Panic, or the Lie that Esther Told

by Esther Emery

First things first: No, I don’t think my sister was on that plane that crashed in Spain this morning. No, I don’t have proof of that. No, I haven’t heard from her yet. No, I’m not worried.

Now, about the lie. 

In my Mommy Guilt post, I gave you all the impression that I don’t feel an inordinate amount of anxiety related to whether or not I’m a good mother.  Granted, I didn’t actually come out and say, “I have no feelings of panic associated with my parenting skills or lack thereof.”  But I might have allowed you to think it.  In fact, I might have been auditioning for the role of Supermom v. 4.0, the “not anxious, not guilty, not scared” mom.

How am I doing?

My mommy confidence was tested in front of the entire MOXIE staff at Monday’s retreat. That’s right, sorry I didn’t say, we had our retreat on Monday. Ten hours of moxielicious bonding, planning, creation and infrastructure development.  It was sort of amazing, really, and a little intimidating, and several exciting new things are coming out of it, including the etsy shop that Amy alluded to in her post below.

But you know I like to keep you guessing about MOXIE business, on the off season and all, so back to the mommy thing.  Milo’s least favorite thing to do is fall asleep. We do finally have the bedtime thing nailed, when we’re at home. But naps are squirrelly, and falling asleep anywhere other than his crib is super-duper squirrelly.

The topic on the agenda was “What Kind of Company Are We?”  Delicia was facilitating. Other MOXIE heads were nodding. Ideas were beginning to flow. The other two babies in the room were playing peacefully, looking more and more angelic by the minute as my child continued to SCREAM. 


I was supposed to be thinking about “What Kind of Company Are We?”  

Instead I found myself reliving that moment last week at the Social Security office, when I let my son crawl on the pavement and a total stranger found that to be a cause for intervention:

HIM: Do you have any wet wipes?

ME: Uhh…I think so. 

I was lying. I didn’t even have a diaper bag, since I was operating on the bizarre and incorrect assumption that getting a social security card for Milo wouldn’t take very long.

HIM: If you give me one I’ll clean his hands for you.”

ME: No thanks, we’re okay. 

HIM: I’ll do it. Just give me a wipe.

ME: No, really, that’s okay.

HIM: You never know what’s on people’s shoes. It could be real bad. (pregnant pause, nod to nearby government building.) Especially around here.

ME: Um, wow, I think they just called my number. 

Whereupon I marched Milo out of view, poured water from his sippy cup onto a random item of clothing and started scrubbing his hands.


I was supposed to be thinking about “The Way We Work as a Company.”

What if Milo didn’t really want a nap and I was just torturing him in front of my seven most respected professional colleagues?  Or worse, what if Milo did desperately need his nap and I simply was too much of a mommy failure to soothe him into sleep?  What would all these people think of me?

Pan to assembled MOXIE’s.  Delicia is still facilitating. Heads are still nodding. Ideas are still flowing. I bet Chelsea is thinking more about the public speaking assignment than she is about my crying child. No incrimination. No advice. No expectations.

And here’s my point.  The mommy anxiety isn’t in the guy outside the Social Security office who thinks there may be anthrax the bottom of somebody’s shoe.  It isn’t in the door-to-door newspaper salesman who suggests that if I’m not completely tuned in to the patterns of recent salmonella outbreaks then I am putting my child in danger.  It isn’t even in the well-meaning concern that since my sister is in Spain, and that plane crash was in Spain, she may be dead.

No, if the mommy anxiety can live at a MOXIE retreat, it can live anywhere. It’s in us. Maybe it has been planted by our parents and our siblings and the strangers who come to our doors and approach us in front of Social Security offices, but now it is in us.  And I, for one, pledge to use this blog and personal conversations with my ninety-nine closest friends to keep the mommy anxiety out in my words and my actions and off my self-esteem. 

If I can live through the bad reviews, and the good reviews, and the crisis of creation without pandering to my audience or losing my sense of self as an artist, I should be able to do that with parenting, too. Right? Right?

I believe in parenting by Fiddler on the Roof.

Right? Of course, right!