Most days, the things that pulls at the insides and dents my self esteem is the simple frustration of self flagellating mother guilt.
Out of all the things in this situation that hurt, all of them that are nasty and horrid, that may be the worst… the lingering knowledge that this has changed me, turned me into a mother I never wanted to be.
I have to actively work to not resent my children, I must keep an eye on my expectations of them, of me, of how this whole relationship is supposed to work.
Occasionally- when I’m sick, or busy, or grief is hitting me harder than usual; I forget to keep myself in check, forget to attend to my thoughts. And a childish, selfish mother creature comes crawling out of a dark hole in my chest to eat at the tolerance that’s left in my heart.
On days like these- today, if I’m honest, being one, the concessions we normally give to small children for atrocious behaviors spawned from tiredness, hunger, or the own sickness or pain; all those considerations leave me and I find myself expecting my little ones to act more like grown ups, to help me more, to be more independent. I feel resentment sneaking up like hot acid heartburn as I tend to the every need of two small people who, in return, screech at each other the moment I leave the room, or scream at me for hours over a disagreement.
It’s the little things that grate at me.. I suppose they do all mothers, all parents. The way I cannot have my bed to myself, my son seems to believe it’s his right to be there, as much as I need my space; the way my insistent, determined daughter is perfectly capable of navigating our back stairs when she believes no one is watching, but is incapable of anything but a teary, desperate temper tantrum when I’m in sight; the hour long screaming marathons of my son over just about anything- something as simple as putting his own shoes on- that leave both of us visibly distressed and me quite often feeling as though I’m quite literally on the verge of a nervous breakdown- something I’ve loudly sobbed affirmation to, alone, in my backyard.
I know, I know, I know…. all the usual kid stuff. They just do that. It’s relatively normal behavior. Rationally, I know all this and more.
Emotionally, on the days that are not so great… it doesn’t feel that way. That horrible, selfish mother creature, she tells me that they are doing this on purpose, that they are going out of their way to make my life more difficult.
I used to be a different kind of mother, once upon a time. I was the kind of mother who took my kids out every day, to the shops or the playground or just somewhere, anywhere. I was the kind of mum who was on time to everything, who had things organised, who participated.
These days, I’m more than happy to spend the day at home, working in my garden, writing, playing with the kids. My son, who once begin every day with the question “Where are we going today?” is still slowly getting used to it. We’re always running late, and I float on the fringes these days… the social chit chatter of playgroup of daycare is too much for me, and we often leave early too.
My Bump, she is a gorgeous little drama queen, int he way only a two year old fairy princess can be. My Chop… they say boys begin to push out testosterone in large amounts at the age of four. I’m thinking this explains the way everything is suddenly a competition that he’s obsessed with winning, that instead of having tea parties with his sister’s teddy bears they are now trying to kill each other. I’m wondering if it accounts for a lot of his protectiveness toward his sister and I, but really, it could just be the way things are.
The enormity of parenting, all by myself, terrifies me so much that sometimes the only thing I can do is close my eyes tight and keep going forward. Because there is no way to stop.
It used to seem much easier, with another parent to help take up the slack. My lack of energy and playfulness was substituted by Tony’s exuberance, him using play with the kids to wind down after a long day. Tony gave our kids a whole different perspective on life- as a dad, as a bloke.
And honestly, there were so many days when that mother-guilt voice of ‘I haven’t done enough with them today’ would kick in, only to be balmed by the knowledge that soon my husband would home, and would pick up the slack in fun, in attention, in energy… give our little ones those vital emotion resources that I was lacking some days.
I still am lacking those resources, even more so now, in The After. The only difference is there is no one to take up the slack. My parenting efforts are solitary. The only silver lining is that they are judged by no one but me.
I console myself, as we do, all mothers in all situations, with “I am doing the best I can.”
It sounds like such a cop out, to say that, or even to say “I’m just surviving”, but it’s the only truth I have. A good excuse which, as FrogPondsRock says, makes for a very good reason.
Sometimes I yell, and- shamefully- I’ve even been know to smack. Sometimes my children see me cry. Sometimes I feel, and work frenetically against, the resentment of them.
All of these things are new things.
I’m not the kind of mother I used to be… I’m working on still being a good one.
I comfort myself with the knowledge that I’m simply not the same type of person I used to be, either.