The Active Avoidance of Resenting My Kids

by Lori Dwyer on December 9, 2011 · 14 comments

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.

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{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Hope’s Mama December 11, 2011 at 9:23 am

Though I haven't lost a husband, I have lost a child and I know grief eats away at my ability to be a sane and rational mother some days. We too stay home a lot and on the days when it all almost gets too much and I yell and scream more than I should, the guilt almost destroys me the next day. It was my first baby who died, so I never got to parent without the dark cloud of grief hanging over my head, but I am sure I would have been a much different mother had she lived, the kind of mother you were before Tony died.
Grief really does fuck with every aspect of your life.
Love to you, Lori. I don't comment as often as I should.


Eccentricess December 10, 2011 at 7:55 pm

Lori, your post makes me think of all the little advances that made Mamahood easier for me, like being allowed to go to the toilet without company. They came about because I had someone else to restrain her and explain over and over again, for months before it sank in, that toilet time is Mama's alone time.
Just being a single Mum makes it twice as hard to get these little advances. Let alone all the other stresses.


Anonymous December 10, 2011 at 2:43 pm

Seems you meet way more than the minimum needs your kids have. Shelter, nourishment, safety, love and more.

You definitely are not the same person you started out to be. All 3 of you deal with intense emotions losing Tony, with the several moves, with reconfiguring the family.

You are so much stronger than you were, not simply out of necessity, but also from your fortitude, your ability (maybe determination) to keep moving forward.

If it was "normal" before, it is not "normal" now, you are in crisis mode and will be until you aren't. You would have changed and grown if Tony hadn't died, but you can't know where that road would have gone. As other posters have said, all moms feel guilt, seems part of the definition.

Keep doing what you are doing. I don't see how anyone could do better.


Sarah December 10, 2011 at 11:07 am

I'm with ya chook. It's an active avoidance everyday here as well while I'm off my anxiety meds for the pregnancy.


Melissa December 10, 2011 at 6:52 am

Oh dear Lori. I do NOT know how single parents manage. Even just one day solo is exhausting for me. Children are amazingly resourceful and although their life will be influenced by the tragic loss of Tony, your amazing strength, courage and love will have an even more profound influence. Mothers always obsess about our bad moments – we neglect to notice the hundreds of moments throughout the day where we are a "good" mother. We are present, we change diapers, we make lunch, we hug, we kiss boo-boos… we do it all. You do it all. You are awesome. Just keep on, keeping on.


Anonymous December 10, 2011 at 4:31 am

Good news is, the older they get, the easier it all is- they will play together peacefully soon. And yes all that they are doing is normal. And you can only take so much, being what you have been through. You are doing great, there is no right way, and we all lose our shit sometimes. Time out is just as important for mommy as it is for the kids. You are doing great!! Lisa


Miss Pink December 9, 2011 at 6:59 pm

Maybe you aren't the parent you used to be, but that doesn't have to be a bad thing.
You have changed, so have the kids, and of course, so has your relationship with them. It doesn't mean it's a negative change.
Do you think the type of parent you were in the before would really work with them now? Especially Chop? I think you are what they need, and sometimes that may not be your idea of perfect, but it is enough. At the end of the day they're still alive so it's "enough".


Lydia La La December 9, 2011 at 12:28 pm

Dear Little Lori,
I know you are not asking for advice…..
When you go into a relationship, fall in love, have babies there is ALWAYS the possibility that one of you or the children may die.
Heart attack, cancer, car accident, murder, suicide. The list is long.
You know you may have to cope alone but unless it happens to you, there is no way our imagination can take us to the depths we actually sink to. Family close by helps, friends and neighbors. Just ask… most people will give you a free hour and that can make a world of difference. Please…. don't be too proud to ask for help. I know I would hate it if someone could have asked me for help and didn't because of pride. I don't mean the clean the house type of help. Just sit in the backyard with the children type of help.
Your babies miss their Dad. They are far too young to understand so they retaliate in the way that will get your attention any way they can. Some times the only way you can get 'time out' is to get up an hour or so earlier. It worked for me. Many good vibes coming your way. Feel free not to publish this comment if it is way out of line.


