There is something wrong with my wife.
She’s incredibly intelligent, incredibly patient with our kids, and incredibly talented at putting up with my particular brand of daily nonsense and idiocy. I frankly don’t know how she does it. In addition to being a stay-at-home mom and an occasional on-call news writer, she’s in her third year of a Master’s program. I’ve seen her daily planner and it gives me the spins.
I should point out that this is not me sucking up. She gave me explicit permission to write about this, though perhaps not to write about it in the way I’m going to write about it.
It’s a not insignificant feather in her cap that throughout this Master’s program she’s maintained straight A’s. It’s doubly not insignificant in that her program is a program really designed for teachers and sort of assumes she has ready access to the resources of a school, which she does not. It’s triply not insignificant in that she’s doing the overwhelming majority of the work from home, which means she spends hours daily reading textbooks thick and dense enough to lay a foundation with and then posting responses and building portfolios and collaborating online with her slacker classmates and just generally making me feel like a schlub for putting in my workday at school and coming home too exhausted to do much more than make dinner and sack out. Add to that the fact that the sprout only wants her to put him to bed anymore and that every other hour she’s either got an infant or a breast pump attached to her chest and, well, I am starting to wonder if she hasn’t in fact been bitten by a kryptonite spider (that’s a thing, right?).
I think we’re both gifted with more than our share of innate intelligence, my wife and I. The key difference between my wife and I is that she takes her natural ability and slides into the driver’s seat, finding ways to make the best of herself and challenge herself in even the smallest of projects, while I, um, well, I like video games and writing blarg posts about the inconsequential minutiae of my life. Oh, and I locked OUR ENTIRE FAMILY out of the house not two weeks ago. She gets straight A’s in her graduate program, and I routinely load the dishwasher and forget to run it, then get mad at the dishes for being dirty in the morning.
Anyway, she’s home with the sprouts today, studying up on educational practices for exceptional education while breastfeeding the infant and keeping the toddler from killing himself in any of the dozen ways that the house presents him with, and she has to take a quiz for her online course. Well, the instructor called it a quiz, but it was an eighty question marathon that ended up taking her two hours to complete. I’m going to leave aside the issue of the instructor giving a non-retake-able “quiz” at eighty questions (seriously, who has that kind of time?). She gets about halfway through the thing and the sprouts start to wake up from their naps and she has to finish the quiz while they’re screaming and slurping at her and throwing things around the living room and making her life unbearable.
She got an eighty-five.
Now, here’s the difference between my wife and me. If it’s me taking this quiz, and I got an eighty-five in a vacuum, I’m pleased as my dog when we leave the room and our dinner plates are still on the table. If I got an eighty-five with the sprouts bouncing off the walls and pulling and tugging at me and screaming and I’m in pain from my body producing ungodly amounts of infant food, I expect nothing short of a ticker-tape parade complete with elephants playing trumpets and midget monkeys building a walking humanoid Eiffel Tower. My wife gets the eighty-five, and she is furious. I’m talking about there has been no happiness in her life since it happened. She’s mad as hell that the quiz was misrepresented and she was unable to properly budget her time for it, and she’s concerned because her post-graduate GPA of 4.0 could conceivably be in jeopardy thanks to this one quiz.
She might as well be French-Canadian for all the sense this makes to me. Don’t get me wrong, I can appreciate a perfect record as much as the next guy, but I will also be the first to point out that the piece of paper you get at the end of a graduate program like this is the same if you squeak by as if you pass with flying colors. Which is not to say I advocate mediocrity or not living up to your potential; rather, I maintain that you should do your best under the circumstances you exist in and not burn yourself out like the human candle trying to achieve perfection in every aspect of your life. (In writing that, I feel suddenly as if I’ve outed myself as one of those slackers for whom, as a teacher, I would probably have a few choice words.)
How does she do it? How can a person chase perfection in so many aspects of her life, and perhaps more puzzlingly, how does such a person end up with a slackerjack like me? And finally and perhaps most importantly, will she murder me where I sit for giving her a hard time about it in front of my tiny internet audience?