I am out of spoons today. Not only am I literally out of clean spoons and therefore have to eat my ice cream off of a knife which gives a whole new meaning to mindful eating but I am entirely out of metaphorical spoons. You are probably saying ‘wait, what is she talking about now…’ Well spoon theory is actually a brilliant metaphor to describe life with a disability especially one that isn’t immediately apparent, but I feel it also applies perfectly to motherhood.* You can read more about it here- Spoon Theory To sum up and totally butcher Christine Miserandino’s essay, everyone has a set amount of energy or spoons and everything you do during the day requires spoons. Once you use up all your spoons you are done, spent. So you must ration your spoons carefully so you don’t run out. This is motherhood. Like all parents, I have a limited amount of mental and physical energy and I need to carefully plan my day so ensure that by bedtime I have enough spoons to read Goodnight Moon 10 times and lovingly kiss each child as I tuck them into bed with the love and nurture they deserve. An early morning playdate followed by errands will give me less spoons to work with later in the evening. Once I run out of spoons, I am not the mother my children deserve.
It is 6:30. Bedtime is 60 minutes away, if I am lucky and I am out of spoons. Solo parenting, dealing with a sick kid, and a family’s sudden legal predicament drained all my remaining spoons for the evening. My kid wasn’t sick and my mom hadn’t yet called with her question when I had decided to attend a playgroup so I didn’t ration my spoons. The unexpected spoon use is what kills me every time. Because I never have enough spoons to meal plan much less meal prep I am standing in front of the freezer shrugging. I have no idea what to serve. Then I see it. My deadish plant in the corner. Brown and dusty from neglect. Soil so dry it is crispy. I always wanted to be the type that had beautiful green plants around my house. Of course in this fantasy I’d be singing when I water them. Except I am not this type. I am a ‘buy a plant in giddy optimism and then forget to water it but I have other things to do’ person. With the whine of hungry kids in the background I stare at this plant for a moment. I feel guilty that this is yet another thing I cannot seem to manage. I really could water it. It would probably come back to life, but for the life of me I cannot make that effort. I have a million other things on my plate RIGHT NOW, namely hungry kids and a rapidly approaching bedtime. It would take 30 seconds maybe, but I can’t. Not physically and sure as heck not mentally. I shrug and forget about the plant knowing it will remind me of my continued failings at a later point.
Dinner gets phoned in; microwaved chicken nuggets, oranges, and some reheated rice. I don’t have the spoons to have a vegetable battle. I let them eat it on the couch in front of the tv because I also don’t have the spoons to clear off the table and convince them to leave their spots stationed in front of the tv the tv that has been set to PBS for way too long this evening. Guilt overwhelms me as I watch them staring into the glow of the screen mindlessly eating. We should be sitting around the table talking and eating something green or at least reasonably healthy. I resolve to do better tomorrow, but I know deep down that just like my plans for that once green plant this too is probably overly optimistic. I open my mouth to apologize to my older daughter; apologize for the lousy dinner, the tired and distracted mom… She catches my eye and smiles, “you know what, mom? I think this is the best dinner ever.” I smile back before walking into the kitchen and tossing that dead judgmental plant into the trash.