Sunday, September 29, 2013

Missing

Leaving the fascinating quandaries of childcare for a moment, I'll write about where I'm at personally. I get a little break on Sundays. A few hours. I waste some of it doing a torturing class at the gym, ascertaining that my body still doesn't look the way I'd like it to look, and my physical strength is a fraction of what it used to be. The instructor is at count 8 and I'm still at 5. I'm slow in all things, including doing pliés. But I keep at it, because I need my body for the long haul, you know, if I don't die of cancer before I die of old age.

If you are struggling in the trenches of IF, this post may be awful to read. You may hate me. I have warned you, so please stop reading. But, if you are in the trenches of IF and you need an account of what it's like on the other side, minus the unicorns and rainbows, then read on.

I love my baby. I love being a mom. There is nothing like getting Gummy Girl in the morning and seeing her excited little face when I appear above her crib. I feel like a teenage heartthrob. I like taking care of her. I like thinking about her care constantly and deeply. To think about what she needs, how I can meet her needs, and how to minimize my own issues getting in the way of meeting her needs.

I must admit, though, that it sometimes feels all consuming. And that can be uncomfortable.

I must pause here to say that even writing that it is uncomfortable IS uncomfortable. Complaining about my life with baby post years of heart-shredding infertility seems absurd. Yeah, you can hate me now. Or at least, I'm pretty sure I hate myself for it. It seems so hard to let those two realities sit together. 1) I longed, waited and worked so hard for this baby. 2) I am sometimes unhappy in my role of mother.  

I try to chalk this all up to adjusting. Which is fair enough. Every woman (and probably every man) who becomes a mother has to wrestle with a big shift in her identity. Who am I now that I change diapers, mix formula, sing the itsy-bitsy spider, run to the crib when I hear her cry, walk around town with a stroller for a living (thank you government of Canada for paying me to do so)?

Lately, I've been feeling like I've gone missing.

weird.

unsettling.

I don't really know what that makes me, but I'm afraid it might mean that my mother's deep-seated narcism was contagious.

There is a healthy part of me that chimes in, not too loudly, but says that it's ok. My gummy girl is still so little and needs me so much, and that I've gone from entirely looking after myself to looking after this precious daughter almost exclusively. I mean, I do the things to keep myself going at least on a basic level. I brush my hair, people. I even wash it sometimes.

But I've not figured out how to carve out some good time for me. Mr. A tries to give me some time to myself and that is appreciated. But it's not a lot (and that's ok. I'll take what I can get), and it is often unpredictable. But it's probably more than many of you or my Pleasantville mom friends get.

I am very good at keeping us busy and structuring the days for her and for me. We have yoga on Tuesday, swimming on Wednesday, and music on Thursday. There is a hike with my moms' group on Friday, and on Mondays, I sometimes go to the drop in at the Early Years Centre.

There are rhythms to the day. Ups and downs. Naps. Feedings. Floor time. Meal time. Daddy coming home time. And bed time.

And at the end of the day, there is time for me, and what I usually do with it is wasteful. I watch tv series. Instead of writing. Instead of reading for pleasure or doing professional reading. Instead of trying to connect meaningfully by writing emails. Instead of cleaning the house. Our very filthy house.

It seems like when there is a moment to look for myself, I don't. I just eat more chocolate. Scroll on the twitter feed.

And I feel angry a lot, which can be scary. Is she ever going to feel like I resent her? Because I don't resent her. I love her. But I also have to find a way to make room for my non-mother self. So that I don't ever resent her. And because I will die someday. And I have to make this life count. That's all I can do with these mere 80 years, if I'm lucky.

Mr. A gets the brunt of my anger. Unfortunately. He forgot to take the Brussels sprouts out of the oven while I was putting Gummy to bed last night and I was livid. I wanted roasted Brussels sprouts, not burnt Brussels sprouts. Is it too much to ask? You know you're in trouble when those words start coming to your mind. At least I didn't say them out loud, but I might as well have, since I was visibly upset. 

