Ambivalent

I have been feeling increasingly… ambivalent, lately. This feeling extends to pretty much every part of my life. I am ambivalent about keeping my house in decent shape. I’m ambivalent about doing all the needs be done to ensure I’m prepared for work on Monday. I’m ambivalent about putting in the time and energy with my partner. I’m ambivalent about working on my book, which I’m pretty sure will never be published.

I’m ambivalent about having another baby.

Isa is an amazing girl. Truly, I do believe she is special. People tell me it all the time. Total strangers who meet us at the park assure me that she is a truly unique little girl. She has incredibly energy and a wonderful personality. I feel incredibly blessed to be entrusted with the responsibility of guiding her through this life.

Isa is an amazing girl. She is also incredibly stubborn and strong willed. She wants what she wants when she wants it. Her reactions to disappointment are intense and visceral. She throws herself on the floor. She screams. She hits. She purposefully hurst me. She writhes and twists and makes it impossible to contain her. Her physical strength is astounding; there has been more than one occasion when I’ve been unable to keep her safe from herself, when her head has struck the concrete with brutal force, when she’s given herself bumps or bruises or cuts.

There has been more than one occasion when I’ve totally and completely failed as a mother.

I know that what I’m describing is normal toddler behavior. I know that every mom of a child under four has experienced these things. But the thing is, I NEVER see other kids doing these things. Isa has had so many melt downs in public–at the park, at the grocery store–places with tons of other kids and I NEVER see other kids throwing tantrums like the ones she throws. And Isa throws these kinds of tantrums frequently, every day, many times a day.

Isa is only 1.5 years old. Whenever I admit to other mothers that I feel out of my depth, that this age is much harder than I had anticipated, they assure me that I have no idea what I’m in for, that 2.5 and 3.5 are SO MUCH HARDER. When they say that, something inside me dies. I have a really hard time not crying.

Why do I think I can handle another baby when this one already challenges me so much? Why do I think I can even handle being pregnant when sometimes my own daughter can overpower me? Why do I think I make it work with two when I’m failing so miserably with one?

Isa, losing her shit because she has to wait three minutes for the carousel.

Sometimes, when I come home from a particularly hard afternoon at the park, when Isa has fought putting on her socks, her shoes, her jacket, her hat, getting her diaper changed, not bringing five stuffies with us, going outside, walking down the street, holding my hand, pretty much everything I’ve requested she do, when I’ve failed to keep her head from crashing against the ground–as the eyes of ten parents remain trained, intently, on us–I wonder how I could ever be so foolish as to try to have another baby.

When I feel so defeated at the end of the day that I just want to crawl into a dark hole and never come out, I ask myself, what are you thinking wanting to do this again? How will you ever manage two when you can’t even manage one? 

When Mi.Vida and I get in an argument just because we’re exhausted, because we have nothing left, I implore myself, You will ruin your relationship! Please don’t throw away everything you have!

Because sometimes, a lot of the time, it feels like having another child will be the end of me, the end of this life I’m struggling to keep a hold of as it is, the end of my relationship, my friendships, what little creative freedom I have left.

If I’m struggling this much just to parent one child, how on earth can I ever parent two?

Yeah. I’m feeling pretty ambivalent about it all.

15 responses

  1. Oh, I get this. And, I’m sorry for being one of those jerks who say in an “I told you so” voice, “Wait until she’s…(fill in the blank)”

    Having had two kids at once, I don’t know what it’s like to TTC with one, thinking about the challenges of having two. And, I feel for you. That’s hard.

    Certain things get better, like she’ll get that it hurts if she throws herself on the concrete.

    Wishing you peace. Ambivalence is normal.

  2. First, you are not failing miserably with one. At all. Like you said, Isa is an amazing little girl- full of spunk and personality. She’s headstrong and determined, which is going to make her an awesome big sister.

    But, I totally understand how you feel. Theoretically, I desperately want another child or two. But the reality- how the hell would I do it? My life is consumed with the child I already have and his needs. I end the day exhausted and with nothing left to give to my husband- how much worse would it be with double the work?

    But I have to believe that for both of us, when the timing is right, the joy and fulfillement a second child will bring will be worth the extra work, tantrums, stares, and frustration.

  3. As someone who works with families and young children, even though I don’t have my own, I can tell you, parenting an intense child is exhausting. Not to “diagnose” your child or anything, since all I know of her is what you’ve written here, but if you think her intensity might be above and beyond the other kids her age (as you’ve said, your only comparison), it could be a sensory processing issue. In which case, this might help (don’t let the word “disorder” discourage you):

    http://www.sinetwork.org/about-sensory-processing-disorder.html

    And, trust me, I’ve seen plenty of those public meltdowns. So even though it might feel like it sometimes, you’re not alone in that, either!

  4. I found it easier as they grew out of the pure-impulse stage. I do much better with reasoning beings.

    Sometimes people are ambivalent about Child #2 for the opposite reason: what if my second child isn’t as easy as my first?

    This is completely anecdotal, but it seems like people don’t get more, uh, spirited kids than they can handle. Of course, there are some days I could challenge that line of thinking…

    Hugs to you. I know it’s hard sometimes. BeLIEVE me, I know.

