with us, “Geez, I could have put myself together a little bit.” “That mom always wears designer clothes and makeup, and I can’t even be bothered to reconfigure my rumpled “bed bun.” “I bet the teachers think I’m a wreck by the way I look right now.” “Are the kids embarrassed by me?” “I haven’t volunteered for a looong time.” “I feel so awful I’m not part of the Parent Teacher Organization.” “Crap, I forgot about that fundraiser!” Kids’ school pressure.
Off to work. Two minutes late. “Late again, I’ve gotta have a warning or consequence heading my way soon.” “Am I doing enough in my role, am I overstepping?” “Do I have any days off left, I need to make that dentist appointment but they’re only open Monday through Friday.” “I’m going to have to drop my health insurance premium to pay that other unpaid bill.” Work pressure.
While I’m at it, might as well stress on life goals. “Should I be furthering my education?” “Is this job something I want to do until retirement?” “Do I want to try and excel in my position, or just stay where I am with my current responsibilities?” “When can I retire?” “I gotta start saving for the kids’ college funds.” Achievement and future goals pressure.
Break time! Check my phone. Ugh. Google relays article headlines that remind me that it’s time to compare my body to A-list celebrities. “How the hell is she so thin?” “Why can’t my hair look like that?” “Those boots are so amazing. I would love a pair but definitely don’t have $600 to spare,” “Maybe I should just try Keto again?” Image pressure.
The phone isn’t done delivering me negativity yet. Here’s a text from my sister, “Are we still on for dinner Thursday night with mom??” Noooo. I completely forgot. It’s the one day of the week out that the kids don’t have extracurriculars and truthfully, I just want to watch a little TV and decompress, “Sorry. Forgot. Can we shoot for next week?” Dot, dot, dot. Pause. Dot, dot, dot. Pause. And then it comes, “Oh. Okay. No biggie” AKA “You suck and I’m disappointed.” Mom will find out soon enough and will be sure to deliver me along “I’m let down” sounding voicemail. Family pressure.
Before I head back, I check social media. No good news there. Just another bout of comparison. One friend has pictures from his amazing international vacation. Another friend posts pics from her recent promotion at work. Engagements, pregnancy announcements, and #livinthatlife hashtags are just too much to stomach today. I close out app thinking, “my status today would say something like ‘didn’t get hit by a car today…yay!’”. Social media pressure.
After work, I’m off to the grocery store with my EBT and WIC cards. Although I’d love to hit Target to drool over clothes and household goods I can’t necessarily afford while I shop for groceries there, I know I belong at WinCo. The shopping is easy. Stay within the budget, hunt for generic “healthy foods,” seek out the discounts and nearly expired stuff, and shop for a certain number of days. Checking out is a shameful experience that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. First, is the WIC. Once I swipe the card and throw in my PIN, the total drops off the milk, cheese, eggs, and cereal. Along with the price drop is snickers from both the cashier and the person behind me. Guffaws and whispers are evident both in front of my face and behind my back. But we’re not done yet. Here comes the EBT card. Swipe, more surrounding rudeness, enter the PIN and we’re almost done. Now that the total has dropped twice, I break out my crumpled bills for the non-food items like toilet paper. Counting dollar bills one by one, I realize I’m $1.36 short. “Can I just run back and grab a smaller pack?” The cashier dramatically rolls her eyes but agrees. More whispers from behind, my reddening face, and a mountain of shame sitting on my shoulders. A quick, embarrassing run to swap out a twelve pack of toilet paper for a six pack and I’m finally out of there with my cart and an abundance of anxiety. Societal pressure.
Home at last. Kids are settled in their rooms and it’s time to schedule that dentist appointment. My first phone call reveals that the dentist office closest to our house doesn’t take that kind of state health insurance. Another phone call reveals the same thing, “Oh, no. We don’t accept Oregon Health Plan….you’ll have to find somewhere else” with a curt, “Sorry.” It takes nearly an hour to find a place that will take my insurance and just as I’m about to lock down the appointment, “Sorry. Our appointments are like, three months out. Do you still want to schedule?” I can seriously feel her hoping I don’t want to schedule through the phone. Health insurance pressure.
Next, requests from the kids. These requests are not simple, mindless tasks like, “find me this,” or “I want this to eat,” they are requests to play. “Will you play Barbies with me?” “Will you play this game with me?” etc. Now I know it seems like this would be easy, to sit down and play with your beautiful kids, but sometimes, it just isn’t. It can be hard to muster up creativity or enthusiasm when you are absolutely exhausted and wrecked from a long day. But, you know, pressure. So I say to the first kiddo, “Okay. Let’s do 15 minutes Barbie time” and then I say to the other kiddo, “and then I’ll play your game for 15 minutes,” and then to both, “and then you guys are off to baths and bedtime!” Parental pressure.
Kids are finally off to bed. My husband says, “Let’s watch a show together!” Feeling awful, I wimpily mutter, “I’d just like some time to myself…if that’s okay?” The sigh he releases seems to reverberate the house. “Oh, okay.” After delivering that letdown, here comes the toughest decision of my day: do I dare to really do something for myself that isn’t a chore, or do use free time at night to deal with the “must-do’s”? Do I put laundry away and address bills that are screaming the capital letters “PAST DUE” at me, or do I watch some crappy reality TV? Do I craft some long overdue email replies or listen to a mailbox full of voicemails? Do I finish the book I started reading three months ago? Dishes, or an early bedtime? Self-care pressure. Screw it, I choose TV! As I happily march off to the couch with my favorite blanket, a crinkled, half-bag of Ruffles, and my phone, I hear it. “Hey, mom. I forgot to tell you, it’s “Favorite book character” day at school tomorrow. I need a white T-shirt, markers, and some temporary hair dye so I can be ‘Judy Moody.’ Will you bring that stuff to my room really quick?” At 11:47 p.m., after creating an entire ‘Judy Moody’ outfit, I retire to bed, mindful to not wake my sleeping husband. My body sinks into the mattress and my eyelids are grateful to finally close. There will certainly be more pressure tomorrow, but tonight, the pressure can finally take a damn seat while I release the breath I’ve been holding all day.