Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Pendulum

The thing that surprised me the most about parenting, that continues to surprise me on an almost daily basis, is the wild arc of emotions which kids can unleash within an otherwise patient, rational person.
In the car or on a playground, I feel an intense, borderline-paranoid fear that my children will somehow meet danger. I check on them in their sleep, laying my hand on their chests to feel that they are indeed still rising and falling reliably. Yet other times, laying around the house in the evening, wanting to read my book and eat my cookie, or watch The Office and eat my cookie, or even to sit zombie-like and EAT MY COOKIE, I feel frustration that my children's safety requires my constant vigilance. There's Eli, pulling a blanket over his head. There's Addy, careening around the house, narrowly missing sharp edges of furniture at every turn. Can't they just lie still and not need protection from themselves EVERY second? I think.
There is the wonder I feel at my luckiness in having them at all, after reading countless stories of people losing babies and trying so hard to have babies, of having had some small experience with miscarriage and fertility drugs myself, even. I lean down to kiss one of their little blond heads and am overwhelmed by the animal love that the smell of them brings. But then, sometimes within moments of that love-rush, there will follow a feeling of restlessness and resentment at the caged-in monotony that life will small children inevitably brings. And we even get out quite a bit, I would say, compared to lots of parents. We are lucky enough to live around family, and to have a reliable and trustworthy babysitter. It is hardly dire, our situation. But I stiff chafe at its confines, sometimes. Times when the reclusive winter sun is shining and I want to just go, but one baby is sleeping and another has just pooped and I myself still haven't even brushed my hair, and the whole process of going just seems overwhelming and not worth it.
Most of all, there is the surprise of realizing how much anger you can feel at a child, even while awash in the baby-love. Flashes of anger, which are immediately followed by guilt and self-chastisement, of course, but anger nonetheless. When you have done literally everything you can think of, yet for days on end, your baby is fussing and yelling the majority of his waking hours. Those waking hours run through the night, as he gets up sometimes three times to nurse, while still refusing more than a taste of solid food during the day. You begin to take it personally, to think defensively, "Wait, I've DONE my job here, kid. Yours is to sleep and eat and play, not to scream at me furiously all day as though there is something I am not providing."
The guilt about the anger is of course followed by self-doubt about your fitness to be a parent in general, about the wiseness of embarking on this whole scary, IRREVERSIBLE journey of parenting, and feelings of profound pity for your poor, poor children, suffering your incompetence and your frayed nerves.
Then you delve into the Easter basket stash for that lovely legal drug, refined sugar, and the kids do, finally, fall asleep, and everything seems fine and manageable again. But you wonder, how can your baby be six months old already and you are still finding yourself sometimes feeling like you did when you first brought him home from the hospital? How can you still be floundering?

33 comments:

susan said...

Speak on it.

Werd.

Tell it!

And all those other affirmations of utter agreement. You rock.

Mimi said...

What a beautiful and TRUE post! I never had much of a temper until I had kids and I also find myself just getting MAD at them sometimes. And they are just being the babies that they are, you know? I have to tell myself to cool it a lot these days.
Anyway... I was glad to read this on a dreary day. =)

Jana said...

Whew! I'm not alone. Great post!

Shelly Overlook said...

You speak of the dichotomy of motherhood beautifully.

d e v a n said...

This is a perfect post. Perfect!
I was nodding my head the whole time. (especially at the parts about anger and guilt and sleeping & pooping children and unbrushed hair...)

Mommy Daisy said...

This is perfectly put, Sarah.

Kelsey said...

I so understand. Harper routinely drives me out of my mind with frustration, but I also think she's about the most amazing being on the planet.

SLynnRo said...

I don't have kids, but I feel the same way about my husband sometimes. Sometimes I can't get enough of him, and other times I just want him to disappear. I'm sure that is only magnified with a little person you are completely responsible for.

Banana said...

I don't have children yet, but I used to think and worry about exactly what you described here when I was a nanny. Only, when I was a nanny it was for four hour stretches at a time. I know that having children is incomparable, and I hope that when I have my own I have people like you around to remind me that I'm also a human being. And that I'm not alone.

jennifer said...

So perfect. It's exactly spot on about how I feel about motherhood. Lately I've been feeling such anger and then guilt for feeling anger, guilt for not enjoying it more...

