The job of a full time parent includes a lot of tasks, none of which is quite as important as the moral and ethical compass we must constantly provide for our little people. Ok, an overstatement you say, fine. Maybe feeding them is more important, but assuming that we are filling them with calories on a daily basis, the moral compass thing is super important. And it's constant. All. The. Time. All the time they are watching us and they are gauging our responses to different tricky encounters and situations. We're it. Did I mention it's all the time that they are watching? Except when they're sleeping, but be careful, because they're tricky little monsters and sometimes you think they are sleeping and you admit out loud that you think your neighbor is totally crazy town and also kind of a bitch and then it turns out that the sweet monsters (the kids, not the neighbors) are actually just lying in their beds being super quiet hoping you'll say something interesting that they can bring up at the next inopportune moment. Or not, maybe your kids go straight to sleep every night. Whatever.
Anyway, the moral compass thing: I just had a very trying visit with my in-laws and I spent an exorbitant amount of time doing a shitty job explaining that the way their well intentioned grandparents love them is not intended to make them feel bad. (Even though it kind of does sometimes) Explaining how, if a friend was treating them the way their grandparents sometimes do, they should get new friends, yet also, asking them to understand these 85 year olds who still think it's ok to yell a lot for no real reason and I'm asking my girls to tolerate it. My in-laws' communication is not evolving into a kinder more understanding dynamic as they age. In fact, since I have known them, it has devolved. My girls pick up on this. They don't like getting yelled at for sure, but they also don't like listening to someone else get yelled at. The whole thing is stressful and I'm wondering about the example I am setting. Because so far, my actions are telling them that sometimes you have to accept love that doesn't make you feel good and the truth is, I don't believe this. I don't want them to settle for a love that doesn't make them feel awesome. I need to do a better job because we get to define what kind of love we will take. It is not the giver of said love. It's the receiver. I get to decide and my sweet babies get to decide.
Today I hated them. I know that hate is a strong word. If I accidentally use that word to describe anything other than murder or mosquitos buzzing in my ear, Little E will remind me, "Mama, hate is a strong word." Yes, I know. But I think, for a moment, I actually might have hated them. The squabbling, the crying, the super irritating defeatism that rears it's ugly head during A's daily homework, the crying, the crying! That fucking crying is just so loud.
It's over, the crying that is, and they're in bed trying very hard not to fall asleep and I no longer hate them.
I once accidentally voiced a sentiment not even as strong as hate on Facebook and I was met with a barrage of mean comments all suggesting that maybe I shouldn't have chosen to be a mother and certainly I had no business being a stay at home mother since clearly I was bitter and angry.
I was too new at being a mama to know that those commenters were idiots. Instead, I believed them. I thought that if this job was kicking my butt, which it was, and that sometimes I didn't love my babies very much, which sometimes I didn't, or if, God forbid, I even hated them a teeny tiny bit for a second, or that sometimes I hated the job itself, that I must be bitter and angry at best, and probably also incompetent. Because I was awash in feelings of shame and embarrassment and self doubt, I didn't have the where with all to process the fact that after a patient vomits in a nurse's face and he mutters on his way out of the room, "This fucking job," no one calls him bitter and angry. No one suggests that he shouldn't be a nurse. People think, "Yep, that is one hard and messy job." When a Nike exec complains about all the after hours work he puts in, no one suggests that maybe he shouldn't have chosen that career. People commiserate. It's a difficult climate and they suggest that Nike should not be expecting its employees to put in so much extra time. And they suggest that they should all go out for a drink and trash Nike for the evening.
There is little of this type of forgiveness in the parenting world. If you have chosen to be a stay at home parent (or any kind of parent) you are supposed to smile and wax sentimental about how fast the time is going. I do that. I do, because, truly the time is flying. Just like all the elders of my community told me that it would. And much of it (some of it) is very sweet time, but let's not pretend that we don't sometimes hate it a little bit. And sometimes, some of us, hate the sweet babies a little bit too. Just a little bit. And just for a second. It's ok. There's nothing wrong with us. This job is really hard and the hours suck. So does the pay. And, don't even get me started on the benefits package.
And we love it too. And, holy shit, do we ever love these babies. This is a love far more fierce than I ever imagined. Sometimes I look at them and I think that I truly might just burst or overflow with how much muchness is now contained in my body. They are filling me up. And I love them. And the job of keeping them safe and happy and fulfilled and in clean clothes and sleeping on clean sheets and eating healthy yummy food and peeing in a clean bathroom is just a really fucking big job that never ever ends and that is exhausting. And, the truth is, parts of it, like the bathroom cleaning and clothes washing are not very fulfilling.
