Hot Mess

Mandi Hayes-Spencer

In 2001, I signed a deal to take on some work. The contract stipulated that it was a lifetime agreement, no questions asked. They said it would take a large investment, but the rewards that came with the hard work were amazing.

So, I picked up my pen, put ink to paper, and took the job.

It has been 10 years since I signed on that dotted line, and I have to say, it was harder than anyone let on.

It’s the only job I have ever had that makes me bubble over with joy one minute and sees me go red faced aggravated the next. Sometimes, these two emotions intertwine and I’m left exhausted and confused.

The folks ‘upstairs’, as in the big bosses, refused to give me an employee handbook when I asked for one. At first, I was okay with this because I thought to myself, “Hey, I’m a fast learner, right? What could be so hard I couldn’t figure it out on my own?”

After a couple of years in without a promotion, I started to get a little upset with the lack of direction. I didn’t care if the instructions were written in Portuguese on the back of a cocktail napkin.

I needed guidance.

What, you ask, could this job possibly be?

The official job title is ‘Mother.’ Unofficially, it’s called Parent, Butler, Chauffeur, Nurse, Chef, Housekeeper, That Lady With The Old French Fries In Her Purse, That Weird Lady With the Crayons and Silly Putty in Her Hair and, the best of the best - Hot Mess.

Call it what you will. Regardless, this job is the hardest I have ever had in my life.

But, they did promise me great rewards and have certainly delivered on that aspect of our deal-and then some.

My son is my life’s greatest work.

In a nutshell, the job as a whole is my life’s biggest accomplishment and greatest joy. It is, however, the details that drive me batty.

Allow me to explain, as I am sure there are a lot of parents out there who will completely understand where I’m coming from.

The kid never ties his shoes, instead choosing to trip over them every five minutes. Then, he gets mad and says things like, “There is something wrong with our carpet. I keep tripping on it.” Or, “Who moved the doorframe? It wasn’t there the last time I went by here.”

Surely it wasn’t the shoestrings.

Then, there is the morning routine. Shower, brush your teeth, comb your hair and put your clothes on. Simple, right?


While I understand getting up at the crack of dawn to get ready for school is no party, it shouldn’t be as hard as it is. There are some mornings that I feel like I’ve fit an entire day of work in the space of an hour and a half.

The minute I say something like, “It’s time to take a shower!”, he looks at me like I just sentenced him to a long stretch on Riker’s Island making license plates with a large man named Tiny.

Was I this difficult when I was a kid?

Probably. I remember my mom fixing my hair to the soundtrack of my screams. I’m sure she remembers it, too.

But, no matter the details that see me go insane, I love the job. It’s, without a doubt, interesting. You have to admit that being able to watch a person grow into themselves is amazing.

Now that my son is 10 and almost in middle school, I find myself going into cold sweats over the fact that, good Lord, he’ll be a teenager soon.

I go back and forth; one minute thinking I will just lock him in his room and not let him out and excitement that he’s growing up and learning to be his own person.

Even if that person hates to tie his own shoes and thinks that everyday hygiene tasks are like working the chain gang.

Aside from the lack of instruction booklets, pamphlets or Encyclopedia Parentia, I’m glad I took the job.

I don’t know what I would do without it-or him.

As cliche as it sounds, your kids are the air in your lungs and, starting from the day they are born - the center of your universe.

No matter how bad the day has been, one look at my son and it’s worth it.

Until next week, remember: If anyone out there knows of a full proof way to keep your teenagers from being teenager-ish; I would appreciate some info. I am terrified.

Mandi Hayes-Spencer is a columnist for The Greenup County Beacon and author of the upcoming series The Crantz Chronicles. She lives in Flatwoods, Kentucky with her husband and son.

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