The problem with you is that even the most empathetic “you” still filters everything through a very distinct “you” lens. Something about being 38 weeks pregnant has very abruptly shifted my lens from “me” — where everything is comfortable and familiar — to somewhere in between total selfishness and selflessness.
Don’t get me wrong, none of us are totally selfish or totally selfless all the time. Most of us oscillate — and, as one of my favorite writers (Karen Armstrong) talks about, “concern for everybody” is something people strive their whole lives to achieve … and, even then, it’s a practice, not a state of being.
But I’m here to tell you about the problem with me.
Recently, I took part of a day off to get some things around the house back in order. The sink had piled up with dishes. Our house — which is home to three animals and two and a half humans — hadn’t been vacuumed in more than a week, which was about six days overdue.
Meanwhile, Isaiah had been working overtime for a while at a work, meaning he was leaving the house at 6:15 or so in the morning and coming home at a little after 7:30 at night.
When I am working extra hours and Isaiah is picking up the brunt of the housework, working a “real job” is the worse of the two. But when the tables are turned, suddenly I’m envious that he gets to “just go to work” and I have to work and clean the house, which suddenly shifts to be worse (because it’s the one happening to me at the current moment). So the problem with me is that I can selfishly change my entire worldview based on whether or not I have had to stick my hand into the drain of the sink to clear it of god-knows-what in the past 24 hours. And I like to think I’m not that fickle. But I am.
Days earlier, I distinctly remembered dumping a cup of watered-down furniture varnish into a full sink and being so tired, I said out loud — ”I don’t give a flying fuck if it ruins every dish I own. That’s all I can do today.” I walked away from the sink, naively believing two things: First, that I “didn’t care” about my dishes, and second, that the varnish wouldn’t ruin them anyway.
But on this day, while scrubbing the remains of varnish — which totally ruined every dish I own — off of my glasses and nice, grownup plates and things called “serving dishes” I don’t remember accumulating … it was Isaiah’s fault. Why was I doing the dishes at 38 weeks pregnant? Why was I doing anything at 38 weeks pregnant? But that’s the problem with me. I can blame an innocent person I love for things I know are my fault and not bat an eye. And I like to think I’m not that silly. But I am.
While scrubbing varnish remains caused by a past, more stupid and selfish version of me, I got pissed enough to “drop”/throw a cookie sheet that wasn’t making any progress in the varnish removal process into the sink, which shattered two grownup glasses into tiny shards that were now dangerously floating in the sink thanks to a clogged drain.
I took a few steps back, thinking I should probably calm down before continuing to ruin all of my things, the final step of which landed me on a pair of unworn sunglasses I had just rediscovered in a drawer, that promptly sat in a pile of broken plastic bits on the tile. One of our two cats was sitting on the island where the glasses used to be with a smug arm outstretched, looking unapologetic. I was reminded how much I hate cats (I don’t). I especially hate their little litter-filled paws on eating surfaces, so I pushed the cat — Biggie Smalls — off the island with some force and he took down the salt and pepper shakers from Le Creuset that I “had to have” but that never stood upright on their own — a reminder that mo’ money does, indeed, mean mo’ problems. Just as I suspected.
That day, I burned through about 200 disinfecting wipes in the kitchen alone because we were out of paper towels — my environmentally friendly and conscious kick came to an abrupt end when it crossed paths with my love of convenience, as it usually does. And that’s another problem with me. I like to think I’m not wasteful. But I am.
I couldn’t bring myself to vacuum the nooks and crannies of the house with heartburn raging, so I cleaned the guest bathroom from top to bottom instead — with another 50 or so disinfecting wipes in a pile on the floor, evidence of how much dust and grime can accumulate in seven days in a house full of animals and people who live hard on their things.
That’s when I decided to clean the toilet, which was mostly clean, with the exception of the base — which always, somehow, gets covered in a composite of human urine and animal hair full of static cling and stickiness, making it impossible to lift off the porcelain. And again, I thought, why am I on my hands and knees doing this at 38 weeks pregnant?
When you’re 38 weeks pregnant, that fact is like a suffix you tack onto everything — I’m walking up the stairs and I’m 38 weeks pregnant, thank you … I’m tired and I’m 38 weeks pregnant … I hadn’t done anything without the excuse of “XX weeks pregnant” in about 28 weeks. And that’s another problem with me. I like to think I don’t use excuses to change people’s perception of me or pull trump cards to take some pressure off of myself. But I do.
Shortly after finishing the bathroom, I sat outside in the sun for a short break where my dog and my mom’s dog (a guest for the past several weeks) were trying to get some well-deserved attention. But didn’t they know that I had just had that sort of day? I didn’t have any extra to give. So I kneed one harder than I should have in the chest when she jumped on my pregnant belly and yelled at the other to get some space — which they totally understood. And that’s another problem with me. I like to think I’m collected enough not to lose my temper, especially with defenseless persons or beings that aren’t capable of understanding. But I do.
I spent the rest of the day cleaning, vacuuming, organizing, doing laundry, and resenting my partially domesticated life. And that’s another problem with me. I like to think I can be a feminist and not resent doing necessary housework that just needs to be done whether you’re a man or a woman. But I do.
There’s part of me that believes a feminist can’t ever be caught cleaning the house, especially not pregnant and barefoot, for fear of confirming society’s suspicions of women. And that’s another problem with me. I like to think that I carry the responsibility of managing America’s perception of women square on my shoulders. But I don’t. I’m just not that special.
In the next two weeks, I will bring a tiny human into the world via my lady parts and some days I feel so grown up it’s a little frightening, and others, I worry that I will revert back to some of the childish and selfish parts of me that still have a way of finding their way to the surface despite my best efforts.
The childish and selfish parts of me that will pretend I didn’t see that one of the cats had thrown up until Isaiah got home because I didn’t want to clean it. The parts that call a loaded baked potato my “serving of vegetables” for the day. And the parts that consistently run my car just a smidge above “E” both because I hate getting gas and always secretly believe it’s going to drop back to $1.80 a gallon tomorrow.
The problem with me is that this baby deserves better. And all I can do is try to laugh about days like that one and put them behind me as semi-secret flubs and start over today and tomorrow and the next day.
The problem with me is that I’m always waiting on a sunrise to be the best version of myself. And the problem with you is that I thought all of this was your problem, but it turns out it wasn’t, so you’re actually in the clear. And that’s not even the hormones talking. As you were.