Anonymous December 9, 2011 at 11:32 am

Oh, God Lori, your last two posts have left me clutching my chest. I can feel every emotion.
I don't know what to say.
I don't know what I can do.
But I know that 'devil mum' personally, except I had someone to throw them at at the end of the day and now I just feel guilty that you don't.
Hang on. Please hang on.
Mrs. C


Kelloggsville December 9, 2011 at 9:39 am

Single mumming is the single most hardest thing I ever did and I had an ex available to come and help out but there are those times when alone it just really really really sucks. Parenting is a 'long haul' thing. You can't be, won't be great at it all the while, every day or on some days 'at all' but over time you will churn out some pretty cool little people. 10 years after the 'put your shoes on yourself' arguments have ended I'm still have flash back guilt pangs! I know your pain and circumstances are so very hard (and very removed from anything I could possibly relate to) but please don't try to do it alone force yourself into mums and tots, playgroups or just library mornings and sign them up for some things they will be able to attend without you – you have to have sanity time….it'll be the only thing that keeps you sane xxxx


Ozziethriftmumma December 9, 2011 at 9:34 am

Lori all you can strive to do in life, is try our best.
Be it as a mother, friend, daughter or whatever else you put your mind to.
As parents we all go through the resenting phase/s, especially when they just wont stop fighting or we are exhausted.We all make mistakes.

It is only human. You are only human…remember that. :D


Vicky December 9, 2011 at 9:27 am

Being a single mumma – however you arrived at that place – is hard fucking work. There are days when I think shall I just open a vein and you can suck the life blood out of my literally!?!?

The only time there is respite is if they are having a sleep over at friends – and even then, I find it hard to take off the mother hat completely – even though I desperately need to. My subconciousness is connected to them by an invisible thread… is that what the umbilical cord turns into once its cut? an invisible thread that no-one else sees, but you feel intensely?

I'm not the mother I wanted to be either. But I know that I'm absolutely a better mother then the one I was born to. I guess I will just have to be happy with that.


Penny December 9, 2011 at 8:40 am

Don't beat yourself up about it. Do what you can. Not what you can't.


Eccles December 9, 2011 at 5:31 pm

Oh hun, single parents, parents with partners, gay parents, grand parents… parents, ALL feel guilt & resentment at some stage. I was told by my (ummm – the lady you take babies to who weigh & measure them & make sure your doing "your job" as a new mum. My mind has gone lol)… you know what I mean. Anyway, she told me that my newborn daughter would "survive in spite of me". Not with me, not because of me, but in SPITE of me. Then my DH left. Great!! It was ALL my fault because I wasn't the 1950's mother figure he expected. I digress??!! I would phone my mum in tears because my DD was unwell/asleep/throwing a tantrum & I couldn't get out to go shopping or do something that I'd been planning on doing – I so resented my DD. I still, 23+ years later, suffer guilt. Did I play enough with my kids, did I teach them to be independant enough, have I taught them life skills for when they leave home, have I taught them how to shop, save money, budget, be strong when faced with minor issues & major ones?? We all second guess ourselves as parents & as my Dad said to me a few weeks ago, "I tried my best". Babies & children are little for such a fleeting time. It doesn't matter if the house isn't majorly tidy or that there is a pile of washing to be sorted & put away. Spend time with your kids, as much as you can. Take them to the park, sing with them, play with them, read with them. Make folding the washing a game with them. Life is long, but it goes so damn fast. Chop might be starting kindy next year or maybe going into prep. Your kids are little people, but they are still babies. They will test your patience & push your buttons & for the most part, they don't realise that's what they're doing. They love you & they compete for your attention. And for now, you're IT.
So my dear, we all have to suck it up, & think outside the box. I wish I'd done that with my Dad years ago.


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