By Cheri Loveless
My kids always fuss on cloudy days. Not the kind of fussing a mother can calmly deal with, mind you, but the kind that has no cure because it’s based on total illogic, like: “No matter (sniff!) how many birthdays I have (sniff!), Jamin will always be older than I am! (Wahhhhh!).” Those are the days I wonder why I ever became a mother (or at least how I became the mother of these particular children).
However tempted I feel on such days to drag out the “Help Wanted” section and flee the unreasonable attitudes of my progeny, a whisper of conscience reminds me: I have my cloudy days, too.
In fact, if I’m going to spend a whole day being totally unreasonable, I usually know it before I get out of bed. Everything that sounded good when I made the day’s agenda the night before suddenly seems boring and meaningless, and I can stretch a two-minute shower into an hour-long project just to avoid doing what I know I’ll be sorry for tomorrow if it doesn’t get done.
On cloudy days I’m likely to be in the mood for the one thing I can’t do. Or for something that depends on something else getting done first. Like the day I finally felt like making curtains for that back room but the sewing machine couldn’t be set out because the table was stacked with boxes of craft items, which couldn’t be sorted until I had a place to put them, which depended on building shelves, which could only be done with time or money, neither of which I had at the moment. And since I couldn’t work on those curtains, their importance grew completely out of proportion until I was certain that everything from my marriage to the neighborhood food co-op would run more smoothly if only I had curtains in my back room. As I recall, I spent the day walking around in circles, trying to figure out where to begin. Unfortunately, the few moments of motivation I mustered were spent dragging the material for those curtains out of the box in sheer defiance.
Some cloudy days are legitimate. The first three months of pregnancy you’re allowed as many as you want. And since the cause is just, you can even trim your normal output to a minimum and feel good about it. When (at two months along) I was depressed about lying around energy-less in a messy house, a friend counseled, “You body is telling you to slow down! Quit doing dishes—use paper plates. Quit making your bed—just pull the covers over the pillows. Streamline.”
It was wise advice. Just the thought that such a plan was acceptable gave me the momentum to put it into practice.
Unfortunately, non-pregnancy cloudy days don’t often bring that kind of response. Friends are eager to help, and “this-is-what-I-do” advice usually increases feelings of failure. Once one friend told me I’d feel better if I jogged around my yard. Another said putting the theme song from “Star Wars” on was a sure energy boost. They were probably both right.
But what I really wanted was for someone to say, “You feel that way? That’s fine. Serve canned soup for dinner.” (I was already planning to do this and needed to be told it was okay.) I wanted to hear, “If you can’t put it together today, you’re no different than the rest of us. Relax. Take a day off. We love you anyway.”
It would have been nice.
I don’t want to suggest that shunning the fight is the answer. (Restoring lost motivation beats sitting around, even if you aren’t feeling guilty about it.) But maybe we ought to plan on the fact that just like children, friends and husbands, we will be caught now and then in a cloudy day frame of mind. And if we can’t seem to clear the sky, a little acceptance might inspire a rainbow—or at least a silver lining.
Cheri co-founded Mothers at Home (now Family and Home Network), and co-authored the book What's a Smart Woman Like You Doing at Home?. She wrote this essay for an early issue of Welcome Home, and it was reprinted for our 15th year anniversary.