Unpacking My New Motherhood

Finally, I have a moment to write.

So we got married on Satuday, January 4th, and when the dust settled it felt like a bomb had gone off. First Osita was home from school, then Christmas happened, then Osita was still home from school, then New Years happened, then Osita was STILL home from school, then we got married and then… finally it was all over… and FINALLY Osita went back to school.

During that time so much happened and I was in strict survival mode. In fact Osita and I seemed to be in a constant state of fight-or-flight the entire time. To say it started to wear on me would be an understatement. By the end I felt like a shell of my former self.

I learned a lot about myself in the past two weeks and most of it was hard to accept. But I am doing my best to incorporate this knowledge so that I can better manage myself and my expectations, because when I do, we all benefit.

Osita went back to school yesterday and it was tough for both of us. She clearly didn’t want to go, though she didn’t say as much. Our near constant reminders on Sunday that she would be returning to school the next morning were met with muted avoidance. She never once acknowledged what we were saying and even Monday morning she hardly seemed to understand that I was getting her ready to go to school. When we finally got there she seemed sad, and I felt terrible for her. I know it’s been hard to go to school when she seems to realize (even though it’s never been said out loud) that I am home with the baby. Walking back to the car after I dropped her off I thought I’d be filled with the light airy sensations of FREEDOM but instead I felt the wretched, unbearable weight of GUILT.

I cried backing out of the parking lot. I thought I would be jumping for joy but instead my body was wracked by sobs. This motherhood thing is so fucking complicated.

On Sunday night I was looking for something on my FB page and I came across some videos of Osita from late 2012 and early 2013. I couldn’t believe how little she was just a short year ago. Her little voice sounded like a baby’s and I watched those videos with an ache for that time, when everything seemed simpler.

Except I just read some posts from those months in which I declare us more miserable than we had ever been, in which I describe horrible meltdowns and physical violence so extreme that we feared for her safety, and ours. Does this parenting thing ever get easier, or do the challenges just shift?

Getting Osita ready for school yesterday and today, and dealing with her last night, my mantra was compassion. I tried to approach every situation with empathy. Having watched those videos, I was able to remember the little girl trapped in this new preschooler body and mind. I was able to see how completely her world has been turned upside down, how devastatingly difficult all the upheaval has been for her. She is no longer the cutie-pie that everyone fawns over. She is no longer the center of attention. It’s no wonder she’s so angry, so defiant. We have totally screwed her and it’s understandable that she’s pissed as hell.

These past two days, every scream, every demand, every meltdown, has been met with compassion and empathy. And it’s not faked either. Now that I have some space from my daughter I can better see how much she is hurting, and I want desperately to make it better.

And you know what? Things were SO MUCH BETTER. She still had just as many tantrums as she has been having but they didn’t last as long and I didn’t feel resentment toward her when they were over. In fact, we had some very tender moments after her meltdowns and I could tell that she really appreciated knowing that when she tested me, I would still love her.

I tell her I love her every single day, but I haven’t been SHOWING her. Not nearly enough.

I wish I could have handled her challenges like this for the last 16 days but the truth is, I just couldn’t. I didn’t have it in me. I wouldn’t have it in my now if she were home every hour of the day. I NEED that time away from her to recharge, so that when she requires all my reserves, I have something there to give her.

I am not the kind of mom that can be with her kid all day every day. At least not well. And I know this past two weeks was exceptionally bad–I’ve spent two months at home with my daughter in the summer and we were fine–but honestly, I’m just not cut out to be a SAHM. I thought I could do it, if I wanted to, if the opportunity ever presented itself, but now I’m certain. I could not stay at home with my kids. I would not be a good mother to them. They deserve better than the me they would get.

And that is a hard pill to swallow. Really hard. It feels stuck in my throat at times, leaving an acrid taste in my mouth. But it’s the truth. And hopefully it will dissolve slowly until the fantom feeling of its presence finally fades away.

