27th August 2007
I don’t know whether it’s the Full Moon tomorrow or whether it’s the whole Venus Retrograde thing happening but I am losing it big time and Lily seems to be coming along for the ride.
I’m just so angry at the moment. Angry at my life. Angry at my (seeming) lack of a life. I’m angry with all the things I have to do and angry with all the things I cannot seem to find time to do. I’m angry with myself for being a shit mummy to Lily and angry with myself for being angry with myself for being as shit mummy to Lily. I’m angry that just when I seem to be getting on top of this whole mountain that is mummyhood thing, I seem to slip all the way back down to the sodding bottom and I’m angry that no matter how hard I try, I seem to continue to get everything wrong.
The most common words out of my mouth these days are:
‘No!’, ‘Stop it!’ and my personal favourite, ‘Shut Up!’
I promised myself that I would not be one of those mothers who yells ‘Shut Up!’ at their child in supermarkets. That was before I became a mother and was therefore acquainted with the reasons why a mother yells ‘Shut UP!’ at her child in supermarkets. Before I understood what several weeks of all day whinging will do to a mother’s capacity to be patient, understanding and reasonable. Before I lived, daily, the reality of a mother’s life and a mother’s role. I still hate that I do it but at least I understand why and can therefore have some modicum of compassion for myself. However, that does not mean that I side-step the enormous guilt brought about as a result of these actions nor do I bypass the concern about the possible psychological scarring that may come from this.
Most days, I hate being a mommy. There. I’ve said it. Now I can just sit back and wait for all the finger pointing to begin. I’m not saying that I hate my daughter. Far from it. Who could hate someone so beautiful, funny and so illumined from within, like Lily is? I just can’t seem to find my feet in this new role and I know that it’s because I am still clinging ferociously to the last shreds of my old life like a terrier with a bone. I struggle daily with this new person I’m slowly evolving into. Most day’s I can get through without too much damage to either myself or Lily. Today though, today sucked arse through a straw. Today started with the waking of my child 3 times between 7pm and midnight last night. Then continued when my husband took her out of our room at 6am to give her breakfast – bought her back an hour later and said, ‘She’s been like this all morning,’ As he put her down and she immediately began to shout and whine. When the day starts like that it’s got nowhere to go really but down. And down we went. I could go on ad nauseum about the actual day and what happened. Suffice to say that when she was finally too tired to eat and knocked the spoon full of food I was enticing her with out of my hand and onto the floor. I finally had it. I shouted ‘That’s naughty!’ and smacked her little hand. Yes, I actually smacked her. Not hard and not enough to actually hurt her but it was enough to make her cry (though she cried from shock and tiredness – I honestly didn’t hit her).
Then we went to bed for the inevitable 45-minute struggle before sleep. I breastfeed her, she kicks, climbs my body, squirms, pulls on and off and gets hot and sweaty. Then I take her off the boob, cuddle her up close and hold her until she goes to sleep. Usually after we play a little game or two in the dark. Tonight, as she whined at me and wrestled and tried to pull at her eyelids – I broke down before she did. I cried because I was sorry that I had smacked her hand, that I had shouted at her for what seemed like the whole day. I cried because I don’t want her to grow up thinking that ‘No!’ is the only word she will hear from me. And it isn’t, we all know that my repertoire stretches to Stop It and Shut Up! I cried because I felt so fucking overwhelmed with how different my life is and how alien it can be. I cried for my loss of selfhood, my loss of autonomy, my loss of freedom. I cried because it takes hours to complete even the smallest tasks when you have a small person who needs every ounce of your attention every minute of every day. I cried because I pictured my office – every surface covered in papers I can’t read, parenting magazines I haven’t had a chance to even look at and from whose over photo-shopped depths smiling cherubic babies glare at me. And amongst it all, my most creative ideas lie festering. And that hurts the most I think. I have so many ideas and I am overwhelmed with the slow dawning understanding that most of them will probably never come to life. Not in the next 5 years or so anyway. I have a thriving small business in two cities that I am barely keeping on top of and I can’t afford to hire any help. I’m not even paying myself a bloody wage yet, so paying someone else seems ludicrous. So then I cried some more and apologised to Lily for being a shit mom and explained that the only reason the ‘No!’ word is said more often than any other word is because most of the things she’s exploring are dangerous and could harm her in some way. I told her that it won’t always be like this. It won’t will it? I told her that I was trying very hard to be a better mommy and that I would do better tomorrow. She fell asleep listening to me sob softly into her silky hair.
