I’m sitting at a café, alone. Just ordered lunch. This never happens. I’ve been under a lot of stress lately, so I granted myself a mental health day (I should be at work). That never happens either. The playing hooky from work that is, not stress. Right now, at this moment, I’m free. This time is mine. I need it.
I still feel guilty though.
This morning I snapped and told my four year old to ‘get in the *freaking* car.’ The shame was instant. I know I’m not the first exasperated mama to lose her shit, but hearing that kind of language directed at a child (at anyone!) is usually the very thing that makes my blood boil. There I was, in the carport, screaming obscenities at my innocent, beautiful, shocked children. It’s the first time I’ve sworn at them, I don’t want it to ever happen again. And you know the worst part is we had been having a great morning. I woke up happy, the kids woke up happy, eating breakfast and getting dressed was easy, it was a smooth morning. Until. One miniscule incident of accidental hair pulling resulted in an unintended Buzz Lightyear to the foot which resulted in crazy-pain-hopping which knocked the baby over. Three children crying. The hair-pullee was wailing, clutching the side of her head like she’d been shot (no idea where she gets her sense of drama from). The space rangered toddler was half-hopping, half-stomping around the kitchen screaming ‘ow, ow, ow ow’ to the rhythm of Mary had a little lamb (which he actually sings as Mummy had a little lamp, cute, yes?), and the baby was still in a crumpled heap on the floor cry-cry-crying with real tears. In a nano-second I went from gathering belongings to bouncing a baby/rubbing a head/soothing a foot, all with offensively pitched screeches of ‘wah’ ‘ow’ ‘m-m-m-m-yyyyyyy haaaaaaaiiiiiiiirrrrr’ right in my ear. How.the.heck did our lovely morning disintegrate so quickly? Why is it so damn precarious?
One moment, we’re happy and laughing and cuddling and playing, the next I’m pulling a toddler off a baby and removing throwing implements from a pre-schooler while every member of our family is manifesting their frustration either physically or verbally and OMG I just stood on a piece of Lego! Honestly, that’s literally how unpredictable things are. And, I hate it, because I love answers, I love plans and explanations, I research and figure things out, I come up with solutions and ideas. ‘Just because’ doesn’t really work for me.
Is it just because I have a just-turned-four-year-old, a two and half year old, and a 12 month old and precarious and unpredictable is just our reality? Is it because in the moments when then they need me I’m distracted cooking tea or hanging out washing or replying to an email, and I’m not teaching them how to express themselves appropriately? Is it because they don’t get enough sleep (though I’m sure they do)? Is it simply just because of their ages and stages and phases and I need to go with it? Is it because I once used a Ouija board and pissed off an evil old gypsy who has cursed me? Is it like this at your house? Is it?
In the seconds immediately after a group meltdown I feel completely, utterly defeated. Deflated. Spent. Forsaken. Beaten. Weakened (admitting this brings all of those feelings back again). Sometimes my heart is racing. I’m emotionally and physically drained. I feel like I failed. Failed them, failed me, failed that particular motherhood test time this. I think I handled whole thing terribly. I tell myself that next time it happens (in 37 seconds) I’ll get down on their level, speak softly, explain things, remove the danger, stay calm, diffuse. I know how to do it right. But too often the breakdown is upon me without warning and I’m rescuing one child from the angry windmill arms of another and defending the third from any wayward limbs and flying objects. It’s freaking hard, and while I have no answers I do have a rogue theory on why I feel the way I do about being less of a mother than I should be.
It’s because I’m crap and every other mother copes fantastically. Every other mum is doing it better than me. Other mothers don’t lose it like I do. Other mothers are better role models for their children. Other mothers don’t need little victories the way I do. Other mothers manage being time-poor and tired better than I do. They have tantrum diffusing personalities, they are natural mums. Other mothers are just better. Or so my inner voice tells me.
As I said earlier I like answers, so of course I have delved a little deeper with this. Stay right there while I step up onto my soapbox for a second…
STOP SHARING SERMONS AND ANECDOTES ON HOW MOTHERS SHOULD BE DOING IT BETTER!
You know the ones, the ‘What I wish I could say to every first time mother’, the ’10 things I regret not doing with my children’, the ‘Five reasons why turning off the television will be the best thing you do today.’ I know, I know, I sound like a bitter cynic who swears at her children. But puhleeese! You want me to believe that asking my kids to hurry up will damage their precious little souls forever and ever? That sleeping with them will destroy their independence, and not sleeping with them spark feelings of unworthiness? That being a working mum is wrecking them and their attachment to the female ideal? For serious? Don’t get me wrong, an uplifting tale about beauty being all around us and appreciating each moment has its place, but it seems every second social media update and news story is a tiny bit condescending, patronising or smells a bit like misplaced-inspiration, and most importantly, very few of those posts are not sending the message that we should be sending (at least not the ones I’ve read).
So, I hear you beg, what’s the message we should be sending? Well, get off your knees because Mama (the Oracle) in Wonderland has it right here for you;
Being a mother is hard. Damn hard. It’s hard whether you have a two day old baby or a 27 year old son. It’s the hardest thing you’ll ever do, and it’s absolutely ok to admit out loud to strangers, to your mother-in-law, to your neighbour, to everyone, that it’s hard. You don’t have to pretend that it’s all rosy and organic and handmade, it only needs to be like that some of the time. Yes, it’s beautiful and amazing and you’ll never, ever regret it, but it’s H.A.R.D., and it will define (consume/become/own) you for quite some time. Hard.
We’ve fallen into a Pinterest- promoted, Facebook-fuelled, Instagram-inspired mentality where we unite in what we think everyone else should be doing. We bake or buy or barter Pastry Chef style birthday cakes, we seek age appropriate playgroups, teach them to write their name, and then we tell everyone about it and complement each other’s children on their cleverness. It’s misplaced motivation on Redi-Pred.
The Psychologist I see (yes, I see a Psych, no surprise there!) said recently that there’s never been as much pressure on mother’s as there is now. Yay to her, boo to us. Where does this pressure come from? Probably not from the besties you hang with, but most likely from the mother-hood. So this I say to you from the safety of my very large soapbox; go easy out there sunshine! There are impressionable, hormonal, tired women just trying to keep their heads above water, live like Johnny Farnham and take the pressure down ladies. Inspiring announcements are often only inspiring to the author, the rest of us can’t live like mother-goddesses who have serotonin coursing through our veins and a well-intended message of support might actually end up being a smack in the face of ‘do it like this, do it better’.
In most cases, our children are going to be a-ok regardless of whether they eat spelt sandwiches, sleep wrapped or toilet train at a ‘normal’ age. Truly. Majority of the mothers on your friends list are doing a damn fine job. How about you tell them that, because it’s possible that their day started out just fine and disintegrated into a shrieking mess than left them feeling completely alone despite the constant company of small humans who haven’t let her pee alone for six years.
Or, that could just be me, but I don’t think it is because it’s hard. For everyone.
Mama out (and off the soapbox. For now).