Mean Mommy

Stephanie Sprenger essays

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The phrase, “I am not a morning person,” took on new meaning when I became a mother. Mornings seem to be the time of day when my maternal ineptitude manifests in all its frenetic glory, frequently highlighted by misplaced items, sibling squabbles, poor personal hygiene efforts, and undeniable tardiness. Worse yet—sometimes they turn me into Mean Mommy.

One unfortunate morning last winter, things came to a head. With 15 minutes remaining before it was time to leave for school and work, we couldn’t find our first grader’s lunchbox. Or her coat. I inwardly scolded myself for not having them ready the night before, and frantically attempted to locate her sister’s shoes. As the kids waited patiently, I did the post-loading sprint of shame back into the house twice to retrieve several essential items (my iPhone and coffee mug, which are clearly not optional.) To my horror, the last few scrambles put us further off the mark than I had realized, and we were dangerously close to the bus arrival time.

As we reached the end of the street, I watched in slow-motion an event I had not witnessed before: the school bus pulling away from the stop. And true to my Mother of the Year status, I uttered the following sentence: “We just missed the fucking bus!” Yes, my two children were in the car. It got worse. I began to shout, choking back tears, about how I “couldn’t have any more mornings like this!” and how I may have been “sick of not being able to find shit all the time!” I was on a roll. My six-year-old’s eyes were wide. She knew this was serious.

I was fuming as we drove away from my toddler’s childcare center, and my daughter was in tears, worrying about whether she would be late for school. I snapped at her, having hit my limit, and was rewarded by the karmic misfortune of driving over a cumbersome cluster of branches in the road. The unpleasant scraping noise under the van informed me we were dragging it. Letting loose with an expletive, I sighed loudly and stomped out of the car to free the unwieldy bunch from the undercarriage.

“Shut up,” I yelled at the small dog who was yapping frantically at the crazy woman entering his territory. Yes, I am that big of a jerk. I shout at dachshunds. Reentering the car to the soundtrack of my daughter’s crying, I realized I had to get it together. “Izzy,” I began, “you need to stop freaking out.” I had an out of body experience as I watched the words float out of my mouth. The glaring hypocrisy smacked me in the face, but it was too late to take my duplicitous words back.

As we pulled up to school, I was horrified to see the icing on the cake of my maternal failure-flocks of children were entering the building. In their pajamas. Because it was pajama day at school. Was my child wearing pajamas? Or course not. I wanted to rewind the morning and end up back in bed. Or fast forward the whole day and end up back in bed. Either one.

Sighing heavily, I attempted to soothe my daughter and make peace before she headed into school. There wasn’t much else I could do to salvage the emotional train wreck of our day’s beginning. I made sure to give her a hug and kiss, usually a taboo exchange in the ill-named “Hug and Go” lane at school, and sent her on her way with a reminder that I loved her.

Tomorrow I would do better.

About the Author

Stephanie Sprenger

I am a freelance writer, editor, music therapist, and mother of two young girls. As co-editor of , I have published two anthologies, with a third, Mothering Through the Darkness: Women Open Up About the Postpartum Experience, to be released in November by She Writes Press. In addition to Mamalode, my work has been published in Brain, Child Magazine,, Good, Scary Mommy, The Huffington Post, and others. I blog at .

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