“A mother is not a person to lean on, but a person to make leaning unnecessary.”

11 Dec

Weekly I receive comments on my “Cannot be a mother anymore” post thanking me for my candor, for putting it out there and saying what we all think so often.

WHY are we afraid to talk about it?

Surely I’m not the only woman and mother who will open her mouth and say “Dammit, some days this SUCKS.” I complain about my job all the time-yet no one thinks I’m an ungrateful wretch for that. No one questions my loyalty to my job, or my competence if I have a bad day and spend it swearing and bitching.

Why aren’t mother’s, or rather, parent’s given the same leeway? Why are we assumed to be angelic and on high and above being human?

Perhaps if I had wanted my kids, I’d feel a little guilty for somedays wanting to sell them to the circus. But they were surprises, gifts you could say, and I’ve always allowed myself a margin of loathing and annoyance. Because you know what? Kids can be annoying. Just like your husband can be, your wife, your pod mate, the smelly guy on the bus. Loving them, wanting them, doesn’t make them any less irritating.

The current culture of beautiful creatures who are perfect beyond all measure as our children is ultimately going to isolate us from them even more. My children are human! Smaller, sillier, smellier humans, but humans nonetheless. They did not come from my womb any more perfect that I did. They are imperfect, and will irritate me. They will tire me out, they will make me question my day, and my reasoning when I insisted I did want to keep the baby.

It is so normal to want to walk away sometimes-it is so normal to not be some idealized concept of a mother that I have trouble believing that so many of us get caught in the lies. And yet, we do. We tell ourselves that “good” mothers never get angry. “Good” mothers never want to run away to Nepal for a year. “Good” mothers never feed the kids Kraft Dinner and Chicken Nuggets for dinner, let alone pancakes or eggs. “Good” mothers know their place, and subsume themselves in their kids.

I am doing my daughters a grave disservice is I become their everything. What sort of model am I presenting to them if I don’t make them use their noggins, make them think their way through a problem? What sort of example am I setting if I don’t show them that yes, Mommies and Daddies get annoyed, have blue days, have cranky days, just like them. And we work through it. Will their life be better if I place rose colored glasses on their eyes and leave them there until they’re 16? Will their lives be better if my life is a lie?

I refuse. I absolutely refuse. And perhaps because of my illness, it’s easier for me to do so. I don’t have the energy to pretend to be PTA mom. I don’t have the energy to run them all over town for “enrichment”. I don’t have the energy to not sometimes say “I’m running away to join the circus.”

Ultimately-it IS up to us how we mother. It IS our decision if we’ll feel badly for our honesty, or if we’ll use it to show our daughters and sons that look-life IS hard. Having kids is hard! But there is so much beauty, and satisfaction in this hard thing, and at the end of the day, it IS worth it.

Even when you stick your finger in my dinner.


14 Responses to ““A mother is not a person to lean on, but a person to make leaning unnecessary.””

  1. radical mama December 11, 2007 at 11:18 am #

    I am honest with my kids up to a point. I don’t want them to have an unrealistic idea of motherhood, or to not be able to come to me when they struggle as mothers because they think I won’t understand.

    But they are also children who do not need to understand the full extent of the stress I feel as a mother. I don’t fight with John every time he irratates me. I wouldn’t tell my boss every time I was annoyed by something at work. I pick my battles with my kids like I would with anyone else.

    Being a mother was a choice I made (although in near total ignorance, I now realize) and I never want my children to feel guilty for being in the world.

    My mom had a strange way of simultaneously martyring herself for us, and making us feel guilty for her situation in life which obligated us to provide for her happiness in a very cumbersome way. We felt like both a burden and her sole reason for living at the same time, which was very confusing. I do NOT want my daughters to feel the resentful sort of attachment I have towards my mom.

  2. bromac December 11, 2007 at 11:19 am #

    I certainly don’t know why parents, namely mothers, feel that they can’t be honest about their feelings surrounding their children.

    But I also caution you to remember that everyone is unique and, although they may be lying when they say they never become annoyed, they may not have the exact feelings as you do.

    I have days when my daughter drives me absolutely insane. Days when I wonder how in the world she could possibly be whinier, etc. But, in all honesty, I have never wanted to run away from her. I could never leave her. She is the reason I did not succomb to the darkest days of my life thus far. She is the reason I am medicated, and haven’t succombed to those long-ago yearnings.

    That does not mean I am any better than you, for not having had the thoughts you do. Just that we all have different thoughts. Honesty, yes; uniformity, no.

  3. Candy December 11, 2007 at 11:26 am #

    This is a very touchy subject, isn’t it. I hate to say this, maybe have never said it out loud, but there are times when I feel things about my oldest daughter that shame me. But she is difficult. And she will admit it. She challenges and pushes and is spiteful and mean. She’s hard to love, 100% of the time.

    But you’re right. She’s mine, and while I don’t always like her, and in fact sometimes hate her (yes there it is, there are times when I frigging hate that girl) I love her with every pulse of my heart. And I know that some day, when she stops needing me to prove I love her every stinking minute of every stinking day, we’ll be friends. It’s that knowledge that keeps me sane.