I wish I could wrap up this post with a satin bow by outlining the steps I will take to find myself again. But I'm slow (still on count 5), and I haven't come up with any yet. I have a few inchoate ideas of things I could look at. I think picking up my gratitude journal could help. And trying to get to yoga (a non-baby class) might help. And getting to the other side of harvest season will help, when Mr. A has more time on his hands and I can schedule time for myself every week. And finding a way to write a little bit every day. But that might be too ambitious.

Anyways, thank you for reading and letting me work this out. And please share if you will in the comments if you've also had these similar feelings and what helped you.

17 comments:

  1. This sounds completely normal to me. I don't know any mom - at home or at work - who doesn't have the many of the same feelings. The neediness is suffocating at times no matter how much you love the child or how desperately your desired the child. We do each other a disservice when we pretend it isn't so.

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  2. Augusta, all I can say is YES. You went from being a professional woman to being full time stay at home mom. This is the (maybe?) one downside of extended mat leave...you don't get to back to having that self you had before, even in its newish incarnation. Would you be willing to have a few babysitter hours per week--hours you could count on, even just one afternoon while she's napping--to get away and do something, whatever it is, that's yours alone?

    It is a period of adjustment, but it doesn't really ever go away (at least it hasn't for me, 9 years in!). Balancing self with kids is hard to do, especially in a culture that still believes mothers should sacrifice pretty much everything, including their identities, for their kids.

    You will be a better mother to Gummy if you are whole.

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  3. I feel like I could have written parts of this post myself. I love my baby girl so very much. I've had a hard time going back to work and leaving her at daycare (though she absolutely loves it), but I long for some time to myself. Last week I had a horrible headache so I told my husband I was going to get a massage...and it was amazing! I need to find more times to do things like this, but at the same time, I hate to be away from her. Damned if you do, damned if you don't. Oh, and my husband really can't do anything right these days -- he gets all of my anger, grumpiness, anxiousness, etc. Sending you and Gummy much love!

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  4. First off good for you for writing honestly about the difficulties of parenting and yes pretty much everything you said I've felt at one point or another! Going from working full time and dreaming of a baby to actually living and breathing basically only caring for said baby is a challenging adjustment. I never planned to be a SAHM and after we moved and that happened it was really hard those first few months. As much as I love my little man so much it was still difficult to feel that my life now only revolved around changing diapers and cooking. I can tell you though that things have gotten much better with time and now I am so glad I'm home with him.

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  5. I'd say every mother feels this way but most are afraid to admit it. We need start being honest about parenting: Sometimes it sucks, and sometimes it makes you unhappy. It's hard work and nit just a blissful fulfillment of everything one ever dreamed of. And that's okay.

    You should check out the book "Why have kids" by Jessica Valenti. A good read that explores the myths about parenting.

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  6. I agree with those above. Completely normal. I think of it like dating and marriage a little too. You want to marry that person (and have waited for so long) but it doesn't mean marriage is easy or that you don't compromise and lose a little of yourself in the mix. I love my girls and wanted them so bad that I would cry every time I felt stressed by the new role because I thought it meant I was a bad fit for "mom". I still have days and weeks where I don't carve out genuine me time (especially with my hubs working 12-13 hour days for now) and I can tell it takes it's toll on me and the way I am with my girls. I am like you and don't usually do quality time and it's just exhausted me time (TV, facebook, Pinterest, etc). I like the idea of doing something that makes me feel good, productive, etc. I'm gonna steal that from you ;)

    Anyway you are completely normal and not a horrible mother. You are a great mom because you recognize that you still need to meet your own needs too. If you don't fill up your own tank you don't have much to give out after a while or you resent giving it (in my opinion). Keep up the hard work (it is hard) and it gets a little easier with time (the newborn stage to crawling/walking stage was my toughest time so far). Take care of yourself :)

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  7. I totally get it. Even with Little K at seven years old, I often feel that my weeks are made up of work and caring for Little K. Not much time just to myself, to enjoy just being ME and spending time doing the things original-dspence (rather than mom-dspence) enjoys.

