Tag Archives: mothers

Letting the Cat Out of the Bag

6 Sep

It must be infinitely easier to go through                                                                       life cruising under the radar. Living a life The cat's out of the bagwhere nothing extraordinary ever happens seems a much simpler option that ‘putting yourself out there’ and having people know what you are actually capable of. Because once they know what you can do, the cat’s well and truly out of the bag, and all of a sudden people have expectations of you.

They are formidable, those expectational measuring devices, and they are everywhere. Held up to us throughout our lives, it starts from the moment our creased cranky faces emerge after birth and we ‘score’ on the Apgar test. School is the long-recognised nursery for learning about what society will expect of us for the rest of our lives and even spouses have plenty of un-verbalised expectations they weren’t aware of themselves until you both return from your honeymoon.

The general expectations of good behaviour and tidy bedrooms, being kind to your siblings and calling when you’re going to be late- those are fairly reasonable expectations and not too much of a hassle. My advice is to do what is required. Glide along. Don’t ruffle any feathers. Be beige. Don’t stand up and don’t make too much noise.

Just don’t do anything remarkable. Forget acts  that may be perceived as worthy or admirable or requiring skill or valour or hard work. Under no circumstances whatsoever do anything which may require- do I even dare mention it- gulp- self-sacrifice or better yet, organisational skills??

Because once you’ve given birth without drugs or done the groceries with 4 children under school age in tow or made that really excellent bridesmaid dress or organised that massive function on a shoe-string budget or painted the entire bedroom all on your tod, people will expect that you will be able to do it again. Nay, that you even enjoy doing whatever it was that you did, as you so obviously have such a natural ability and affinity for such a task.

A good friend of mine insisted that I stop showing her how her new espresso machine worked. “Don’t!” she said. “Hubby is the expert.  I don’t want to learn how to make a good coffee. If I show him I can brew with the best of them, he will expect me to make it!” I know just what she means.

Decades ago when my Dad was an eager young boy at work in the sulphide, he was reprimanded by the older men who had worked there for years. His crime? Doing too good a job and working too fast. “Slow down, son. Don’t do too good a job or they’ll expect us all to work like that.”

Regular readers will know that I recently co-ordinated our school fete. The team worked so hard to make it happen and the weather was glorious after being consistently feral. It was a terrific day, a runaway success that brought our school community closer together and raised several thousand dollars.  People continue to marvel at how well the day went and what a fabulous event it turned out to be.

The problem was, now they know what I can do, I’m becoming known as ‘the fete lady’ in the playground. No longer just some kids’ mum, now it’s known that I have skills that can help our school. It’s going to make it incredibly difficult for me now to slide down in my seat and be invisible at school meetings as the call goes out for helpers to organise x, y or z.

What was I thinking? Now even the office ladies know that I can organise newsletters and out-of-uniform days and donations and source excellent jumping castles and foster good relationships with local businesses. Those kinds of people are rare! You don’t let them slink off into oblivion after one good fete. You work them to the ground. Get them on committees. Task them to fundraise. Call them when the canteen helper is sick. Too valuable to drift back into living their own lives, too often the ‘people with skills’ – you know, the busy ones who get things done around the place- they get burned out. Chewed up and spat out by the machine that benefited most from their abilities, their only options is retreat.

Well, it’s not their only option. There is also that little ‘no’ word. And while I don’t want to come across as hard-hearted and selfish, my family and my own life deserve some of my attention. A goodly portion of it, in fact. While it’s been fun and I’m glad everyone is happy with what we did, I’m not planning on becoming a martyr  to the school or to anyone else in society who wants to give me a job that will end up benefiting their organisation. Despite people’s now-inflated expectations, as long as I have a say- and I do- there won’t be a school fete next year. The year after, I might just do it all again, but next year- no.

Part of living that life less ordinary is the ability to savour the precious bits- the people we love, the crosswords and coffee on the deck, sleeping in and being un-available. At times it means putting our hands up to do the big jobs, dealing with the immense workload of it all and then humbly placing it all back where it came from so life can continue on as normal.

Until next time.

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