Could’ve, Would’ve, Should’ve (But I Am One Person)

Could’ve, Would’ve, Should’ve (But I Am One Person)

By Melissa Stefanec

As a parent, I have acquired something I never had while childless. It’s something I always said I was better than. It’s a thing I never wanted to waste time and energy on. That thing is a frenemy — the classic person that always leaves you wondering if he or she is more friend or enemy. Except, my frenemy isn’t a person, it’s a thing. It’s a thing that I relied on to see me through my formative years and a thing I swore by. It’s my good-old-fashioned to-do list. Me and my to-do lists go way back. From a whiteboard in my bedroom in high school, to a notebook in my purse, to trendy peel-and-stick chalkboards in my kitchen, and memos on my phone, my to-do lists have grown with me and helped me keep it together when the demands of life seemed unmanageable.

However, being a mother has brought about my friend’s betrayal. My to-do list in no longer my chief aide in conquering tasks; it’s now a reminder of all the things I have failed at. For every item I cross off it, two more jump on. And that’s not being trite or melodramatic; it’s actually a gross underestimate. My to-do list is becoming documentation of my failures, and I don’t like it.

I could be that I just need to get it together. I could tell myself to buck up, try harder and focus on productivity. But, like most parents I know, I already work from the moment I get up, which is too early, until the moment I go to bed, which is too late. Unless I quit sleeping, there aren’t ever going to be enough hours in the day.

So, instead of beating myself up over things I can’t change, I am going to start a new refrain. Could’ve, would’ve, should’ve (but I am one person). Every time I start stressing about things that are undone in my life, I need to take a deep breath and remind myself that all the important things will get done in time, and the rest will just have to slip through the cracks, because I can’t be anything more than one person.

So here are some of my to-dos and my new refrain.

• My kids are tired because I ran errands after piano lessons instead of getting home and getting them to bed on time. We needed milk and bread, and I didn’t want to pay $4 for a half gallon of milk from the convenience store up the road. So, I dropped by the grocery store after lessons, and now my kids are paying the price. I should’ve planned better. Could’ve, would’ve, should’ve (but I am one person).

• My son has stains down the front of his shirt from a day of picky eating. We have somewhere to be where a halfway decent shirt would be ideal. I should’ve packed a change of clothes for him. I should’ve finally made those “emergency” bags for my vehicle (the one with a change of clothes, a wipe pack and an extra pullup in it). That way, I could be ready for most of what mom life throws at me. Could’ve, would’ve, should’ve (but I am one person).

• I should’ve practiced sight words with my daughter tonight. I should dedicate two nights a week to sight words and another two nights to practicing colors with my son. It’s my job to enrich them. Instead, I made dinner and cleaned up so they had full bellies and a decent home. Still, those sight words are haunting me. Could’ve, would’ve, should’ve (but I am one person).

• I shouldn’t have raised my voice at my kids when their bickering became too much for me to bear. I should’ve turned down the heat on the stove and let dinner wait for a few minutes while I calmly confronted them and their problem. Could’ve, would’ve, should’ve (but I am one person).

• I should’ve used my lunchtime at work to take the bottles back and stop at the post office. Those books for my sister have been riding shotgun for weeks. I should’ve got my car inspected and brought it in for the hatch release recall. Instead, I skipped lunch because I got to work late after a morning toddler meltdown involving the need for everything to be done by Mommy. Could’ve, would’ve, should’ve (but I am one person).

• I should’ve made that potty training chart for my son. Once upon a time, he was so interested in using the potty. Now, the word potty is on par with sitting quietly and doing what he is told. He needs a better motivator than me ordering him to do his duty at a set time and place. I should entice him with a brilliant prize. Could’ve, would’ve, should’ve (but I am one person).

My daughter turned 6 on Sunday. I remembered so many things for her party, but I failed to remember to schedule her 6-year well visit. Now, I will be on the waitlist for an evening appointment so I don’t have to take more time off from work. It still counts as long as I squeak the visit in while she is six, right? Could’ve, would’ve, should’ve (but I am one person).

Could’ve, would’ve, should’ve (but I am one, amazing person).