I have so much more to tackle and unpack. I have so much more to say about what I’m learning about myself as a person, and as a mother, through the birth of my second child. None of it is particularly positive, at least I don’t view it as such yet, but it is enlightening. I have felt some strong feelings toward my first born in the past two weeks, feelings I’m not proud of, feelings I may not even share here. I have felt suffocated and overwhelmed. I have felt anger and resentment. I have felt, for the first time in my short tenure as a mother, like running away. I have wanted to scream at my child and I have had to leave the room to avoid doing so.

In short I’ve been a terrible mother. And I’m not proud of it. But it’s who I am. And I suppose I have to get used to it.

I’m sad to drop my daughter off at school every day; I know she would rather be home with me. But I also understand, possibly for the first time, that I NEED to drop her off, otherwise I can’t be there for her in the ways she requires. I can’t be the mother she deserves if I’m with her all day. And I’m thankful that we can both have a break, so that when I do pick her up, I can approach her with compassion and empathy that she so very much deserves.

6 responses

  1. I screamed a LOT today…and the angrier I got with myself for doing it, the louder I got. It was not good. It was my worst mothering moment by far.

    Toddlers are tough. I do believe it gets easier.

  2. I hope you know you aren’t the only woman who can’t stay home with her children and that it is okay. I love my fought for baby more than anything, but by the end of my weekend, I’m always ready to go back to work. I can’t even imagine a toddler, but it sounds exhausting. I’m glad it’s going better now that she is back in school.

  3. I feel the same now that I have a preschooler. I know I could not stay home with him and my younger one and be my best self. When he was younger and there was only him I would dream of being able to stay home. I knew it would be so hard, but I thought I could do it. Now that there are two and he’s used to being at school all day, it feels like it would be practically impossible to keep them both home if I had to. When things aren’t going well at work and I start thinking, well maybe I could just stay home somehow, I quickly change my mind. I just can’t imagine being able to function with both of them all day and be responsible for teaching him what he’s learning at school! It’s terrifying! But I bet if I had to I could, and you would probably adjust and figure out a way too, if you really needed to. But thank goodness we are in a time and place where we can choose to make the decision to have that time away and have a better relationship because of it. I know you’re feeling lots of guilt, but truly don’t! I think all your feelings are normal. You love both your children. No one doubts that. But you can’t never be really annoyed with someone that you live with all that time. I’m pretty sure this is not the only age in our lives where we will get downright sick of out children sometimes. (Ugh they’re gonna be teenagers someday?) Preschoolers are “on” all the time! It’s insane. I wish I could say I haven’t yelled at mine, but I have. We just need to do our best to remember that they aren’t as old as they seem. And I’m sure having two will get easier for you! My son didn’t have as rough a transition as Osita, but now that my daughter is almost a year they are so sweet together and he gets a lot more attention since she is more independent and can play by herself while he gets cuddle time. Remember, if there is one thing that is sure in parenthood, its change. Things will not stay this way. I hope good changes come for you soon!

  4. Please stop feeling guilty!! I recognize so much of myself in what you wrote…but I think the difference between us is that I already knew some of this about myself and knew I never wanted to stay home. i know from reading here for years that it was a major dream of yours to stay home if financially feasible. Its so hard to realize that our dreams just aren’t meant to be, even if its because we don’t want them anymore. Its a bit of a grieving process, grieving this image of yourself or your family that never came to be reality. Everything you are describing about Osita, and your reaction to it, sounds like B at that age, even though his younger brother was born when he was 21 months old. So don’t feel that you “ruined” her life, those developmental changes were coming anyways. And the fact that you were able to act with empathy even for one day is amazing. I FEEL the empathy—I can think about it, write about it, talk about it—but when I’m faced with the screaming/hitting/etc… the baser emotions and flight-or-fight instincts take over and I just lose my cool and respond with the hostility you would expect from someone who is being hit/scratched/yelled at by another human. Hugs to you…I really really feel you on this one.

  5. I don’t think you’ve been a terrible mother. You’re continuing to try to figure out every possible way to deal with Osita that will help her. You’re trying to show compassion and empathy, even when you want to scream at her. You’ve felt things you’re not proud of, but you’ve left the room. You should be proud of that. That, to me, is the mark of a good mother who knows her limits. You haven’t succumbed to the pressure. You’ve walked away. So stop beating yourself up. OK?

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