She knew she shouldn’t curse in front of the children. It wasn’t dignified or it was setting a bad example or something. There was undoubtedly some lady-like wisdom about how coarse language made for a coarse person, but she was way beyond caring if she was a coarse person. It was a cut-off notice, three days until payday, oh-shit-the-milk’s-gone-off kind of day and it was twenty minutes to the store and only one of the kids would fit in the stroller so the other one would just whine the whole way. She wasn’t even sure there was enough money in her account for milk and she couldn’t imagine dragging both kids all the way to Needs Convenience and then getting turned down for $4.00 worth of milk. If her phone hadn’t already been cut then she would be able to check her account and know whether the trip was worth it, but the phone had gone last week when there were seven days until payday.
She was sure that a good mother would have rationed her milk better, a good mother would have noticed the date on this carton when she picked it up. Of course, a good mother would have been able to handle the two kids at the grocery store without getting all distracted and just grabbing vaguely food-shaped things off shelves and tossing them in her cart. And a good mother would definitely not be this frustrated at 2 o’clock in the afternoon. Of course, that mother’s children probably still took naps and took them willingly so that mother probably had five minutes to herself before she hopped up and cheerily cleaned the house.
Kristy looked at the pile of clean, unfolded laundry that her children were tossing around the living room, especially at the t-shirt that smeared the dust on the coffee table. She looked at the dished piled by the sink. How many strikes was that on the good mother inventory? Her shoulders dropped at the thought of it. Sure, no one was making an actual list but if they had, she wouldn’t be on it. If she wasn’t on the bad mother list, she was sliding dangerously close. At this point in the day she didn’t even feel like she was parenting, she felt like she was just enduring until bed time, and today she feared she would collapse long before then. There was just too much hard in this whole thing and there was no time for her to catch her breath.
She plunked herself down on the cheerio-littered floor and leaned forward into her hands. She was drawing ragged edges of air into her lungs and willing herself not to give into crying when she felt the first little head lean against hers. His little sister soon followed, working her way in between Kristy’s elbows and burrowing on to her lap. She shifted and took both kids into the circle of her arms, and they snuggled into their Mama while their Mama sobbed into their hair.