I love my daughter more honestly, more completely than I would ever have thought possible. That doesn’t mean that being a mother comes easily to me. I suspect that more women than not go through this same horrible awakening. (And I know it doesn’t have to be horrible, it just is for most of us). I guess what I’m searching for is a way to make it more bearable. It’s not that I hate being a mother per se. It’s just that the unravelling of who we were into what we are becoming can be so uncomfortable and so unbearably challenging at a time when everything else is such bloody hard work already. We resist the unknown almost automatically in our society. We have never been brought up to embrace change. Look at the way we treat aging - there are more creams, lotions and potions to keep aging at bay than there are women to use them. We are taught to see ourselves as youthful and the fight to remain tight skinned and plump lipped even under this pathetic ozone layer is vicious. Now, if this is how we treat aging in general how hard do you think we find motherhood which seems to make you middle-aged overnight? The lack of sleep, the feeding, the endless crying, the struggle to get to grips with being alone with a tiny needy old man, the soreness, the overflowing bosoms, the blues, the greens and the reds. Let’s face it - Motherhood makes you feel, and worse makes you look, like the inside of a bus driver’s glove. How then is it possible to undergo this transformation from woman to mother without a few hiccups, hang-ups and throw-ups? Well, it’s not. But it’s not common knowledge that it’s not. Hence the crying in the dark that many mother’s do when they’ve had the kind of day I’ve had today.
We are all trying to be better mother’s than our own mother’s. We are all trying not to make the same mistakes that our parents made with us. We are all trying to raise happy, healthy, psychologically sound kids who are confident and sure-footed in this every changing world. Yet it seems to be the hardest thing in the world to achieve. And that’s what I’m angriest about. That I’m failing every day to live up to my own bloody standards. Admittedly they are high. Very, very high actually but still, there is nothing I have not been able to achieve if I put my mind to it. Except this. and the reason is because I have to mother with my heart not my mind. Mothering requires us to sacrifice our intellect for our instinct. To give up the notion that if we can figure it all our in our heads, it will be alright. It won’t. Stepping into Motherhood can often mean being prepared to let go of who you were in order to become the mother that is inside of you. We are fooled into thinking that we can have it all. Fooled by celebrities who’s bodies ‘bounce back’ six weeks after having a baby and who appear always to be radiant and full of life. We have fallen for the idea of the yummy mummy and strive to combine looking fabulous with a person who believes that helping mummy look good means smearing pumpkin in her hair minutes before she leaves the house. This kind of mothering achieves only one thing – tired, anxious, over-whelmed mothers.
The women that we see on television have an entourage of cooks, nannies, hair-stylists, manicurist, make-up artists and fashion consultants hanging off their elbow. I suspect that if these women were every left alone with their child for a full day they would probably have a melt-down of seismic proportions as the reality of child-rearing hits them square in the jaw. We don’t have access to their wealth or their help and yet we still struggle to fit into their shoes. Why? Because we think that we have to. Because we think that we can have it all and still look wonderful. Maybe there are a few gifted individuals out there who can but I’m not one of them. I look in the mirror and see the effect of 10 months without a decent night’s sleep and not enough exercise. I don’t have afterglow, I have after shock. My boobs look like they are full of cottage cheese and never mind the pencil test, you could shove a bloody pencil case under there and it would still be there come Christmas. And don’t even get me started on my arse. It’s too depressing to even contemplate. So it’s no wonder with constant external pressure to get it absolutely right and look perfect and with our own stupidly high bars for parenting that women like me spend nights wondering what the fuck happened to their life. We are not really bad mothers, we are simply human and fallible and this whole new baby thing is massively overwhelming.
