Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Motherhood: A healthy dose of guilt sprinkled with some insecurity

There are days, more often than not recently, that I feel like I’m falling apart as a mother. I look around and realize that I’m not living up to the insane expectations I set for myself when I became pregnant with Sam. Now that I’m pregnant with Max, I have a whole new set of expectation that go along with that and I’m sinking while trying to stay afloat in the sea of motherhood. I have 7 weeks until Max is born and I have such a vast spectrum of emotions that I can’t decide which I feel strongest. Lately, I’ve felt that I can’t wait to get this pregnancy over with so I can move on from the extreme mood swings, the bone-crushing exhaustion and get back to being the (more) patient and (more) put-together mom I was last year. It is only then that I realize that the culmination of this pregnancy ends with a squirming and needy infant, whom I know nothing about but, naturally, have formed expectations for in addition to the ones I have made for myself.

And for Sam.

I’m thinking that Max will be like his brother in most ways, or completely opposite. Sam will either be the loving, doting big brother – anxious to help me with the baby and be patient and understanding when he has to come second for a short while or he’ll be jealous of Max and act out in defiance at this new intruder. As for me? I’ll be more confident and knowledgeable and much more calm because I’ve done this before, right?

Wrong. It is all wrong.

I really have no idea what the hell is about to happen. I just know that I’m so overwhelmed with choices and judgements and expectations that, on the really bad days, I border on apathy toward the whole fucking thing, this… Motherhood.

Don’t get me wrong. I love my family. I love them with every fiber of my being. I love being a mom. I just can’t stand the work. The uncertainty and the second-guessing is awful. Since I became pregnant with Sam, the choices and judgments started:

· You went to an infertility clinic to get pregnant? Couldn’t you just relax enough to conceive? Stress can cause infertility, you know.
· How much weight have you gained?
· Do you know that drink has caffeine?
· Are you going breastfeed?
· You had a c-section. I’ve heard that is easier than natural childbirth.
· You had a hotdog for lunch?
· You need to take it easy.
· You need to exercise.
· You took medicine for that migraine? I didn’t take anything when I was pregnant; it wasn’t worth the risk for me.
· You had a glass of wine?!

And on it goes. And it hasn’t stopped since. Sam is two and a half and I’m up to my ears in the shit:

· Is Sam potty trained yet?
· Does he participate in any extra-curricular activities like gym or story time?
· Does he still use a pacifier?
· Do you let him watch TV while he eats his meals?
· He goes to preschool? Isn’t he young for that?
· Does he know his ABCs and count to 20?
· Why is he so shy and what are you doing to foster more self-confidence in him?
· Do you ever spank your child?

I can’t count how many times I’ve heard from mothers of grown children, “We didn’t have that when we were raising our kids! You moms have it so easy these days!” This comment can reference things ranging from video monitors to temporal thermometers, travel systems and preschool for 2 year olds. There are SO many choices today that I can’t make up my mind about a damn one and I end up standing with thumb up my ass wondering if I’m some how screwing up my kid because he watches TV (something I didn’t want until he was age 5. How laughable that seems to me now.) Our generation is so hell bent on raising kids that are better, faster, smarter than those that came before them that all cartoons have to be educational, babies in diapers are starting “school” and moms have to be well-balanced super women (working or stay-at-home) and do it all with a smile.

Well, I call bullshit.

Fact is, I haven’t washed my hair since Saturday. My carpet hasn’t been vacuumed in at least a month and we’re having frozen pizza for dinner tonight. I am EXHAUSTED with the number of choices I have to make in a day and the guilt that follows ANY choice I make because the latest research suggests otherwise, no matter what you choose. I do want to stay at home full time to raise my kids, but I don’t love every minute of it. I look at my son and think of what a blessed miracle he is but I often feel like a failure as a mother, mainly because I’m not overflowing with happiness and glee every minute of every day. I resent the sacrifices that I’ve had to make only because society thinks I should be automatically happy because being a “Mom” makes me so. There are days that I wake up and wonder what my day will bring, not because I haven’t planned it out, but because my toddler and his moods often dictate the kind of day we’ll have. There are days when I look at Sam and think he is made of pure sugar and I could just eat him up. And then there are days that I wonder, “What the hell happened to me?”

