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Sunday, October 5, 2008

A vs. B vs. The Wonderparents!

By Rachael Nachtwey

I am convinced that most of us fit into one of two categories:

1. those who are good with people
2. those who are good with things.

My friend, Cara, is one of those Category B people. She has no tolerance for “stupid” people, bad drivers or whiney children. However, she has the most amazing patience with things that just about send me through the roof. She will untangle that mob of 13 necklaces I just fished out of my jewelry box or spend an infinite amount of time figuring out why the damn DVD player has stalled while I stand next to her, red-faced and cursing. I am one of those “good with people” types. I can handle screaming kids, unreasonable adults, and stressful situations…that is, unless that stressful situation involves a computer.

Last month, a virus attacked my PC. This was followed by the installation of an anti-virus program which managed to foul up my computer to the utmost degree. After hours on the phone with folks in India, the un-installation of one program, and the installation of another, I was highly disappointed that all of my efforts to get my computer back to its healthy self were for naught. Those Category B people might look at this as a challenge. They might step back and say, “Okay, that didn’t work. What next?” This is most definitely not me, especially on one particular Tuesday night.

It had been a long day, no doubt. After 10 hours with Ethan, I ran a multitude of errands and even managed to get to the gym. By the time I finally reached my apartment, my body and mind were a pile of honey. However, as I pushed the door open, a wave of excitement rushed over me. I remembered that a friend had agreed to tinker with my PC while I was out and like a giddy child on Christmas morning, I ran to boot up my computer, breathless at the prospect of having a well-functioning machine again, one that didn’t trigger me to use what my mother would call “the language of a truck driver”. But as my desktop appeared, so did a blinking WARNING message and I completely lost it. (Did I mention that I had also managed to screw up my birth control pills that week and was in the midst of a hormone imbalance?)

So there I was, crumpled up on my bedroom floor, reduced to deep, hiccupped sobs, my sweet cat, Baxter, nudging my hand in a pitiful attempt to silence me. This only made me cry harder. My cat has to comfort me? I thought. How truly pathetic! Then I was flooded with all my ex-boyfriend baggage, wishing so badly that he was there but not because I wanted him back as my boyfriend. No, I just wanted someone to comfort me and more importantly, to fix this #*&#$ computer for me! It’s times like these that the idea of having a significant other is so damn appealing. Quite frankly, as proud as I am of myself for taking huge risks and making it on my own, sometimes I’m just too tired to be so independent. I would love to know that when I get home at the end of the day, dinner might be waiting. I would love to be able to turn to someone and say, “I don’t have time to call the insurance company to ask them about this bill today. Can you?”. I hate that it is the ALL-ME show all the time. If I don’t do it, it’s just not going to get done. Period.

I was whining about this to my friend, Cara, who is not only that Category B person but also a married woman. I was essentially telling her how great it must be that her husband was there for her, that they were a team and could split up the household responsibilities. Without missing a beat, she responded (a bit too flatly), “Or you could be even more frustrated that even though you are supposed to be a team, he is too busy watching the Badger game that he doesn’t hear you screaming for help while you are holding your poopy kid and simultaneously trying to run a bath. It’s better not to expect anything. Just be pleasantly surprised when you do get what you need”. Ouch. Really? (Note: On a later date, when I told Cara that she shattered all my hopes and dreams for married life, she did admit that she had been having a bad day when we talked and that her husband is not really a couch potato slob and that he does indeed pitch in…just not to her optimal level).

But then I started thinking about the other cohort of women…the single mothers. (Cara, I know you consider yourself one at times but you don’t count). I’m talking the real deal doing-it-all-on-their-own single mothers. These people amaze me. It doesn’t matter what their strengths are. It doesn’t matter if they are Category A or Category B people. They don’t have a choice in dividing up the workload into who is better at what. They don’t even have the sometimes-there-to-change-the-diapers mate. As I laid red-eyed and sniffling, flat on my back on my bedroom floor, this revelation struck me. I thought, For God’s sake, stop feeling sorry for yourself! At least it’s just you! Yeah, I hate that I have to be “on” all the time and that this computer is going to drive me nuts until I decide to do something about it. But what, if on top of not being able to get my own stuff done, I also had to worry about a son’s report on Kalamazoo or chaperoning a daughter’s field trip to the planetarium?

At least right now, as crazy busy as I am with four jobs, I don’t have to worry about another person in my life. Of course, that can be lonely and frustrating at times (illustrated by that fateful Tuesday night), but I also can take solace in the fact that I am responsible only for myself (well, Baxter, too). I am far too self-centered right now to take on another human being’s needs. Kudos to the single mothers (and fathers) who have unselfishly given up the ALL-ME show in order to give all they can to their children. And when I spend another night on the phone with tech support, I will remind myself that there are people like you who have gobs and gobs of more stuff to do than me when it’s time to hang up the phone. So I promise not to complain about it. Well, I will at least try. But I also won’t go near that jewelry box. Not for now…

Nachtwey is a Brooklyn Nanny and regular contributor to Hip Slope Mama.