Saturday, August 05, 2006

The solution for today's problem NOT brought to you by Mom!

Earlier today, when I was sewing curtains for the bathroom, Maddie called me from across the room, “Mom, mom! Come help me get a puzzle down from the shelf!” Somewhat exasperated, I turned to her and waved in the general direction of the rest of the family. “Maddie, look.” I said. “There are three other people in this room tall enough to reach your puzzle. NONE of them are working right now. WHY do you insist on asking the ONE person who IS working to help you solve your problem?”

I don’t know about you, but some days I want to put a big sign on my forehead: “This mom will NOT be the solver of your problems today. Go find someone else to fix the dvd player, wipe your bum, reach the glass in the cupboard, help you find clean underwear, and find the bike helmet that YOU lost in the garage.”

Also today, Nikki and Julie started fighting (over what, I’m not sure, but I think it was about something as stupid as who had to help dad peel bananas for the milkshakes). As usual, each turned to their defence mechanism of choice – Nikki started hitting, and Julie, always the martyr, shrieked that Nikki had hurt her and then ran into her room and slammed the door. Being the cruel and heartless mother that I am, I started laughing. Fortunately, I was alone in the bathroom at the time and they didn’t hear me. There was just something about the predictable sameness of the moment that struck my funny bone. Perhaps it was a sardonic laugh – picturing myself in the middle of a Groundhog Day time-warp where the SAME fight gets played back over and over and over again.

Some days I want to wear this sign on my forehead: “Mom does not care if you tear each other’s eyes out. Go ahead and fight, but don’t come crying to me when there’s blood on the carpet. I will NOT settle your argument or choose sides in the battle.”

The truth is, sometimes parenthood is excruciating, exasperating, unrewarding, and downright painful. Earlier this week I read this article about a mother whose kids bore her, and it gave me a small amount of pleasure to know that sometimes other mothers find it hard to bear too. Now, before you toss arrows my way for taking sides with a woman who bribed her nanny to read bedtime stories to her kids, you HAVE to admit that at least SOME of what she says is true. Don't you sometimes get bored with the endless needs, wants, and demands of your kids?

Reading the article reminded me of the mixture of pleasure and relief I got from reading the book “I’m Okay, You’re a Brat” that I found in the discount bin at my favourite bookstore. (I suspect it ended up there because most parents were ashamed to be seen buying a book that implied that their children weren’t perfect angels and they weren’t perfectly smitten parents ALL the time.) Just like the article, the book takes it a little over the top, but there’s some real truth to it, and, for a mother like me who often feels overwhelmed and somewhat guilty for the negative feelings she has about parenting, more than just a little comfort.

Yes, parenting is hard. And the thing is, we need to ADMIT that it sucks sometimes and that we don’t always feel completely in love with our children. We’re not doing each other (or our kids) any good if we act like the world revolves around our kids and there’s nothing we’d rather do than cater to their every whim. The writer of the article said she wrote it because she wanted to fight against the current trend of making the world a child-centred place (Something Gina has written eloquently about). The author probably took it a little further than she needed, but she’s not far off the mark about her reasons for doing it.

Sometimes, I’m a miserable failure as a mother. Sometimes parenting bores me to tears. Sometimes I want to lock them out of the house for the afternoon while I read a book. Sometimes I think I’d rather gouge my eyes out than play Candyland with my kids. Sometimes I’m glad I’m a working-away-from-home parent because I don't have to fill their every need all day every day. Sometimes I think that parenting is the hardest thing I’ve ever done, and the one thing that has the capacity to make me feel like a complete and utter failure. Sometimes I feel guilty for not being more kind to my kids. Sometimes I think my kids will be totally screwed up because I haven’t got a clue what I’m doing. There, I said it. That’s my truth and I’m willing to admit it.

The good thing is, that’s not my ONLY truth. There are other truths that balance those ones out. Like the fact that there are few things as breathtakingly beautiful as watching one of my children sleep. And the fact that the first time I heard the words “I love you” come out of my child’s mouth was one of the most perfect moments life has brought to this point. And the fact that watching one of my children try hard and then succeed is sometimes even more sweet than my own success. And the fact that dancing in the rain with three giggling girls is more fun than almost any adult party I’ve ever been to.

What am I trying to say? Well, there are a few things. First of all, I want to remember how important it is to tell the truth. For me, that’s one of the great things about blogging. I can throw my truth out there - even when it’s painful and makes me feel like crap - and someone will come by with words of comfort or wisdom or just plain acceptance and understanding. We have to do this for each other – to make each other feel less alone and more normal.

Secondly, I want to remember (and I want to remind all of you) that we do not have to be perfect parents, that our kids don’t have to be perfect angels, and that we don’t have to pretend either way. We can mess up and they can mess up, and the universe will not come to an end. Nobody will think less of you if you make a mistake now and then.

Thirdly, I’m writing this partly because all the talk of “mommy-bloggers” (with special clubs, special advertising targeted to them, etc.) on the internet has left me feeling a little confused. It’s not that I want to offend those who call themselves mommy-bloggers, or that I don’t understand the sense of community that has been formed by their common motherhood, but I just don’t think I could ever call myself a mommy-blogger. Oh, you’ll read lots of posts about my kids, and I’ll visit lots of other moms (and dads) who blog, but I just can’t define myself that way exclusively. Yes, I am a mom who blogs, but I am also a writer who blogs, a daughter who blogs, a wife who blogs, a cyclist who blogs, a Canadian who blogs, a thinker who blogs, a manager who blogs – and so many other things.