And then this (that wonderful little naked baby on the right) happens and again with the super fullness. We are lucky to have this ridiculously difficult job and when we are done hating it, we'll be grateful.
Cut yourself a break. It's ok.
On Saturday I went out with my college girlfriends. They're awesome and I wish I saw them more than 3 times a year. They are funny and smart and they've known me for 20 years, but they are not my family. Yes, we are all wearing the same owl shirt. See?! Funny, but not my family. So, obviously I was plagued with guilt. We had just gotten back from a week away, which could mean that since I'd just spent nearly every minute (really ev-er-y minute!) of the last 7 days with my family, that it was no big deal to be gone for a few hours. But instead, to me, it meant the following: I shouldn't have left today. There's loads of crap all over the house to be put away. The kids are going to be a collective pain in the ass as they settle back in. My husband will be saddled with all the work and he'll be mad at me for going and ditching him . . . and on and on. Because of all of that I promised to be back before dinner, thinking that would ease the pain of being left. However, (and this has happened before . . . more than one time) I didn't make it back in time for dinner. I had to sheepishly call at 5:00 and confess that I wasn't going to make it. More guilt! And, my husband was a little put out. Rightfully so. He wasn't planning on making dinner.
When I got home the kids were bathed and fed, the crap was still all over the house, and my husband was not irritated with me. He'd gotten over it. Lucky me! There are all sorts of morals to this story but the most important take away for me was this: life in my family goes on just fine without me. That doesn't mean they don't need me. They just don't need me ALL THE EFFING TIME! Also, I deserve to have a break. And, also this: my partner is competent and capable. I'll say it again, he is competent and capable and he loves our girls just as fiercely as I do. And that's awesome. It doesn't diminish what I do. Being a full time parent and caretaker of the house is an enormous amount of work, but our partners (or babysitters) can handle the kids for a few hours, while we take a break. In fact it diminishes them when we suggest that they can't do it without us. Of course they can! And the guilt? We gotta let that shit go. It's not good for any of us.
I yelled. And it felt shitty. My sweet girl was scared. I was mad. Really mad and incredulous and irritated. And mad! "Just do your fucking homework," I yelled as I slammed a little pink eraser down on the table. It feels awful to lose your cool. If it's never happened to you, then stop reading and go to some other blog where the author is perfect. Oh, wait there exists no such person? Hah! Then keep reading, because it will happen to you one day. Probably.
I stormed back to my computer where I was futilely trying to print my completed tax forms (I can't file electronically this year because my (and my entire family's) identity was stolen and my taxes filed by some A-hole bad guy. But that's another post). I couldn't get it to print, then I did and I ran out of paper and I printed on the back of old Christmas paper. Then I ran out of ink and had to replace a cartridge. Oh. My. God!!! Why is life sometimes so difficult?!
No wonder I was pissed. Probably it didn't have much to do with A and her homework after all. Or it did and she's just so empathic that she felt my stress and took it on and turned into a little stress ball herself and therefore couldn't do her homework without a lot of tears and whining. Which I had no patience for because I was stressed. Damn it!!! Parenting is so effing difficult.
In case you missed it . . . It didn't have much to do with her and she is so sensitive that she took it upon herself to feel super stressed out on my behalf. Not that her behavior wasn't super irritating. It was! But, she's 7. She's doing exactly as sensitive little 7 year olds do.
I stepped outside and took a couple dozen deep breaths. I came back in and apologized. It felt good to say I was sorry. That yelling was my mistake. I hugged her and hugged her. She cried and said, "I'm just so stressed out. I don't know why." Oh sweet baby.
I'm Molly. I'm all in for parenting. I'm all in for good food. All in for big and small outdoor adventures. And really only partly in for homemaking. I want a Martha Stewart home and meal, but the truth is, we mamas just can't do it all. Not really. This shit is tricky!
This is a collection of musings and missives about parenting like you mean it. I mean really mean it. About how you can pull off a really mostly decent meal, keep your house kinda clean, do some of your laundry, and also even remember to usually feed your pets. But mostly about how being a mama is hard and we can totally rock it, but maybe that dream of perfection has got to give a little.