Tag Archives | motherhood is hard

What If We Just Listened?

I came across a thread on Facebook yesterday in which several women were discussing motherhood – particularly the Mommy Wars.  It wasn’t so much about what is the better choice – to be a stay-at-home-mom, or to be a work-outside-the-home mom – but more of a discussion about which is harder – being a SAHM or being a working mom.  The general consensus was that both are hard, and that (a) we all need to stop arguing over which is harder, and (b) we all need to stop being so judgmental of other moms.

Awesome, right?  A moment of unification.

And then someone said something along the lines of being tired of hearing moms complain so much because whatever moms are dealing with, “it’s better than the alternative.”

Let’s not dance around it – let’s just call a spade a spade, okay?  “The alternative” refers to either (a) not being able to have kids, or (b) having a dead kid.  So, basically, we mothers should not complain because at least we have kids, and at least we have alive kids.

What a crock.

I’m not minimizing either of those “alternatives,” I’m truly not.  I dealt with infertility in my first marriage. I know!  Seven kids later, right?  Well, it took my first husband and I five years to have Kevin, and during that time, I experienced a pain and a longing like no other.  I came to despise pregnant women and women with babies; I had this vague belief that there were only so many babies to go around, and everyone else was taking my share.  Anyway, so, yeah, I know how difficult that is.  And I’ve never lost a child, so I won’t even pretend to be able to fathom how horrific and life-shattering that would be.

But to use either of those scenarios as reason that mothers shouldn’t complain?  It’s just ridiculous.  I mean, no matter what any of us have going on in our lives, there will always, always be somebody somewhere who has it worse, who is dealing with harder, more painful things.  But that does not cancel out the reality of our own pain and frustration.

I think this notion that mothers should just put on a happy face and not complain and be grateful has historically been extremely oppressive.  It isolates and alienates.  It’s what generates the competitiveness we’ve all come to know – motherhood as an Olympic sport.  Who can turn out the best, most high-achieving children?  Who can keep the neatest, most well-decorated house?  Who can make the most organic meals?  Who can chair the PTA and throw the best birthday parties and keep her husband in blowjobs, and do it all with a smile?

Meanwhile, everyone is popping Ativan and Prozac, visiting a therapist, drinking on the sly, or all three.  Because it’s a motherfucking hard act to keep up.

I think moms who dare to complain – who actually say out loud, “This is hard,” or “I’m not always happy being a mom,” or “My kids piss me off sometimes,” are going out on a limb.  Because the moment they are honest, the moment they admit that being a mom isn’t always everything it’s cracked up to be, it’s pretty certain that someone is going to get sanctimonious on her and tell her she should be grateful, she should see the positive.  Someone will come along and throw quasi-wisdom at her that will leave her feeling ashamed and inadequate.

Admitting it’s hard doesn’t mean a mother doesn’t love her kids.  Acknowledging that sometimes being a mom actually sucks does not mean she is ungrateful.  It means she is human.

Look, I’m not suggesting a butt-slapping, high-fiving kumbaya.  Women are funny creatures; our friendships and love for one another can run as deep as that of lovers – and yet, we are so competitive with and jealous of other women, it’s almost pathological.  I’m not sure what drives all of that, but that’s a whole other blog post.  I am suggesting, though: what if we just listened when another mother complained?  Without trying to outdo her with tales of our own hardships, and without suggesting that she be grateful because what she has “is better than the alternative.”

What if we just listened, really listened, and said, “Yeah.  I hear you”?

 

Confessions

Sometimes I feel down for inexplicable reasons.

(Well, sometimes it’s hormonal for sure.)

Feeling down is something that has followed me like a shadow for most of my life.  It’s not constant, but not infrequent.  Sometimes it’s been full-blown depression; sometimes a mild melancholy.  I just try to ride it out until it passes.

Sometimes my feeling down has everything to do with the dynamics between me and my kids.

(Sometimes I realize that I have too many kids.)

Sometimes I feel defeated by my kids.

They’re not bad kids, but they often don’t listen to me, and it makes me feel powerless.

Aren’t I supposed to be the one in charge here?  Often it doesn’t feel like I’m in charge.

Today we all (except Kevin, who had a babysitting job) went to Joey’s baseball game.  We were sitting in the stands, I had Scarlett on my lap, and she was gnawing on a graham cracker, making a sludgy mess.  I said to the three older girls, “Could one of you please go run to the snack shack and get me some napkins?”  They all just sat there staring at me blankly.  Not one of them got up to go fetch napkins for me.  I felt myself go cold with anger in that moment.  For the rest of the game, I wouldn’t give the girls anything they asked for.  I took grim satisfaction in that.

I know I shouldn’t take their behavior so personally, but I do.  I don’t think they have any idea how much they hurt my feelings sometimes.

Sometimes I wonder if my kids even realize that I’m a flesh and blood person, with actual feelings.

Sometimes I resent the kids for being completely oblivious to all that I give them and all that I’ve given up for them.

(I know that’s both unfair and ridiculous.  Of course they’re oblivious – they’re kids.  Kids by their very nature are self-absorbed.  I get that.  I just have a hard time with it sometimes.)

Sometimes I resent my husband for not backing me up a little more to the kids.  Why does he let them get away with shitty behavior when he can see that I’m struggling?

(I know it’s bad form to rag on my husband here.)

Sometimes I resent the freedom he has compared to me.

Sometimes I want to run away from them.

I also know I can’t live without them.

(Sometimes when I think about how eventually, years from now, the house will be quiet and tidy, devoid of their noise and their messes and their chaos and disorder, I am engulfed in a sadness so immediate that I have to remind myself that their growing up and moving on is years and years away.)

Earlier this evening – after we got home from Joey’s baseball game – the three older girls apparently went around the block (after I told them not to), and somehow got separated.  I was inside feeding the baby, and Daisy and Annabelle came rushing inside telling me in a panic that Lilah was missing and Daddy was in his car looking for her.  My heart dropped like a stone into my stomach, and in a flash, every horrible possibility went through my mind.   The whole ordeal lasted all of ten minutes – Michael found her right away on the next street over, being walked home by neighbors.

If the mark of a bad mother is that she allows herself to become so angry at her kids for their misbehavior that she withholds goodnight hugs and kisses, then tonight I am a bad mother.

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