To read the backstory about the circumstances in which I wrote this essay (3 am on a particularly challenging parenting day), please head here. For the sake of transparency and “artistic honesty”, I decided to publish this essay knowing that I will probably be judged for its content. This is for all the moms who beat themselves up because they’ve ever felt this way. You are not alone. Thank you.
Everyone should take a test before becoming a parent. Anything below a B+ and you’d have to look for another occupation: travel agent maybe or computer coding but parenting, no, not for you if you can’t ace that test. Heartless? I don’t think so. I think it would be perfectly reasonable.
As it is right now, it is much too easy to become a parent yet so hard to BE one. There’s no test. There’s no manual. We have to figure it out. Some do a better job than others. I certainly give it my best effort but here is my terrible secret: I don’t always like being a mother. (I know right! No one says that outloud. Well I just did! There! You can pick our jaw up from the floor now. Thank you very much.)
To say that motherhood is not at all what I had expected or hoped for is beyond an understatement. I was only one week into it, holding my crying infant and I wondered if I had made a mistake. I wasn’t equipped for this.
No, it wasn’t postpartum; seven years later, too often, I still feel the same way. More days than not, parenting chews me up raw and spits me out exhausted and empty.
Oh it’s not as physically grueling now but, mentally, I am spent and I don’t suspect it will become easier. I watch this strong willed defiant little person who is my child, I project myself ten years from now and I shudder.
I am not equipped.
I am not strong enough.
I wasn’t taught this stuff.
If anything I had my own lousy example of a mother who would have scored a definite F on the above mentioned test.
I am not gentle by nature.
I am not patient.
I have a short attention span and an even shorter temper.
I am one of the most selfish persons I know. What I want is extremely important to me.
Fail. Fail. Fail.
Oh I get points for trying; I do try very hard. I go through a lot of the right motions.
I don’t let her watch too much TV.
I don’t give her candy.
I never call her names.
I read her good books.
I take her on field trips.
I set up playdates.
I play board games.
I teach her math and phonics.
I wake up if she coughs in the middle of the night and make her hot tea with honey.
I am a dutiful mother but not a happy one. I don’t find childhood magical. I find it exhausting.
I am constantly taken aback by the daily struggle. If I say “close the door” she wants it open. If I say “open it” she wants it closed. Rinse and repeat. EVERY. SINGLE. DAY!
“She’s a kid”. “That’s what kids do.” my husband says as if this is supposed to make me feel better. Well it doesn’t. If “that’s what kids do”, I don’t like it one bit and that’s that.
So you see, I am in a very difficult spot. Babies don’t come with a return policy. Once a mother, forever a mother. For better or for worse. There’s no Rewind button. And definitely no Pause!
Since I’m the “adult”, I’m expected to rise up to the occasion and work it out. I’m supposed to “take it like man”, plaster a smile on my face and pretend everything is just fine.
I love my child. I do. I just don’t like who I have become: angry, resentful, irritable.
It’s 4 am. She’s sleeping right now and I’m awake. She’ll be awake soon enough too. I’ll look at her then and see her innocence. I’ll dig deep within to reach the better parts of me. I’ll summon all the patience and kindness I can. I’ll make her breakfast. I’ll hug her and kiss her. I’ll read her a book. I’ll listen to her excited 7 year old chatter and I’ll smile…
… until she’ll say something or do something, or not do something.
… until my uglies rear up their heads and make me lose it.
I’ll get annoyed. I’ll get mad. I’ll put her in time out. I’ll put myself in time out. I’ll replay the moment a thousand times and find a thousand other ways I could have handled it but didn’t. I’ll feel a large dose of regret with a strong shot of shame for good measure. I’ll resolve to do better and I will… for a time… until I get annoyed again and repeat the vicious cycle.
Sure, there have been many blissful moments… There are still often. They do come at the heavy price tag of the daily grind. I have lost a little bit of my sanity; a little bit of my gray matter. I have gained some wisdom but unfortunately not enough.
I need to change; that much is clear. But how?
I have no solution to offer.
If you haven’t yet, head HERE to read the backstory on the circumstances that led me to write this essay.
Encouragement for mothers:
I read this book a few days after writing this essay and it was very helpful and encouraging. (Christian faith based).
“If you expect perfection, you are bound to become angry more often, with yourself and with your children. Children do not thrive with authoritarian, perfectionist parenting, because they can never live up to perfection” Sally Clarkson
“I had to behave as though I loved and cherished my children even when the feelings were weak or hidden” Sally Clarkson
Essays I wrote that may help: