Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Where’s My Band-Aid? (What They Didn’t Tell You During The Welcome To Motherhood Seminar)

We, as mothers, are a special group of creatures. We are no longer fully human, and we (in most cases) are no longer ever alone. Even when we are not in the physical presence of our children, they are always with us. ALWAYS. Don’t believe me? Ask a mother who has lost a child. Regardless of whether the loss was a first trimester miscarriage, full term still birth, infant death, or death at any age due to terminal illness or tragic accident, that mother will tell you that she will forever carry her child in her heart, and on her soul.

The ability to find a balance between all parts of life is something every Mum struggles with and usually never achieves. Mums are often their own harshest critics, and while others may think a Mum is doing a great job, she will find a fault or flaw in her performance every time. She can (and will) try to be all things to all people, but in the end she is shorting everyone, including herself. Before long everyone starts feeling the effects of an overworked mother and that’s when the Mum Guilt really kicks in.

The guilt, ahh the sweet, sweet guilt. That may actually be the hardest thing to deal with as a Mum. Do you know there are actually shits out there that think that working Mums are selfish, and that every Mum should stay home with her children? That if someone can't afford to stay home with their offspring, they shouldn't have them, and what's worse is that these idiots take it one step farther and actually tell working Mums this rubbish. Talk about guilt. As if a Mum doesn't have enough guilt of her own in the first place, now she has some wanker telling her that her decision to bear children was selfish and her choice to go back to work to help pay the bills was selfish as well. Then there are the people who tell stay home Mums that they should go out and get a real job because they need to buy everything under the sun for their child, and they are a bad parent if they tell their child "No". Mums are bombarded on a daily basis with guilt from outside forces, from their children, and whether they realize it or not, from their spouses as well, and it often seems that you can’t win for losing. You're damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

We are conditioned to think that to be a good Mum; we HAVE to be everything to everyone. That we have to do it all perfectly, without complaint, and damnit you better have a big happy smile on your face the whole time. Well, it’s time to wake up and realize that the reason Donna Reed and June Cleaver were so complacent all the time is because they were self medicating with a bottle of red, a bottle of white, and a few gin and tonics in the kitchen while they were fixing dinner.

Mums have to be the caretaker for the whole family. They have to be there to pick everyone up when they fall, Band-Aid in hand, arms ready for the soothing hug and pat on the back. But who's there to pick Mum up when she stumbles? In most cases, no one. Some women are lucky to have a very supportive husband, or a Mum of their own who is there for them, but a lot of women don't have that.

That's when your friends show who they really are. Every Mum needs a strong circle of women to support her. To pick her up, put the Band-Aid on the injury, and tell her she’s going to be ok. To tell her it’s alright to call the nanny, and go off on a shopping trip or to the library or the movies by herself. That yes, it’s ok to not love every bloody minute of being a Mum, and that no matter how much you love your children, they are still people with personalities of their own, and that as such, there is no way you could possibly be happy with them at all times.

My daughter and I clash on a regular basis. She may only be five, but she has a definite personality, and it does not mesh well with mine. I came to terms with the shouted accusation that I’m a “mean Mum” a long time ago. That doesn't make it hurt any less, but I know that someday she will be the mean Mum, and she’ll look back on her childhood and realize that I really wasn’t that mean after all. That someday, in the future, her daughter will be reflecting on her childhood and thinking the same thing. At least that’s what I tell myself, so I have the strength to get through her third meltdown of the day because I wouldn’t buy her the shiny/sparkly/pretty/though ultimately useless piece of plastic that she suddenly can’t live without.

So, for all you struggling Mums, hang in there. I’d like to say it will get better, but I honestly don't know if it will. I've only been doing this for five years, so the jury is still out at my house. I think it changes as they age. It becomes a different dance. Not really better or worse, easier or harder, just different. All I can do is hope I can learn the steps fast enough so I don’t stumble and fall, because I'm fresh out of Band-Aids.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Never Happy?

Back in August, my daughter started Kindergarten. Not half day two or three times a week, but all day 8:15 AM to 3:00 PM Monday through Friday Kindergarten. I was torn between being happy that she was getting to be such a big girl, and had dreams of all the time I would have for writing during the day while she was at school, but then there were other days where I was sad. Sad to realize that she was no longer my baby, she was a big girl who would soon make lots of new friends, and have lots of new adventures without me.

My husband and I took her to school the first day, and I was so proud of myself for not crying in front of her. I managed to keep it together until we were walking back down the stairs to leave. My vision was suddenly blurry, and I had to stop on the stairs to collect myself so I wouldn’t go top over teakettle down the rest. I got myself under control, and once home, had the most productive morning of my life. Ever.

It was strange to be in the house alone, knowing that R was at work, as always, but still listening for the rustling movement of my angry midget, a peel of laughter at the cat’s antics, the sound of her voice as she tried to train the dog, but all that answered my ears was silence. A few times, I started to go look for her, to see what she was getting into, because she had to be getting into something, she had been quiet for too long, only to realize that she wasn’t home, she was in some else’s care for the day.

Here I had spent the majority of the summer looking forward to the first day of school so I could get really serious about my writing, and when the first day arrived, I did everything but write. I did every household chore I could think of to surround myself with M’s things. I did laundry and put her clothes away. I cleaned her room. I sorted out her too small clothes. And I missed her more than I ever thought I possibly could. That is, until I was ready to leave for an appointment with the insurance agent.

There was no one else to coordinate with, so I was ready to go in less than 5 minutes. In the car, I turned to see if she was buckled in her car seat yet, and had a moment of panic when she wasn’t there, but all of that was cake compared to the punch to the solar plexus that I received when I started the car and her favorite song was on the radio. I lost it. Right there in my driveway, I just fell apart. I missed her so much, and I felt so silly because she was just at school. I would be picking her up in just a few hours, but in that moment, it felt like the world was finding every opportunity to point out that she had moved on to the next stage in her life, and left me behind with her board books and sippy cups.

I eventually got used to her being away all day, and fell into a rhythm. Then Christmas break came knocking…

I was dreading it. Twenty-one days of cold and snow, and the first seven were before Christmas so there wouldn’t even be any new toys to keep her busy.

Somehow I managed, but the whole time I was counting the days until school started back up and I was able to get back to my routine. Now, here I am sitting in bed, un willing to get up and go to the gym, because I miss her, and wish I had just one more day of Christmas vacation with her because there is still so much I want to do with her. I was up when she left this morning with her dad (I was able to save her from a dad induced hair emergency) and actually felt a tear roll down my cheek when I closed the door behind them.

This leads me to ask the question: Are we as mothers, fathers, people in general, society as a whole, ever really happy? Do we even know how to be happy? Or are we doomed to always want that which we cannot have, or which we have just given up? Is there a way to just be happy with what we have, who we are, and where we are in life, or is it just not in the human DNA to just accept and survive without longing for something else, something different, something past, or something just out of reach?

Mom’s are supposed to have all the answers, but this is one thing I don’t think I’ll ever have the answer to no matter how long I live, or how many years I am a mother.