Contemplating My Hats

We were in the middle of a pre-convention stress-fest. Howard had a pile of priorities and worries, I had a different set of priorities and worries. Both of us needed to be two people in order to get everything done and discovered that neither of us could solve problems by handing them to the other. In a moment of stress I found myself muttering “I hate this” under my breath. In that moment I truly meant the words, but I worried that the feeling existed. We’ve spent a lot of time and effort building up this life and now I was saying that I hated it. The trouble was the unreferenced “this.” Days later when the stress levels were back to normal I realized that in my life I do a lot of jobs. Often I picture these various jobs as hats that I wear. In a moment of clarity I realized that it is okay for me to not like some of the hats. Not liking a necessary job is normal. I don’t expect myself to love the job of laundress, I do it because it needs to be done. However identifying which jobs I like and which I don’t helps me to be better at planning. So here is an incomplete list of hats that I wear and how I feel about them:

Accountant: This job is fairly routine and soothing, except when the money is running low. It used to be scary. For a long time I lived in fear that I was doing everything wrong.

Convention Liaison: This one has lots of little details to track and lots of advance planning. I keep track of Howard’s appearance and travel schedule. I make arrangements for all to go smoothly. I kind of like this one. It feeds my inner need to keep track of things.

Graphic Designer: I like getting to exercise the artistic portions of my brain. Playing with text, color, line, and flow all please me. However I’m very aware of the gaps in my graphic design education (self-taught) and am often afraid that those gaps will cause me to fail in an embarrassing or expensive way.

Shopkeeper: Running a table while at a convention is in the “do not like” column. It is not miserable, just draining.

Inventory manager: Don’t mind this one. It just is. Although I wish I could do a better job of keeping the storage room organized.

Shipping manager: This one wears on me. Not all the time. Mostly it is routine. I guess right now it is wearing on me because I’ve got a bunch of new things to learn really soon.

Business Manager: Again this is a job that gives me the opportunity to track dozens of things. This is the hat I wear when I’m assigning jobs and work flow to the graphic designer, convention liaison, shopkeeper, accountant, etc.

Art director: I don’t like this job. The art director has to hand out assignments and deadlines to the artist. The artist in this case is Howard, which means I’m piling on stress. Howard, naturally, then complains about his stress to his wife. Then I feel guilty even while knowing the stress is necessary to getting the job done.

Wife: I like this job. I plan on keeping it for a long time.

When I was talking to a friend and rattled off something close to the list above, she asked me if there were parenting hats that I don’t like. At the time I answered that I didn’t think that there were. That most of the parent hats I wear fill me up as much as they take from me. That conversation was several weeks ago and I’ve been paying attention since. Here are the parenting hats I do not like:

Homework warden: The homework belongs to the kids. It is their work. They should be allowed to succeed or fail at it according to their efforts. Except that teaching them how to succeed at homework is my job. It is a job that can only be done if I’m standing at their elbow to help, either figuratively or literally. Also I can’t stop my brain from tracking their homework. My brain has an auto track function which tells me that my teenager mentioned a huge report two weeks ago and that I’ve not seen him work on it since. Then my stress levels rise because I can sense the impending storm when said teenager will have a complete meltdown because now the work is due and he planned poorly. Then it is my job, not so much to rescue the child or make sure the work gets done, but to help the child navigate consequences in such a way that perhaps a different path can be picked next time. Often it gets to the point where I cringe at any homework at all.

Short order cook: In theory I cook food, the kids eat the food and all is well. Sometimes it actually works that way. Usually though I cook food, various subsets of kids complain about the food, we have arguments about eating, and stress is spread all around. So then the next time I cook I try to base my cooking decisions on past experiences. I make sure to have a low meat option for one child and a non-potato option for another. I use all sorts of creativity to try to provide food that will result in no complaints. Sometimes I even stand around waiting for them to decide what they want and then fix four different meals for four different kids. Other times I place a standard in the ground and fight the battle of “I’ve cooked for you, therefore you should be grateful and just eat what is in front of you.” I have a guilty suspicion that if I could be more consistent about food and meals that this would be less stressful for everyone. But I don’t like spending creativity on food. I want to save it for other things.

Pack mule / garbage can: If the kids don’t know where a garbage can is and I’m near by, they give it to me. Thus my purse becomes a repository of wrappers and other sticky things. If we’re out of the house and they don’t want to carry something anymore, they give it to me. This happens a lot less now than it used to. However each time I have to decide whether to quietly accept what ever is being thrust at me or whether to make an issue of it.

And so that this is not a post more filled with complaining than good things, a couple of hats that I love:

Snuggler: When they need comfort, they come to me. Even the teenagers.

Listener: I love listening to people sort their thoughts and tell me about silly things. Sometimes I am tired and listening is hard because it takes energy. Other times listening invigorates me, filling me with hope and happiness. It is a good hat, much treasured.