Failing at February

by Danielle Veith

Even a playground looks sad in February.

Even a playground looks sad in February.

“Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November* in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people's hats off - then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can.” 
― Herman MelvilleMoby-Dick


It’s raining and cold and it’s a minor miracle that I’m not in bed under heavy blankets, watching TV and eating canned cherry pie filling. 

It must be February. 

When I was in college, my best friend and I had an agreement that you were allowed to do whatever you needed to do to get through February. The big one I remember was: eat ice cream every day. And she was a former ballet dancer, so that’s a pretty good indicator of how awful February is.

Wanna play Tetris instead of writing your paper? Yes, yes, I do. Can’t be bothered to walk across campus for that morning class? Yeah, it’s cold out. I get it. What are you doing with that guy? It’s February! No judgement! 

My parenting equivalent of Ice Cream February is “Say Yes to Everything.” 

Let’s just go to Target and wader the aisles together, okay? I’m sure there’s a toy in it for you. Or at least some chocolate milk. You don’t want the chocolate milk you just opened? Fine, we’ll get the vanilla, too.

Have you seen that Onion headline (, “Kids Love When Mom Is Sad Enough to Just Order Pizza”? I’m right there. I can't be bothered to fight with my kids over anything. I’m worn down. Resistance is futile.

“Can I have another Girl Scout Cookie?” Sure, why not. (Those Girl Scouts aren’t fooling around with their February sales strategy!)

“I don’t want to take a bath tonight.” Well, that works out fine, because I don’t want to give you a bath tonight.

“Can I just wear this to bed?” Sure, good night.

“I don’t want to go to school.” How about watching Gilmore Girls reruns in bed with Mama?

“Do I have to get dressed today?” Nope. Do I?

I’m mean, really… What's the worst that could happen? Don’t answer that.

Winter is so isolating. And it’s not just seasonal affective disorder, so don’t try to sell me a mood lamp. It’s more like a conspiracy of everything at once telling you that there’s just no good reason for ambition right now.

Or maybe more charitably, there’s some core biological wiring that makes us feel drawn toward the human version of hibernation. Instead of going to the park, let’s just get out of the cold, stay at home and hunker down.

February isn’t a very charitable month, so it can be hard to just be ok with a slowed down world. And it really is more than that, too. It’s not just a cozy-by-the-fireplace kind of phenomenon. It doesn’t feel good.

But if we’re all out there hunkering down alone, it’s almost like we’re doing it together. You think of me, I’ll think of you, and see you in April? I feel like I can almost see other moms, out there, taking another deep breath, holding it inside and then sighing it out. This day will eventually end. All prior evidence points to the fact that days all finally come to an end. And all Februarys end, even ones with the pesky extra leap year day.

It’s usually about this time of year that I start feeling like I’m behind on everything. The kids always seem to get sick and suck up two weeks of time just like that. And then there’s whatever pathetic amount of snow we get in DC and the corresponding unexpected days off from school. And then I get sick. And we cancel plans because someone else’s kid is always sick, too.

So, everything just piles up, like I imagine actual snow does in other places in winter. And before I know it, flowers are popping up everywhere mocking me for having accomplished nothing since November.

I’m not exactly excelling at motherhood. I don’t do enough with the kids. I don’t engage enough. I’m not patient enough. You’d think with all of the not-accomplishing-anything, I could at least feel like I’m indulging in special time with the kids. It certainly doesn’t feel that way.

Combine extra kids-at-home days with my general lack of motivation and I’m not working enough. I’m not getting enough done. A whole month passed and I can’t point to anything.

Even the regular stuff. I can’t stay on top of the regular stuff.

The laundry. I can’t even think about the laundry. There’s not one corner of the house that feels relaxing, each vantage with its own to-do list taunting me. I don’t do enough around the house. I’m there all the time and still, all the dishes.

I just feel like the days are lost. One after another, they just fall off the calendar while I stare at the naked trees through the window. 

There’s some peculiar characteristic of motherhood that can make a woman feel like she is simultaneously not enough at every single thing she does. I would think that failing in one area would mean that another area is thriving, but it’s not like that. When my energy is low and I’m feeling very self-judge-y, nothing is spared.

And kind of like the beginning of Moby Dick (see below) with wanting to knock the hats off of everyone’s heads, I know when things get like this, there’s just one thing I need to do. And it’s not get to sea.

It’s time to see a friend who understands, get away from the house and the kids and the need to prove anything and go have a coffee or a cocktail with a real live friend. And there’s actually something we need to toast—we’re almost there! Just one more week… 


* All due respect to Melville, but clearly, he means February.


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