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  8. Being the mom at home means you are default on call. The 24-hour burden is something I felt deeply. Much more so around Gummy's age. I am getting food on the table, diapers on and off at appropriate times, keeping the ever loving precious schedule together for the world's most perfect baby and yet I found myself thinking "I just want a day off now and then." Not like, go back to how things used to be before a baby, but having the burden of being the ONE deciding what to feed the baby at every meal, prepare her meal in conjunction with what we are eating and do that three effing times a day on top of all the other things in between.

    At some point, I sat down with the Mr. and just made him be in charge for a full weekend. He realized how much it sucks to anticipate all things E and feed us as well as doing basic shit like laundry. Yeah, you could DO things in that downtime, but it's the doing of things that you need to recover from at some point. I can say that it gets better. It also does take the negotiation of having real help and time off on some regular basis. Or appreciation in my case. I felt very unappreciated in unexpected places. Lots of love from my corner and empathy by the bucketload.

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  9. It is a brutal transition some days. Other days I wondered how I managed to do anything aside from parent. Mine really came to a peak when I quit my job. I didnt realize how much I loved my work friends and how hard missing that "8" hour a day play date would be on me.

    I had to hit reset and figure out where I was and heavy things like that. It wasnt until I got settled in with my new Momma friends in the neighborhood and school that I found my spot. It took a longer time than I ever imagined. I hope you know you are not alone, I'm just ahead of you, that's all.

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  10. I feel like you have expressed everything I was feeling (and am still feeling, but in different ways) so much more eloquently that I was able to. it is SO HUGE to become a mother. SO HUGE. And there's no time at all to adjust to the change, because life is all about meeting the needs of another person.

    I think that other commenters have addressed much of what I'd want to say, so I'll try to focus on other things, in an incoherent way. 1. WATCH AS MUCH CRAPPY TV AS YOU WANT. It's good for the soul. 2. I thought that being separated from my daughter when I went back to work would kill me. It was so hard to contemplate. It turned out to be good for me, and I'd argue just fine for her. It might be the same for you. 3. You are amazing and generous and so giving. Your mother's narcissism is NOT contagious. I'm not THAT kind of psychologist, but my guess is that knowing you have needs and that it's OKAY to have them is a sign that you are a thousand eons more evolved than your mother. 4. Mr. Bunny gets the brunt of my anger, too, and so far it hasn't destroyed us. I kind of feel like he owes it to me, honestly. I mean, you had to gestate and nearly die, he can deal with a stressed Mama. 5. I don't remember whether it helped me or not to hear this, but things get easier. They really do. There are always challenges and things don't get EASY, but they get easier. You are doing brilliantly, and your baby girl, and your husband are lucky to have you.

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  11. Give it time. I promise. I'm a little over a year ahead of you. You will get yourself back! This is just a season.

    And enjoy the TV. This job is hard. Your brain needs to decompress. I didn't start reading Real Books again until about 18 months, and now we're in the twos and my brain is mush again by noon.

    All that said - you will never be the same level of intelligent or in shape. No one is. But we have gained another level, a layer of the soul that is endlessly more meaningful. Just put one foot in front of the other. In six months the landscape of parenting will be completely different.

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  12. Oh my goodness, do I ever know what you mean! Right down to the "how dare I feel any negative feels after waiting So. Long. for this"

    And can I just say that my husband once put dirty dishes on top of clean dishes and I was astonished at the depth of my anger about something so ridiculous. Luckily he wasn't home when I discovered this, so I was able to get it down to a reasonable, non-cray-cray reaction by the time he got home. So I feel you on the Brussels sprouts.

    And, as others have said, YES. TV. Whenever you can. I have been watching the truly terrible "Damages" on Netflix, and I think the terribleness is part of the appeal at this point. Like, it's a reminder that there is a whole world of grown-up triviality beyond this all-encompassing world of baby triviality in which I find myself most of the time. What did new mothers do before TV? Did they find solace in shelling beans or something (because shelling beans on the porch is pretty much how I picture The Olden Days),or did they just stare at the wall imagining that one day there would be some kind of escapist technology?