  4. thordora December 11, 2007 at 11:31 am #

    That’s true Bromac-we don’t all want to disappear. I guess what I’m tired of is this attitude that we can’t sometimes just go ARGH! without it being a criminal offence against our kids. Like RM said-I don’t go to my boss with every little nit picky thing-but I do bitch about the crappy parts of my jobs.

    I remember my parents as never complaining, even when they SHOULD have. I could have had a more realistic view of parenting if I would have remembered just a little humanity.

  5. thordora December 11, 2007 at 11:32 am #

    Candy-my father says the same thing about my brother. “I love him, but I sure as hell don’t always like him!”

    We have ambivalent feelings about all the people in our lives-why are our children excepted?

  6. Marcy December 11, 2007 at 1:03 pm #

    I keep meaning to write a post called “everyone is annoying” — it’s so freeing to just know that everyone, myself included, is annoying sometimes, and that it’s not an insurmountable obstacle to love and healthy relationship.

  7. Netter December 11, 2007 at 2:27 pm #

    Would it be flip to say “because we’re women and we were put on this earth to serve others and not be allowed to express feelings of our own or want the right to self-determination”? I do think that men are not held to this same standard of having to think their spawn are angels all the time. They’re not nurturing womb creatures who’s sole purpose in life is to push out babies. I go through lots of bad feelings toward my son. I try to let him know it’s the situations we’re going through that make me angry or that I hate, not him. I’m succesful most of the time.

  8. bine December 11, 2007 at 3:00 pm #

    i think wanting to run away and join the circus (as long as it wouldn’t be the same circus you’re selling your daughters to) doesn’t make you a bad mother. no, i think you must be a wonderful mother for your honesty. how could they get a clear picture of how having children themselves will be if you would sugar-coat it?
    i think many people today just happen to have children without questioning, because that’s what people usually do after getting an education and/or getting married. with some of them i can’t help but think that they should have thought twice about having kids, because they’re either constantly annoyed by or totally ignorant of them. it makes me sick to see people mistreat their children because they blame them for their own miserable lives. in germany in the past year we have had a bad series of cases of child abuse, starvation and torture that made me want to yell for a child-bearing license.
    i think if it was possible for these people to talk about their situation – why they feel swamped, desperate, deprived, whatever – they wouldn’t be so likely to crack up. but it seems completely impossible to voice this in our society. if you are a mother, you are supposed to love it 100%, all of the time. and seriously, nobody does.

  9. thordora December 11, 2007 at 3:03 pm #

    oh bine, I’ve read some of the stories coming out of germany. Horrible. Horrible.

    BTW-did you still want some Peanut Butter chips? Email me your address and I’ll send some over. 🙂

  10. caitlinoh December 11, 2007 at 5:21 pm #

    Well, I’ve given up trying to say I’ve had a shitty day mostly because I’ve discovered being a stay home mom isn’t a real job. Having a bad day isn’t a competition, but sometimes you just need to say “I had a really fucking shitty day”, whether it was caused by an idiot coworker who managed to delete the source code and the backup or your child going through the last throes of the terrible twos and the beginning of the theatric threes simultaneously. A bad day is a bad day, but it’s just that much worse if you’re barred from saying it because your job isn’t “real” enough.

    I have to wonder if PPD is more common these days because a lot of people tend to treat anything child related as “It came from your uterus, your problem”.

  11. nyjlm December 12, 2007 at 12:04 am #

    recently I was trying to relate to my husband that, while I can accept being the beam that holds the house/family up, what happens when I need someone to lean on? Who holds me up? It is so hard, and some of the self-destructive things I do are simply me trying to join the circus without actually leaving home.
    Thank you for being so honest. Even with all of the delicious, heart-bursting moments, it is so damn hard.

  12. allyo December 12, 2007 at 12:07 am #

    I constantly walk a fine line between knowing that keeping my patience and my voice calm will actually get us to wherever I need us to be (teeth brushed, breakfast eaten, out the door, etc.) and feeling like it’s perfectly VALID for me to let my child know I am not pleased with him.

    Ugh. More to say but it’s late and the kid has a cold and is coughing and will probably wake up any minute and I need to get to bed and stake my claim before he shows up and shoves me to the edge.

    And so goes motherhood.

  13. daureen December 12, 2007 at 6:46 pm #

    I encounter the same crap with the pregnancy. For some reason, no one wants to talk about the bad days, the nasty stuff… the discharge and gas and mood swings and fat rolls. Only one of my friends gives me the straight scoop about pregnancy, childbirth and newborns. She’s the only one who says, “you know, sometimes all of this really sucks and you want to run away from it all.”

  14. thordora December 12, 2007 at 7:54 pm #

    I’m that person. I’m sure I offend some people, but personally, I find the people who run around saying “You can’t go curling or take a bath at 10 weeks” to be evil.

    And yes, I actually know people who say shit like that.

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