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Newsflash:
Saturday, 01 January 2000

Mom Returns from Work: A Drama

Written by  Sherri Mandell

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We've all been there....stay at home moms and those returning from work. Those hours between 4 and 7:30, till the kids are fed and settled , till the kids are at peace. At those hours, you can hear mothers all over America calling each other and shouting: Help!

In this scenario, Mother has been at work for eight hours and has driven home in traffic with the car making a funny sound which worried her the whole way home.

She had to stop and buy some toilet paper since there's none left in the house and she was angry because she was on the express line behind someone with more than 10 items.

And now she's finally home-- exhausted, tense, and tired. She is not looking forward to walking in the house where her 14-year-old son, Matt, has been taking care of his eight year old sister, Vanessa.

Mother walks in the door. All of her foreboding is confirmed. The house is a mess, there is an empty soda bottle on the floor, school bags tossed on the living room couch, and some soda has spilled on the floor. The kids are yelling: Vanessa says that Matt hurt her, Matt says that he has homework due and needs help, and both say that they're hungry.

Here are two reactions to the same scene. Neither mom is perfect. But one mom gets her own needs met: her needs for civil discourse and common respect. The other mom doesn't get her needs met. Instead she feels guilty about her inability to control the situation.

Scene #1

Mother walks in, glances at the living room, avoids entering the disaster.

"I am going upstairs for five minutes to cool out and relax so that when I come back downstairs I can talk to everybody in a civil manner."

Mother goes upstairs and locks the door. She hears the kids fighting. There is banging on the door. She sits on the floor and meditates for 5 minutes. She imagines that she is walking in a field and stops to pick some flowers. She breathes in the flowers. Then she imagines herself taking off her clothes and feeling the cool wind blowing on her, shedding all of the day's worries like leaves in the autumn wind.

She breathes deeply, sending her breath into her toes and fingertips until she feels refreshed and relaxed. She tells herself that now that she has shed the worries and anxieties of the day she can meet her kids' needs refreshed.

She goes downstairs. As the kids scream, she says: "I need quiet so that I can make a snack for everybody. As soon as we drink some lemonade and have some apples with honey, we'll decide how to get this house back in order and how we are going to make dinner."

She feeds the kids the snack. She says, "Before we clean up, I want five minutes alone with each of you. I'll look at my watch. You can come into the den one at a time and speak to me.

Each one comes in and they chat.

Then they go into the kitchen. Vanessa screams: "Matt took my sticker book from me and he won't give it back!"

Matt: "She's a liar. She bit me while you were gone."

Mom says: "Both of you need to find a way to work this out. Now either you can stop screaming or I'm going to leave the room."

The kids keep screaming.

Mother: "I cannot cook anything with all of this screaming. I will return to the kitchen when there's quiet and calm...

She goes to the bathroom and locks herself in. The kids are banging on the door. She sits on the toilet and reads and waits for calm. Fifteen minutes pass. When there is quiet she goes out to the kitchen and begins to make French toast. She asks a child to set the table and asks another to make orange juice while one tends the toast.

"I don't want to," they say.

Mother: Fine. Then we won't have dinner.

She sits on the couch and reads the newspaper.

The kids come to her.

"We're sorry mom, we'll help."

They all set the table together. They sit down to eat. Everybody is hungry. They don't say much. She begins to tell them about her day.

Scene #2

Mother walks right into the mess and surveys the damage:

Mother: "Matt, your backpack is on the couch. How many times do I have to tell you to put it in your room? Pick up all that stuff that fell out of it...the papers.

(Matt doesn't move.)

Mother: Why don't you ever listen? Now march right back in here and take this pack. Do I have to yell to get results. Fine, I'll yell. PICK UP YOUR PACK!

Matt puts his pack on the floor in front of the door.

Vanessa: (shrieks)...I'm hungry. I didn't have anything to eat. Matt wouldn't give me anything.

Mother: I'm hungry too but I can't do anything in all of this disorder. Now everybody take ten things and put them away. Now. I mean now.

The kids start to fight. Matt kicks Vanessa.

"Matt, go to your room now. Stop bothering your sister."

Matt doesn't move. Mother grabs him by the wrist and pulls him to his room.

"I can't stand this. This isn't fair. I've been working all day and I don't want to be faced with this when I come home. Now do you understand me?

Matt slams the door.

Mother: Don't you slam that door. None of you care a hoot about anybody but yourselves. I don't know why you can't get along.

Mother turns to Matt.

Mother: And you, you're the oldest, I expect you to be responsible and look what I get.....

Matt: You hate me, you hate me. You always believe her. It's not fair.

Mother goes back to the kitchen and starts to make dinner. Matt comes out of his room and turns on the TV. Vanessa pours herself some milk and spills it all over the floor.

Mother: Watch what you're doing. Oh God -I am so sick of this. Why isn't your father home?

Mother sets the table, brings over the macaroni and cheese and fish fillets.

Mother: Okay everybody to the table.

Matt: I hate fish.

Mother: I make you dinner and you have the nerve to talk to me like that?.

Vanessa sits down, pours herself a drink and spills again.

Mother: That's it. I'm going to my room. You guys can eat without me.

Last modified on Tuesday, 01 November 2011 08:05
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Sherri Mandell

Sherri Mandell

Sherri Mandell has a Master's degree in Creative Writing and has taught writing at the University of Maryland and Penn State University. She is the author of the book Writers of the Holocaust. She has written articles for the Washington Post. She is married with four children

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