Perfect.

LoriD said...

I loved this post so, so much.

Jess said...

This is so beautiful and I'm so glad that I read blogs like yours because it makes me feel just a tad bit more prepared for when I have a child myself. Because I won't be expecting all sunshine and roses. And it helps to know that.

Tessie said...

Great post.

The anger boggles my mind. I have to literally pin AD down these days to change her diaper and it makes me want to SCREAM and HIT SOMETHING, and truly, I almost never feel that way in other areas of my life.

It's so hard because other people in my life are rational, and can be reasoned with, and can "suck it up" for their own good, and she just...CAN'T (because duh, she's a kid) and that is SO HARD for me.

clueless but hopeful mama said...

I just had a lovely snuggle with Zoe followed immediately by a BAD diaper change (where I almost yelled "FINE! STAY in your poopy diaper FOR ALL I CARE!") and then got to read your post.

Thanks for speaking the truth.

andi said...

This is all so true. I don't think we should ever expect to know what we are doing - these wee people are people after all and totally unpredictable. I guess we just have to fly by the seat of our pants and try not to go crazy in the meantime.

Saly said...

This is an amazing post.

Amy said...

Really great post!!!

TheMusingMommy said...

This is so straight up. Thanks for your honesty...helps the rest of us realize our emotional roller-coaster is the same as everyone else's. It helps when you know you're not in this alone. Great post!

Pickles & Dimes said...

Beautifully written.

Cathy said...

Exactly.

Erica said...

Preach it, sister!

Laura said...

My littlest one is 9 and I still feel that helpless, I can't do this, feeling. It stuns me, especially now when their presence is a lifeline to me. children truly do bring out that whole range of emotions. ***and I still check each night to make sure that even the 18 year old is still breathing***

Bird said...

Ach. I know what you mean. I want to DIE when my child will not sleep queitly, and when he is sleeping. . . I have to check and make sure he is breathing. I have the state wondering if he's holding his own bottle and then I feel sad because my baby is growing up. I think motherhood itself is Bipolar or multiple personailty or something.

Ashley said...

I have a 15 month old and still feel like I have a newborn sometimes too. It is refreshing and reassuring to know that other mothers go through what you spoke of in your post. Its just a shame that there are not books out there for moms to be (and moms) that paint the picture of motherhood more accurately. Its as if no one wants to speak up for fear of looking like a bad mother; but if everyone did speak up, we would see we were all feeling the same way and it wouldn't be so taboo to feel it.

Burgh Baby's Mom said...

Jennifer was right. That WAS a perfect post!

Sandy said...

It feels like you are still floundering because of the Motherhood Myth...that everything is perfect all the time and you are supposed to enjoy every...minute...of...it. And if you admit to someone that you don't enjoy it...then they give you "the look" like you are a horrible mother because you don't like staying at home all day and night cleaning up poop and chocolate milk watching cartoons with no adult conversation while you think of all the things you used to do before kids.

It doesn't mean you don't love your kids. It just means you are a parent. And anyone saying otherwise is either delusional, on medication, or flat out lying.

It's hard being a parent. It is a relationship like any other with ups and downs. Just try to remember, they won't be like this forever...savor the good times and just grit your teeth through the bad. Before long they will be grown and you will wonder where the time went.

Feener said...

ahhh hit the nail on the head. so well written. thank you.

amanda said...

thank you... for writing the truth and for helping me know that i am not alone.

Queen of Shake-Shake said...

Great post! Congrats on your PPA!

beth said...

I just found your blog and wanted to say that this is a great post. Just what I needed to read today.

Thanks.

Christy said...

I just found this post from Suburban Turmoil, and I loved it! My kids are almost 3 and 6, so we are past the baby stage, but you can just replace it with other situations and the feelings are EXACTLY the same. Such a perfect description. I'm glad I'm normal!

Melissa said...

Awesome post! I'm glad others feel like this, too.

It's scary to admit to sometimes being angry at your baby. You wonder if there's something wrong with you, even second guess if you should be having children in the first place.

Thanks for being brave. I'm not alone. :)

HRH said...

Genius post. So true on so many levels. I caution that it doesn't stop at 6 months. The overwhelming feelings of inadequacy continue along with the need for chocolate and it's healing powers.