a bad mother
We love listening to music in our house, from Classical to Metal; Country to Reggae; And everything else. A good jam can lighten the mood, fill the void, and be a good excuse to do some cardio. So when I first heard James Brown’s “The Boss” while he was driving to work; I couldn’t wait to put it LOUD in my living room, dancing with my kids. However, I am learning that children have a way of pulverizing your good intentions. They really know how to shit in your dreams. When you try something fun, you think they’ll love it, but they don’t. Or what they actually take away from the activity is not what you planned…
So I played the song; everyone had fun and enjoyed themselves. I sang along to my favorite line: “Look at me! Do you know what you see? You see a bad mother! A bad mother.” Great, right? Right up until my almost three year old son starts babbling about ‘Bad Moms’ – how they live in the woods, say ‘Roar’ and are generally very scary creatures. Swell! With me already somewhat insecure and too worried about what people think of my upbringing.
So I (seriously) joked about it with everyone. I told them about “The Boss” and that if you hear my daughter talk about a bad mother, she’s not talking about yours. He he! Beautiful! Putting aside my lack of foresight; the situation is a bit poetic. Why do I feel like I’m not doing well enough? -Although when I think about it, I’m doing really well! My children are intelligent, healthy and happy. We have a happy and normal family. So why the guilty conscience? Why do I feel like I’m under scrutiny?
It has been a process of letting go of insecurities. I am learning to recognize and debunk thoughts of impending failure, self-criticism that came from comparing myself to other moms. my children are happy even if we don’t do a crafty project every day. I am such a good father like who has more time for gardening and food preservation. I definitely can’t cook: but I can learn.
On social media, we want to put our best face forward, that’s mostly all we see from other moms and dads. Therefore, I am comparing myself to people who don’t exist! -They are my ideas of what a ‘perfect father’ would be. While I feel insecure for these reasons, I am also alone with my children for most of their lives. Perhaps if I had more friends and family in my daily life, I would have more real examples and experiences to base my parenting on. – Not to mention the downtime for I and not only my children.
It takes a town
I know I’m not the only new parent who feels this way; I have a feeling one of the reasons why: Parenting is much harder than we expected, and we have lost our proverbial ‘village’.
Everyone knows the saying: “It takes a village to raise a child.” The phrase is widely believed to have originated in Africa; others believe it has its roots in Native American culture. Either way, this well-known proverb comes from a time and place where people lived in community. It was a world where one’s neighbors were also close friends and family; where everyone played, worked, cried and celebrated together, always together. Today our society is compartmentalized. Most families are islands, as we generally have an “every man for himself” mentality. I feel that the community is very absent and it makes us sadder and sadder.
I miss the old days when families lived and worked together. As an honest kid from the ’80s, he, too, longed for a time not so long ago: when neighbors and friends would gather for barbecues and card games. – Before the Internet, television and smartphones ruined everything. Please understand that I’m not against technology: it’s a wonderful thing, especially as a new parent, to have all the answers at your fingertips. Support groups and forums can be extremely helpful. However, it’s no secret that while having these tools has bridged great distances between all of us, it can also drive a wedge between people in the same room.
We still need our aunts and uncles, cousins and grandparents. They have been replaced by digital babysitters. It used to be “Come play with auntie so mom can do the dishes.” Now it’s “do you want to see another movie? Okay, I guess so…”
He’s pulling to go see people. gotta plan Dress up the kids in cute clothes, bring extras, give them a bath and hold them. When we arrive at other people’s houses, I spend most of the visit chasing and scolding the children. There is very little sitting or uninterrupted conversation (the kind of adult that is sorely needed). There is chaos. We arrived home grumpy and exhausted. I’m temporarily refusing to leave my house, until they’re in high school. Having a healthy social life is very difficult with many young children…and I am lucky to have more help than most.
All the help you can get.
I am one of the lucky ones: I have an amazing husband. I know a lot of people don’t have that lifeline as they navigate the unexpectedly rough waters of parenthood. (To you single parents: Hats off.) We are so thankful for my in-laws who live right next to us. They are always there and willing to help. I am also thankful for my mom: she lives a few towns away, but she will always come to my aid: whether she has to work or is just having a bad day. These people, among others, make up my ‘tribe’.
While I know I have a lot of support, it’s still not enough. There are days I want to pull my hair out. Days I just don’t want -Mommy- for a moment. I murmur: “What was I thinking? I have no patience for this, I didn’t know anything about children, so I had two of them too close together, I suck at this…” I lost my cool. I yelled. I led her by the arm to the time-out chair. I growled.
So I apologize. Over and over again I ask these beautiful little monsters to forgive mom. She is doing her best. She is nothing like the mother she imagined herself to be, when she was ignorant. She is asking: “Where is my town?”
Realize the fight is real
I saw a joke that went something like: I used to be the perfect father, before I had kids. I couldn’t have said it better myself. I know that the people who judge me the harshest are the ones who don’t have life sentences of their own. I know because I used to be one of those people. “When I have children, they will never misbehave because I will be tough and consistent. That’s it, right?” I thought: “People much more ignorant than me, have children every day, we have this!” He didn’t know about the lack of sleep, the last bit of patience that was wearing thin. I didn’t plan on potty training and public disobedience. (I also didn’t plan on getting a chronic debilitating disease, but that’s a story for another article.)
Early in my pregnancy with baby number two, I met a woman who also had two girls about 15 months apart. When I told her that she was pregnant again, a look of concern appeared on her face. She told me that she felt overwhelmed. About being so frustrated that she yelled at her kids. “OH MY!” I thought, “I will NEVER yell at my babies!!” say oh Ha ha. say oh
Another close friend had a minor crisis one night: she left her house without saying anything to her children or her husband, got in her car and drove away. She checked into a hotel room and thus stepped away from life for a minute. It was a difficult time that she has since survived, with great success… But I ask: Where was her town?
I suggest a solution
I think as mothers we are afraid to ask for help because that feels like admitting inadequacy. We don’t want people to know that some days we’re in over our heads. We absolutely cannot admit for a second that we are not super moms 24/7. We get angry: We get sad. Many of us take antidepressant/anxiolytic medications.
I want to do something about it: I’m setting a personal goal to invite a friend over to my house once a week. I used to complain that people never come to see me, until I realized that maybe it’s because I don’t actively invite them. I’m making it a priority to go see a family member as often (as exhausting as it is). I’m going to start promoting group activities focused on doing daunting projects:
- window washing parts
- gardening meetings
- Woodcutting and stacking extravaganzas
- canning parties
- yard work shenanigans
Bring wine and chocolate. Bring beer and sausages; whatever the occasion and the company requires it. Next week go to someone else’s house and help them with whatever project is weighing them down. Just do it together. It’s not just “many hands make light work,” but coming together with real people to accomplish goals, no matter how big or small, is good for you, your family, and your community.
I will spend less time on social media. It makes us feel like we’re connecting, but we’re not. I’ll make phone calls and send cards. This is the task I set for myself this summer: encourage each other to get out of our houses and do things together. Let’s build a town.