Tag Archives: motherhood

My Moment Of Shame, Guilt And Failure

 

Every night before I go to bed I think to myself, “Tomorrow I will do better.” Tomorrow I will be a better person, a better mother, a better wife, a better artist, a better housekeeper (yeah right) and a better listener. Every day I do my best, but inevitably fail in some fashion or another and so end up making the same promise to myself night after night.

Every morning I am reborn with an optimistic heart and the determination to make the best of any situation. I wake up with gratitude that I have another day to try it all again. Then, sometime around noon, my “best” becomes diminished with time, exhaustion, and defeat. Having a two year old is an exercise in stamina and turning the other cheek. I feel trapped somewhere between being a good mother and self preservation. There is a limit to how much screaming one person can endure and today I have reached my limit and I feel like a complete failure.

As I am typing this my over tired daughter is crying and screaming in her crib. I feel guilty for not rescuing her from her sad and cranky disposition, but she truly needs a nap and I truly need a break. I don’t know if I am making the best decision right now. I am letting her cry and I feel terrible about it, but at the same time I just cannot walk into her room right now and get her up. I know some time in the future I will look back at this moment and feel shame and guilt. I will have proof that I am sometimes a horrible mother. I will know that I am incapable of always putting my daughter first. I will know that one day she will grow up and resent me for my humanness, but in this moment I am fully aware that this is the absolute best I can do. In this moment I am crying along with her. I am exhausted and alone. I am imperfect. I am human.

I’m Still A Feminist Even After Giving Birth

I know the word “feminist” sometimes drives people a little batty. I get it. It’s sort of like throwing fire onto something already flaming out of control. People like to bicker back and forth about what it does or doesn’t mean to be a feminist. There are extremes in every direction. Still, I am a feminist. I believe in equality for all people. I believe in equal opportunities and the right to the pursuit of happiness for all people. It’s not really something I feel the need to argue about. It’s just what I think and what I believe to be a universal truth.

This hasn’t changed just because I gave birth. This hasn’t changed just because my husband and I decided that I should stay home with my daughter while she is young. This wouldn’t have changed if my husband and I decided to both work outside the home or if we decided I should work outside the home while he cared for Tiny-Small during the day. None of these things would have changed my belief in the importance of equality. My husband and I are just regular people doing our best to survive in this dog-eat-dog world and to make the hard decisions about what works best for our little family.

I’m feeling a little angry because I was recently listening to a feminist podcast and while answering a question from one of their listeners, the two hosts out right blasted stay-at-home moms and actually called us all brain washed by a patriarchal society. I was kind of stunned to put it mildly. The show is called Opinionated if you want to check it out. The episode I am talking about is Feminists Love Shiny Objects if you want to listen to it. I’ve never fully accepted the notion that women must become like men in order to be considered equal. On the contrary, I find the ability to actually give birth to be both a great privilege and an asset. I still look at Tiny-Small with awe and cannot believe my body actually created her. That is remarkable and she is amazing! I embrace my so called “feminine” traits as much as I embrace my so called “masculine” traits (when will we stop defining ourselves by two distinct genders when it is so obvious none of us fit neatly into either category?) When it comes to care giving I don’t think women have a monopoly on it or that men are bumbling idiots like so many TV shows like to depict them as these days. Just look at all of the parents out there, both male and female, doing their best to raise happy and healthy kids. Our genitals do not determine everything about us. They certainly do not determine what kind of parents we will be, what kind of values we will have, or what our many talents might be. I’m not brainwashed. I made a conscious, deliberate and well thought out decision to stay home with my child. My decision doesn’t make another parents decision wrong. It only means my husband and I sat down together, discussed our options, our finances, our circumstances, and our child and came to a conclusion that would work best for us and our personal situation. We’ve both made professional and personal sacrifices in order to provide our child with the kind of life we want her to have. In short, we approach life like a team and utilize each others strengths as best we can and yes, we often put our child first because we are her parents and because we love her. It’s kind of hard to feel ashamed about that.

Sure, I miss going to work some days just as I know some parents working outside the home wish they could be home with their kids some days. We give up one thing and receive another with every choice that we make. That’s kind of the law of being alive. Notice I said “parents” and not “mothers”? Parenting isn’t about your biological sex so much as it is about providing care and education for your kids. Modern parenting isn’t so much of a him vs. her as it is a collaboration between two human beings (of any sex or gender) who are trying to get their offspring to make it to adulthood. We aren’t reenacting the 1950’s by any means. This is a whole new breed of parenting. This is a whole new breed of society and most of us are very alert and aware of what is going on around us. We are enjoying our ability to make conscious decisions based on the mutual respect we share with our life partners. We aren’t brain washed. We are wide awake and taking advantage of the opportunities our parents and grandparents fought so hard to give us. It seems shortsighted and patriarchal, to me, to view child care as inferior to all other occupations. Children are not the enemy of the women’s movement and other women shouldn’t be either.

Another thing that irritated me was the way the stay-at-home-moms were continuously referred to as “just” moms during the podcast. I thinks this is a foolish way to classify any human being. Nobody is “just” any one thing. Many stay-at-home parents have careers going along side their parenting duties and hobbies, friends, community ties, and other roles that they occupy on a daily basis. How dehumanizing to refer to another person as “just” (fill in the blank). That kind of language makes me cringe and assume a level of immaturity on the part of the speaker.

