Once, when I worked a 9-5 job, I was in the middle of a stellar yearly review. I felt proud, seen and appreciated. There was just one thing my supervisor wanted to discuss. There was a concern: when I arrived in the morning, I was never smiling. I looked unhappy and therefore unapproachable. This was not seen as professional and inviting.
This little piece of critique hit me hard. I worked in the field of people!! I was the support person of the organization. How could I be unapproachable? The review ended amicably and I was left alone with my thoughts. True to form, in solving this problem I had more questions than answers.
Why did I look so unhappy? I loved my work. Was I unhappy? It was then when it all hit me. What happened every day before work?
I got out of bed. I’m never rested. I usually finished mommy duties between 9 or 10 in the evening and would work while I “relaxed” before bed. One of the drawbacks of continuous connectivity of modern business.
I hurried the kids through the morning routine so they’d make it to the bus.
One, two or three of my kids always felt sick. One, two or three were always nervous about social situations. One, two or three were having a particularly difficult time about school being hard academically.
The cereal, pancakes, waffles didn’t taste right, was not at the perfect temperature, didn’t exist inside the empty box that was put back in the pantry or freezer.
I ignored six eyes rolling, several under their breath and audible negative pieces of feedback on the day’s parenting skills.
We finished homework, came up with a new, never been seen, highly innovative way to practice spelling words.
I handled one to five meltdowns (yes, adults have them, too).
I fired off work emails that wouldn’t wait, remembered a permission slip that needed to be signed and hair that needed to be crazy.
Filled a water bottle and forgot the ice or added ice where there shouldn’t have been ice.
Straightened my clothes, decided whether today I’d stand in front of the mirror to critique my post-three-children middle-aged body or maybe just not look.
Got in the car and drove to work all the time “working in my head.” Working out concerns with my kids, my husband’s email he asked for help with, projects I’d dive into at work.
Then I walked into work.
It was there, thinking through my mornings, that I paused, still confused. I wasn’t unhappy. I liked the mornings, in a complain-y, funny comments on social media, exhausting way. Yes, it’s a hustle and it’s hard, but I felt lucky to have this time to be Mom. Many moms have to leave for work before their kids are even awake.
It was hard, there is nothing harder, but I was happy to have it.
Why does walking into work with my “resting thinking face” mean I’m unhappy? It doesn’t.
We need to think about what happiness is. Please, let’s not start telling parents how to be happy. I love constructive feedback. I like to grow and learn. Believe me, I am deeply flawed, it makes up me and I’m cool with it. But for now, I’m going to keep my “resting thinking face.” I’m going to keep doing the hard work that sometimes shows on my face.
Hey, if you’re wondering what I’m working on “in there” be sure to ask.