Does anyone else feel this way? Am I alone with these feelings? Is anyone else on this ride with me - feeling the ups and downs and wanting to get off only to stand in line and ride again?


Anonymous said...

Hey Shannon. I just stumbled onto your blog and found your post to be refreshingly honest. I am a sahm as well and have struggled with much of what you are talking about, especially in the first year of my daughter's life.

It is so much work raising a family, keeping a household functioning, getting everyone where they need to be, cooking, cleaning, trying to be an attentive parent, keeping up to date on the latest recalls, etc. etc. etc.! It's enough to drive a person mad!

I don't have too much advice but I can at least tell you what I do to stay sane. First, I pray. Don't know if you believe in God or not but I do and praying helps me find perspective and comfort.

Also, I try to have a positive attitude and not to complain. I've found that it's very hard to stay positive if all I am doing is complaining. It's very easy for me to lapse into that negative place and then it seems as though nothing can go right.

Lastly, I just stay focused on the day in front of me. I can easily go on a future trip and worry about everything in the world that could possibly be wrong but when I just concern myself with what is going on for that day, it's not so overwhelming.

Thanks for your very honest rant... I could totally relate. If you ever want to check out my blog, it's evolvingmom.com.

Thanks and good luck with everything!

Anonymous said...

Hi Shannon,

I really just want to reach out and hug you, but can't do that at the moment so I will give you my thoughts for whatever that's worth.

All Mothers have doubts... we worry over our children while they are still in the womb and we will worry about them until God takes us home.

We all feel that we make mistakes that will ruin our kids for life... but they didn't come out with an Insruction manual so we need to trust our natural instincts much of the time.
I had 3 children pretty close in age.Sometimes I stayed at home when they were young and other times out of necessity I worked either full or part-time.In hindsight I wish that I had just stayed home and enjoyed those years. It didn't make us any wealthier and I was the one who was always feeling torn. In spite of all my mistakes they all turned out to be great people.
People will always try to give you advice... other Moms (this one included) will tell you how they do things (and their way is always right)or deliberately try to make you feel inferior. You can't let their opinions make you feel guilty. You love you son and you will love this new little one and you will make decisions based on your love for them.
Sam is a great little boy and it's very obvious that you love him and have given him lots of good attention. I have the privilege of watching Markey for Jen and my friends tell me I'm crazy. I get "you raised your kids, why should you be stuck baby sitting now?" I smile and think to myself... you have no idea what you're missing. I wouldn't trade this time for all of the tea in China.
Even for me... there are days when it isn't easy and I feel like I'm trying to juggle too many things... but I have learned that it really is ok to just let the house hold chores wait, frozen pizza is healthy and laps are for little boys to sit in and to be read to.
You are doing the most important job there is. Be gentle to yourself and understand who you are in Christ. I used to beat myself up about lots of things... read Psalm 139 and see who you are in God's eyes.

Anonymous said...

Shannon... came across this today and thought that I would share it with you.

Key Scripture: Genesis 1:27–31
So God created people in his own image; God patterned them after himself; male and female he created them. God blessed them and told them, “Multiply and fill the earth and subdue it. Be masters over the fish and birds and all the animals.” And God said, “Look! I have given you the seed-bearing plants throughout the earth and all the fruit trees for your food. And I have given all the grasses and other green plants to the animals and birds for their food.” And so it was. Then God looked over all he had made, and he saw that it was excellent in every way.
Mom’s Reflection
Amazing! “God created people in his own image,” and His creation “was excellent in every way”! The power of these truths can have a tremendous impact in our lives and in the lives of our children.
Think about it: we are created in the image of almighty God! Perhaps you don’t feel so God-like all the time. Me neither. But “created in his image” (quite obviously) doesn’t mean that we are exactly like God in all His supernatural power and splendor. Rather, it means we are a reflection of His person and character. We can reason. We can show love, patience, kindness and forgiveness. We have a soul, which sets us apart from the rest of creation.
When we are tempted to think, I just don’t have what it takes to be a good mom or God must have made a mistake when He made me, we can rest in the assurance that God has created us—and He did so in an excellent way. Our worth is based on the fact that we have been made by God himself to be like Him! Knowing that we bear God’s image ought to give us a positive view of ourselves and others, including our children and family members. Let us not criticize what God has made, but rather rejoice in His creation, knowing that He makes no mistakes.

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