  5. Oh my. This is a hard stage! I personally believe, however, that chronological age just doesn’t have that much to do with it. People say those things from their personal experience but every child is different. I would bet that Isa is probably emotionally advanced to the point that she is just experiencing the “terribles” early.
    We had a fair amount of that behavior a while ago but things have since become much easier (I KNOW I am tempting fate by writing that down). I find that it is hard to predict and you can never tell how a sibling would affect things. Hang in there. I hear you that it can be extremely difficult but tomorrow may be very different. And, if not tomorrow, then certainly the day after.

  6. Please know you arent alone. Kaitlin throws tantrums in public on a very regular occurrence. She will be 19 months old next week and refuses to sit in a stroller or grocery cart. I am physically unable to restrain or hold her in public when we are together. She has no interest in sitting still, holding my hand, etc.
    In fact, just today she had a full on tantrum (laying on the ground in front of the Mexican restaurant we frequent) and I had to stand there for a full 30 seconds while she exerted all her energy and will.

    I’m not one for reccommending books normally but I’d like to suggest 123 Magic. I have it and haven’t read it cover to cover but I think it might help you.

    Just know this is totally normal behavior and you are not failing Isa as her mom.

  7. Just wanted to let you know you are not alone. I have not gotten to that stage yet as my son is 7 months. However, I still feel the same feelings of how could I even think about having another child when this one requires so much of me and I don’t feel like I’m constantly dealing with difficult things? I am glad you wrote this because I have had this in my head for a while and all the blogs I read are about how easy things are and how they can’t wait to have another one. It makes me feel like what is wrong with me that I am not jumping up and down right away for another and that I am having a hard time with some things.

  8. You’re tired and you’re overwhelmed. I get it. It’s hard to think clearly and feel optimistic when you’re exhausted and mentally tired. There are days when getting of the house seems like pitched battle. And some days I lose. My little guy is really affected by food, so I’ve got to pay attention to what he eats and what time he eats in order to avoid certain meltdowns at certain times of the day. Be kind to yourself right now. You’ve got the burnt out Superwoman syndrome – you know the one, where you are in charge of taking care of EVERYTHING. Consider hiring help. Even just cleaning the house. It’ll do wonders for your mood.

  9. I think it gets easier when you can reason with them. And: sometimes another child can give the first child a reason to behave, because they are caring for someone besides themselves …. sometimes a sibling teaches the first lessons in compassion.

    But, for the record … you are an AWESOME mom. 🙂

  10. Here’s a little story for ya. I was Isa when I was little. My mother always has stories about me throwing tantrums much like you’re describing when I didn’t get my way, very headstrong, very determined, very stubborn but apparently I was also very happy. They actually put off having my little sister by 3 years because I was such a handful, oops! Anyway, my point is that I was a normal kid, I never ran into behavioral issues when I hit school, it was just those early years where I threw tantrums, so I guess I’m saying she’ll grow out of it! Stick it out, give it another year and then rethink Baby #2, no real rush!

  11. I am not a parent, but I do understand those feelings of ambivalence. Sometimes, it is hard to get motivated or excited about anything, even things we think we SHOULD be excited about. I think these ways come and then usually go. One thing I’ve learned since having cancer and infertility is that things are just what’s happening now. These moments pass. But, this is just now. Don’t be too hard on yourself about your parenting as I am pretty sure you are doing a wonderful job. And don’t be too hard on yourself that you aren’t jumping up and down to have a 2nd one. It is just this moment.

    My best friend just had her first child a few weeks ago, and she already is saying “i don’t know if I’ll ever do this again”. And I am sure she’ll have joyful moments where she’ll think I want 3 more just like this one!” and other moments where she thinks “he’s enough”. So, I think that’s how it goes 🙂

  12. I HATE when other mothers warn, “Just wait until…”- what are they trying to do? Make us dread the misery that’s to come? “You think you feel incompetent as a parent now? Just wait…it gets so much worse.”

    There are pros & cons at every age, & not every child develops the same. Perhaps Isa is hitting her “terrible twos” early & will be an angel by the time she’s 2.5. Or maybe she won’t, but just once, I wish a mother would say, “Yeah, this age is pretty tough, but just wait for all of the amazing things your daughter’s going to do!”

  13. Don’t be so hard on yourself. I can’t imagine how exhausting it must be, and understand you must feel like a failure, but you’re looking after your child, keeping her safe (every child has a few bumps), and worrying about her and you, which is what a great mother would do. It sounds to me as if you’re as far from a failure as a mother as I can imagine.

  14. You are not a bad mother. It’s impossible to be a bad mother while worrying about the welfare of your child. Every kid is different and nothing will last forever. There’s so many places I wanted to go with this comment, examples and hopeful ideas, but they all take me to a blog post of a comment! So, in trying to keep it short, when in public, some people are jugdgy assholes, and some people are looking at your kid and thinking; aw, remember when ____ was so young and doing that? Not everyone is thinking mean thoughts, I promise, someone in your vicinity is sending you be strong thoughts because they’ve been through it.
    Deciding to have second kid is scary! Acknowlege that! But know, you can do it. And so can Isa.

  15. Hugs! I’m late but agree with the others. This to shall pass and you’ll wonder why you even wrote this post. I was going to recommend 123 Magic as well. It worked wonders for my boys (I have a post in draft form for forever that I need to finish), especially Benjamin, who reminds me a bit of Isa. We don’t follow it to a tee but have seen good results.

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