Back to School with This Year's Loser of the "Mother of the Year" Award

By Ilene Miller

It’s back-to-school September—also known as the worst month for moms. Already it’s clear: I am not going to win any “MOTY” (Mother of the Year) awards this year.  By 4:00 pm Monday, the first day of school, I was hoarse from screaming at my kids. And anyone that knows me will agree that I am typically a soft-spoken low-talker and not a screaming maniac. Why is it that after a laidback, unscheduled, super-chill summer, in a heartbeat my family and I were not only back to school, but also back to stress?

I’d started off with the best of intentions, and with a school-year resolution. I swore this year would be different. My boys, age 11 and 13, would hang their backpacks up on the hooks that hand directly in front of their eyeballs in the mudroom—the mudroom we renovated specifically with this purpose in mind—when they walked in the door from school. Their shoes would go into the easy-pull-out mesh basket. IPads, phones and the like would be charged, not on my kitchen counter where we prep meals, but in a designated charging station on the boys’ well-organized desk. They’d put their snack plates right into the dishwasher, not stack them in the sink, waiting for me to move them.

Here’s what really happened: The boys came home after their first day at school. They were greeted by smiling, happy, can’t-wait-to-hear-about-your –first-day-of- school Mommy with their favorite chocolate-y Berger cookies and glasses of milk. The boys kicked their shoes in the doorway. They dumped their backpacks on the kitchen table. They lay down their iPads in the prime food prep areas. They strew their homework and other papers across every imaginable surface. They left their dirty snack plates—with chocolate cookie remnants still melting on them—in the bathroom and living room, waiting for the dogs to lick them clean and unwittingly poison themselves.

In my best, most tolerant Mom voice, I reminded everyone to put their stuff where it belonged before we left to run some errands. I even joked and used good humor and gave them 10 minutes to get it all done.  But when I returned to the scene, one kid was jammin’ out on his headphones and the other was glued to “YouTube,” despite earlier admonitions that this year, we would be screen-free on school days. That’s when Scary Mommy emerged, screaming and threatening.

And yes, after that outburst, my boys got everything done, lickety-split. But my tirade left me feeling guilty and sad—not to mention, hoarse, from all the yelling. I knocked off two high-calorie Berger cookies, just to manage my stress. Then came the kicker. This was the 45-minute argument that ensued when one of my sons felt the need to explain that actually, he preferred charging his electronics on the kitchen counter because the desk was so far away—he had to walk all the way through the kitchen and living room to reach the homework area. Was he kidding me?

So for those of you parents who are already back to school and can relate: you’re in good company if you already blew your nomination for MOTY or FOTY on day one. And for the rest of you whose kids haven’t had their return yet, savor these last few days of summer fun. And let me know if you fare any better!

Ilene Miller is co-founder of Activity Rocket and mom of a teen and preteen boy. 

Photograph by Suneet Jain via Creative Commons/Flickr