    It really sounds like you are doing great -- and again, to echo others, don't even give narcissism a thought. Besides the fact that you absolutely don't have that in you, you're home all day with someone who, while her smiles are amazing, doesn't talk back. That's a lot of effing inner monologue, and of course it leads to some degree of navel-gazing, because who else are you talking to? Does not equal narcissism.

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  13. Thanks for sharing so honestly. I cannot speak from experience yet, but it does sound completely normal, as others (who know!) wrote above. And while I am still in the hoping and trying phase, it is a small nagging thought in the back of my mind, "what if I make it and then I don't like it?". (I'm fairly convinced I'll like at least 90% of it. But, well, I have been wrong before.)
    I'll be curious to follow you and see how you make it easier. Also, I do envy you for a government that pays you for taking care of Gummy Girl, any concerns aside.

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  14. I feel like I have more to say than time to say it, so I will just leave you with this: house keeping is NOT "me time" Eff the eff outta that. Let it stay dirty while you watch all the shit TV you (and not what anyone else) can stomach. Love you, Momo

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  15. As crazy as it sounds, I think you sound perfectly normal. These first months, even years are such and adjustment for you, A and Gummy. You're all getting used to each other as a family and figuring out the right routine and balance to make it all work.

    Any anytime you need to NOT be the mama and vent. I for one, am here for ya. :)

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  16. I didn't reply before because I wasn't sure if "it'll get better" would help in any way. I think as the child grows older there's more room to be a real person in between taking care of them. Bug is 4.5 and I can tell him "this is mommy's coffee time" and he actually leaves me alone to type things. :)

    But also, YES. Babies are so needy, and while that's natural, I found the adjustment really hard. You can't even go to the grocery store whenever you want any more, y'know? It has to be planned around nap schedules and the kid is usually crabby anyways and while they're little heaven forbid you forget the stuffed animal/ snack/ bottle/ diapers/ spare outfits for everyone. There's this huge amount of constraint, and while I think all (normal) people love their babies, it's still natural to resent this enormous, difficult, inconvenient change. I pretty much wanted to die for the first year of my children's lives, extra so since they were breastfeeding and *would not* stay with anyone else or take a bottle. Really. Bug would go ten hours without drinking anything while I was at work. From 3 months to 13 months he did this. With Tatoe, I didn't even try. When he was about 1 I told Dr. S that I was going to LOSE MY MIND if I didn't start exercising, so I went to a class once a week and Tatoe screamed his head off every single week.

    Whenever I read that someone (especially after infertility) is "so grateful" about their children and will never complain I think they're setting themselves up for failure. Really? The kid's going to throw up all over everything and everyone at 3 AM and they're going to think "This is fantastic! This is what I've always dreamed of!" No. They're going to think "This sucks and as much as I love this child I really REALLY wish I were not doing vomitous laundry at 3 AM."

    Cleaning, by the way, is totally overrated. I also watched a TON of trashy TV while the kids were small. The brain just needs, I don't know, a diversion.

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  17. oh my holy cow, yes, Augusta... THIS. THIS is how I have felt since Little fox was born. I've never felt so much anger (which I now think was in part due to exhaustion), so much resentment (more often than not targeting my beloved husband), and general desperation to have a little time off. Being the default parent, being always 'on' is exhausting. I kept thinking that the feelings would pass by, but when they just kept getting worse I talked to my dr and we determined that some of what I was experiencing was anxiety that had gotten out of control. If you can't relax when Gummy is napping, or after she goes to bed, it might be time to talk to someone. I agree with everyone else that these feelings are common, but that doesn't mean that are meant to be suffered forever.

    Having said all that, it is HARD to be a mom. and I love you for speaking with such honesty about a topic that I know we all feel uncomfortable talking about.

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