My husband wants us to have another baby soon and I’m absolutely terrified. Not of the pregnancy itself, though I am trying to regain some semblance of my previous shape before I expand again, but of the enormous responsibility which will be placed on my shoulders when I have two little beings to take care of. Two children who don’t sleep or who sleep at massively different times. I am terrified of the pressure to cope when I’m even more sleep-deprived and overwhelmed than I am now. I think that men see the gorgeous newborn bub whereas women remember the tiredness of pregnancy, the pain of labour, the sleepless nights. Men see a sibling for their firstborn – women think ‘how the hell am I going to cope with two when I feel like I can’t cope with the one I have?’ Men say things like, ‘Well, it’s not going to get any easier – the baby years always going to be difficult.’ Women think ‘How the hell would you know? You’re at work all day interacting with other adults, living the exact same life you lived before the baby and continuing to enjoy your hobbies. I’m here up to my eyebrows in screeching, whining and baby crap all day trying to find 10 minutes to pee by myself!’ And while all of this is going on, I’m still caring for our firstborn and still learning about myself as a mother and still trying to find time to clean the house, make nutritious food for me and bubsy. And I don’t even have super-powers.
Ultimately, we can only be in the moment every day. We can only try to be present to our feelings, our patterns and our children because every day is different and this is both the beauty and the terror of having a child. Our other lives, the one’s we enjoyed pre-baby, were full of routines that worked for us and peppered with free time to do as we choose. This life is full of schedules that don’t work, babies that don’t sleep, don’t eat or don’t stop crying. And I think that’s because we are trying to fit our babies into our old lives rather than allowing our babies to shape our new life. They were never meant to be slotted into our lives like a neatly labelled file. Babies are entirely selfish, they want what they want when they want it and they want it now – it’s always now! No amount of reasoning with them will change that. Believe me, I’ve tried. Even on days like today, I realise where I’ve gone wrong and it is ALWAYS that I have tried to have a normal life with a 10-month old in tow. It just doesn’t work.
The days when I go to bed without regret are the days where I move to her rhythms, when I let her dictate the speed and the direction of our day together. And yes, it does mean that you don’t get much done. But then why do we expect to? What really needs to be done except the raising of our children at this time in our lives? If you really didn’t want a baby to change your life, then why did you have one in the first place? Do we really think that everything will stay the same when you have the equivalent of a very old, very confused maiden aunt coming to live with you?
And I’m really only angry because I forget this. The resentment and the unbelievable frustration comes when I try to have my old life AND be a good mum to Lily. It hasn’t ever worked and yet there are days when I still try. I wanted to be a MILF whose business kept running without hiccups and whose baby radiated peace and love to all around us. Instead, I haven’t had a haircut in 16 months and I’ve turned into a woman who orders skin care products from infomercials.
Anyway, here is where I come to let off steam - to the secret pages of The Mummy Diaries where I can howl and cry and moan and grind my teeth out of earshot of my precious newbie and pretend that I know what the fuck I’m doing. None of us do really and if we just stand back and accept that fact, that we are all the blind leading the blind here, then we’d all be a lot happier. I have to keep repeating the mantra,’No-one knows my child like I do. No-one knows my child like I do.’ So I really have to stop looking outside of myself for answers really don’t I? Anger is a teacher just like everything else. Anger simply shows me where I’m going wrong and tries to get me to right my compass and my attitude and sail into the wind of a new day with Lily as my captain. And for that I am extremely grateful.
Lily already knows all this. My daughter is proving to be my greatest teacher in this life it’s just that I’m just having a hard time coming to grips with it. I thought I’d be teaching her stuff! But as Ron Bergundy would say, ‘You’re so wise. You’re like a little miniature Buddha covered in hair.’ And on that note, I think I’ll go outside and watch the lunar eclipse.