You see, I guess defining myself as “just a Mom” reminds me of the one thing that I most often fail at and that brings me my greatest sense of self-doubt and sometimes guilt. I need reminders that I am ALSO quite good at a lot of other things AND that my world doesn’t have to ONLY revolve around my kids.

And my fourth point is that as parents, we shouldn’t beat each other up quite so much. The woman who wrote about how her children bored her got thoroughly lambasted for it. (Here's the follow-up article about the controversy it has caused.) Why? She’s just trying to be honest and let other parents know that they’re not alone when they feel like parenting is sucking the life out of them.

So there you go – I'm just trying to tell my truth. It may not be your truth – you may find parenting to be a constant source of joy and fulfillment. I’m happy for you. Just please don’t beat me over the head if it’s not always joy for me.


Gina said...

What a lovely post, Heather. And not just because you linked to me! ;)

I think it is silly for people to say they are constantly excited by motherhood. I am not. However, I think it is an important job, and like any job, we have the right to complain about it a bit if that's what we want to do.

Should we ignore our kids or make them feel unloved, absolutely not!

There was an interesting article not too long ago that addressed the fact that people are always expecting to be in a state of HAPPY all the time, but physiologically, it is actually a rather rare thing.

But, to summarize, all jobs have times of tedium and annoyance, and motherhood is no different. Doesn't mean we love our children any less.

Accidental Poet said...

I have to say, I really hated that article. I think there's middle ground somewhere that she didn't cover. It's not like either you're constantly delighted by motherhood, OR you're bored by your kids, which is pretty much how the article sounded. Also, the word bored bugged the heck out of me, although I'm having trouble quantifying why. Is saying "the fighting gets old" any different from saying "the fighting bores me"? maybe not (this is apparently a stream-of-conciousness-get-your-own-blog comment) but maybe THAT's what bugged about the article - she constantly reiterates "my CHILDREN are boring" as opposed to "some of the things people do for their kids are boring".

However, I'm with you on the Candyland thing. I have a completely Pavlovian response to Candyland - I see the board, and I want to gouge my eyes out with my bare hands. Just as an alternative, you understand :)

Sue said...

I agree that motherhood has its downs as well as its ups. Of course we don't always enjoy everything our children do, but I never had/have any problem acknowledging it.

The problem with that article was that the mother said her *children* bore her to tears. I thought that was a terrible thing to say. To admit that she was (at times) bored by her children's activities is fair enough. We're all individual people, and it's right to acknowledge that we share some interests and don't share others.

It's also fine to admit to being bored by endless discussion of children by other mothers. I could only take a smallish amount of birth stories and nappy-comparisons and so on. I was much more interested in theories of parenting than concrete details, and liked discussing wider issues too.

BUT... I never, ever found my children themselves boring. Irritating sometimes, certainly. Frustrating, undoubtedly. But boring? No way! And even when I did feel negatively in other ways about them (like if I was hormonal and had been up half the night with one of them) I would never have gone into print leaving a lasting record to the world of my bad feelings. It's a horrible sign of disrespect, and so hurtful.

I mean... if a complete stranger commented that my blog bored her to tears, I'd feel hurt even though I'd rationalise that it didn't matter and she didn't have to read it. But it would still be rude. If a good friend said it (and meant it) I'd be even more hurt. If a friend said *I* bored her to tears (seriously) it would be hard for me to stay friends. And if one of my parents had said it, when I was a child - or, worse, put it into print - I'd have been utterly, horribly devastated and would have carried it about for years :-(

Words can wound far worse than sticks and stones IMO, and for that reason alone the article should never have been written in the way it was.

Margo said...

Isn't there a Desperate Houswives about this whole telling-the-ugly-truth issue, about admitting that parenting can be so hard? The show did have its moments in the first season. :)

I just found your blog and you write real pretty.

Anvilcloud said...

That was interesting to read -- yours and hers.

Dale said...

Thank you for your honesty, Heather. It's refreshing.
Here's my two cents worth on the subject of kids and parenting:

Kids are important, yes. But they are not and should not be centre stage constantly and the only topic for discussion. I have friends who have young children and it's gotten to the point where I rarely see them anymore. All they talk about is their kids. My sister is the same way.

Great. You're a parent. Good for you. Congratulations. You're only the ten billionth person to have accomplished such a feat.

So ... The corn's early this year, eh? Do ya think the rain'll hurt the rhubarb?


Toasty said...

ah, thank you for writing this. I mean thank you for "keeping it real" and just articulating perfectly what I already know. I like that you said that there are truths about parenting that can coexist. I can be ovewwhelmed, unfufilled, bored but I also love them and do the important things right. I don't know something about the way you phrased it just hit home with me. Thank God the blogoshpere is filled with stressed out moms venting. I mean really "thank God". These girls and their posts give me a boost. You however just took things a deeper for me. I think your words will stick for a little while.