People talk a lot about how social media only presents one side of reality– the lovely side. I have written about that before, and about how I don’t really have a problem with it. Currently our world has some pretty devastatingly hideous aspects to it (and our country does too…) so we could all use a little bit of loveliness from time to time. That being said, as a mother, a woman, and just an all around human, I find growth not in perceived perfection but in joint struggle. If that makes sense. I’m Tired with a capital T lately.
These photos were taken last weekend when I had a real outfit on (I do love this sweater with a passion) and had done my hair and was feeling pretty together. But in general, this week hasn’t been like that. I love being a mother. And I feel that I am pretty good at it…but sometimes I fail so spectacularly that it is almost comical. I think the biggest issue is that I am pretty tightly wound. Which is a little confusing because I consider myself a laid back person. I am not terribly particular. I don’t demand for things to be a certain way all the time. I am generally able to go with the flow. But at the same time I get really, really stressed really, really quickly. I admire women with multiple children that just sort of seem to let the crazy wash over them and smile or laugh our completely ignore it. I don’t know if that is an innate skill (in which case, I am lacking it) or something they have nurtured out of necessity (in which case, I have some serious nurturing to do) but I just don’t have it. Yet.
Part of my issue is that I have a fine tuned sense of guilt…which I am, of course, tempted to blame on MY mother who had her own fine tuned sense of guilt built through a tapestry of evangelical Christianity with just enough catholic sensibility to keep things interesting. But isn’t that always the go-to? To blame our mothers? And dear god, now I am a mother and I sure don’t want Redmond to start storing up his issues to blame on me in a few decades. No. Better to take the responsibility of it having been fashioned through life. My own life, through my own childhood and into this bizarre and terrifying world of adulthood. All of that to say, I expect myself to just succeed at an awful lot. At work, at marriage, at parenthood, at friendship. I expect to maintain a clean house. I expect myself to cook a really good, interesting, healthy meal every night. I expect myself to stay fit and never miss a workout. I expect myself to keep up this blog with some regularity. I expect myself to be dazzlingly successful at social media. I expect myself to be fully informed of everything going on in our country and world. The list just keeps going, and when one of the little spinning plates starts to wiggle, I am immediately convinced that ALL the plates are about to come crashing down and that it is my fault for being such a failure and such a big fat mess. I imagine this is familiar to most of us. I DON’T imagine that I am remotely unique in this. It’s basically what women put ourselves through and have put ourselves through for all of history.
The problem, the real problem, with all of this is that when I am feeling those jabs of stress and failure (Which in the winter months is always a bit more present) my patience gets hit first. Suddenly the fact that my poor stuffy nosed toddler won’t eat his food like he usually does becomes an absolutely astronomical issue. It becomes the new reality. It becomes, not just a temporary thing to sail through quietly and with a gentle understanding that Redmond doesn’t realize he should eat, that he only knows he doesn’t feel well and food isn’t good because he can’t taste anything with his stuffed nose. Instead, it is an affront to me. “What is wrong with you? You love cauliflower. Why don’t you eat anymore?” And as I’m saying it, I’m telling myself to be quiet. Leave him alone. But, of course I don’t listen to myself. Why would I?
When I am rushing to get out of the house in time, and Redmond won’t brush his teeth, I feel this frustration just welling up inside me. If the dog brushes against my legs depositing fur all over me, it is World War III. Because I can’t just let it slide. I can’t just give his teeth a quick brush and be done with it. It has to be thorough. I have to win. As if Redmond is busy keeping a score card like I apparently am with a check list reading”Redmond, 4. Mom, 6. I’m getting close.” I can’t just brush the dog fur off and keep going. I suddenly blame it on her like she PURPOSEFULLY SHED A LITTLE EXTRA just to spite me.
Some weeks, I feel like I am away from Redmond a lot. I am not a full time stay at home mom, and having grown up with one, I think I expect to be both. A working mother who is also somehow simultaneously a full time stay at home mom. Last night after Redmond went to bed, I was just hit heavily with all of my shortcomings, all of my failures (see that guilt there?) throughout the week. The moments where I had raised my voice. The times when I had felt that choking frustration rushing to my head. The times when I had scolded him for tiny things, for things that didn’t really matter. And for all the hours I had been away from him…leaving him (I imagined) only with the memories of my displeasure in him. “Does he know that I love him?” I asked my husband. A stupid question. Of course he knows that I love him. I tell him a thousand times a day. I tell him with words, with kisses, with smiles, with hugs, with my absolute infatuation of him, my precious little son. They call it “mom guilt” but I am more inclined to call it “woman guilt.” Something that has been groomed throughout the centuries and leaves us feeling like most of the world is resting on our shoulders. And you know what? Maybe it would be better if the world WERE resting on our shoulders. But, as it stands, it is not. As it stands, my son loves me. Even if I do lose my temper sometimes, even if I can be impatient, and testy, and short with him. I realized today while I walked with him on my back and our dog on her leash, that so often, HE is not the problem. And for that matter she (the dog) is not either. I am the problem. And not in a I am a problem, I’m such a mess, blah blah self hatred kind of way. No, I am the problem in that all I need to do in most of these situations is breathe. Get outside. Realize it’s not that important. Its my outlook, in those moments, that is the issue. Easier said than done. Easy to write this while he sleeps, deeply, a really long nap for his second day in a row. Harder to implement later perhaps if he doesn’t eat his dinner, and I am hit with worry about his skinny little body and, good lord Redmond you are not built in a manner that allows you to go a week barely eating! Get it together! But. If I write it out, sometimes (often) it serves as a reminder. I always tell my little students that writing things down helps to cement the learning, and it does. For me at least, it does.