I listen to this podcast because the two hosts talk about current events and point out bias in the media. I appreciate the perspective and food for thought that the podcast usually gives me. I am, however, disappointed in their portrayal of motherhood or more specifically parenthood as something to look down upon. I’m particularly disappointed that a feminist podcast would take part in shaming women for their experiences and choices. It’s seems no matter what path a woman takes she will be eviscerated for it by a group of her peers. We’ve created a lose/lose culture for women. Women should be supporting each other more and standing up for each other instead of engaging in divisive rhetoric that only causes us to fight amongst ourselves and draw imaginary lines in the sand. We deserve better than that, especially from our philosophers, artists, and activists out there.

Fundamentally, there seems to be a lack of mutual respect, running rampant through our culture right now, for people who make choices that are different from one’s own personal perspective.  This is unfortunate, especially for women, because while this particular podcast did not make me want to reject feminism I can understand why some women are turned off and tuned out to the feminist movement. They probably assume they have no place in the movement because their life choices have been devalued by the very people who claim to have their best interests at heart. Parts of the feminist movement seem to be outdated and unrelated to the challenges men and women are facing today. The traditional family unit depicted in shows like Leave It To Beaver is long gone. Why are we still fighting against it? It’s time we moved forward (together) in our quest for equality and started thinking about how to solve some of the problems we are facing now and in this day and age.

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Theatrical Performances Always Have A Price

 

I woke up this morning feeling strange. At first I thought maybe I was getting sick again. Then, I thought maybe I was dreaming. Finally, I realized what it was: I didn’t feel exhausted and actually had some energy. My eyes weren’t on fire when I closed them. I woke up on my own! I haven’t felt this good in a few weeks and I only have Tiny-Small to thank for it.

For several weeks now she has been waking up between 2am and 3am to perform the first and second act of some theater production she has created in her mind while the rest of us are sleeping. For two or more hours we hear her flopping around in her crib while singing, monologuing, and even acting out different characters. On visual inspection (she has a glass window in her door) we discover her dancing, swaying, and doing some acrobatics in her crib too. It has happened every single night for weeks. Her doctor claims this is normal for her age. I don’t know what it means, but she does seem completely dedicated to her future theater career even though she sings off key and only performs in the middle of the night.

For the past three nights she has slept all the way through the night without a peep. On Sunday (Mother’s Day) she was so busy entertaining herself and everyone around her that she only took a small nap. She spent quite a bit of that day climbing on and off her Auntie’s couch and running around outside trying to play hacky-sack. All of that fresh air and busy-bodied-ness really paid off because she “slept like a baby.” Not a literal baby because we all know they don’t really sleep all that much, but a made for TV baby that sleeps through the night from the moment of birth and only cries on cue.

 

The fact that she slept through the night did not escape me on Monday so I did my best to recreate the activity level Tiny-Small experienced on Sunday. I became Mommy-dictator and forced her into toddler slave labor. She was out in the garden weeding, watering and replanting. Well, I did most of the replanting because she had some trouble telling the good plants from the bad plants or as other people call them: weeds. She did most of the watering which meant her diaper was bloated and falling off, her shoes were like tiny reflecting pools, and her clothes were soaked and weighed several more pounds than usual. We were outside for hours lugging the hose around and fighting off the dogs who wanted to go on a walk or chew on Tiny-Small’s gardening tools. We were working our butts off in the hot, hot sun. Did I mention I slathered sun screen over every inch of Tiny-Small’s body but completely neglected to put one drop on myself?  All of that fresh air and hard, honest work must have done something because even with a normal nap Tiny-Small slept through the night again.

On Tuesday, we went up and down the stairs what felt like a million times. It may have only been 6, 8, or 10. I lost count. I had laundry to put away and Tiny-Small helped. All of those stairs must have knocked her out because she slept through the night again. It was either that or all of the energy she used up dancing to her baby Elmo video.

Luckily, I have been sleeping through the night too. Usually when Tiny-Small sleeps through the night I wake up in a panic imagining the worst and I am compelled to go into her room and check on her. I always think something horribly wrong has happened because she usually wakes up at some point to practice her singing and when she doesn’t some alarm in my brain goes off. Is she still breathing? Has she finally attempted to climb out of her crib, but gotten stuck half way? Is she too hot or too cold? I always tell Jim, “Let sleeping babies lie.” It’s supposed to be, “Let sleeping dog lie.” I’ve adapted one of my many sayings for baby use, but like most of my own wisdom and advice I never want to follow it myself. That’s why I am the known baby-waker-upper. I have to see her breathing even if that means sneaking into her room and pulling the covers back a little and then trying to sneak back out again. I always forget about the squeaky door or don’t notice that the dog has snuck in with me and is attempting to lick Tiny-Smalls head until it is too late.

 

However, I guess I am starting to outgrow that phase of motherhood because for three nights in a row I slept like a TV baby too. The alarm in my brain never went off. I just drooled on my pillow and woke up when the birds started singing. I think this might be a reason to celebrate, but last time this happened Tiny-Small went back to her old ways after about 8 days or so. I think she might just take a week off from her theater show once in a while. It’s like she needs a sleeping vacation before promoting herself and her future work on stage. I just keep wondering which one of us has the sleeping problem. I think it might be me because she really doesn’t seem to mind being up half the night. Maybe someday she will be on Ellen telling the audience about how she loved to be on stage and has been practicing since she was two years old. Maybe she is a child prodigy and will star in the off-off Broadway version of Wicked at 5 years old. Maybe it will only be the You Tube version, but still…. Or, maybe she is a child who delights in keeping her mother awake at all hours of the night. Only time will tell, but I am keeping my fingers crossed for the first scenario. I’d like to think my sleep sacrifices are being made for some kind of greater good even if it is only You Tube or community theater.