Let's Keep Talking!

So, as you may have read, this has been a difficult week. I usually hesitate to write down the dreary details of my life because I think, who the hell cares about my little life? My anxieties, my screw-ups, my stressors? But then I get feedback from you and I realize just how important it is to share these things. We are no longer a village society and as a result parents (mothers in particular - and on them I will focus because I can only write what I know) are suffering. I feel guilty even using that word "suffer" - as if I have one micro-ounce of right to say I'm suffering when others around the world and around the corner are living in situations I can't even imagine.

But the truth is we do suffer, we mothers. We live everyday under the burden of the responsibilities and expectations of our societies, our families, and most of all, ourselves. And for the most part, we suffer alone.

How many of us would willingly admit out loud that we yell too loud at our children. That we have smacked them in anger. Have you wondered if this precise moment will be The One that sends your child to therapy in 20 years time? How many times have you called a girlfriend and pleaded for her to come over because if you hear one more time, I diiiiiidn't dooooo it, maaaamaaaaa, you may just put your head in the oven. We don't because we are afraid to be judged, judged to be incompetent at our "job." It's the same reason, I'll warrant, that so many of us don't budget for a housecleaner. Who wants to admit they are a slob?

We know:
1. Being a stay-at-home mom is the equivalent of two full-time jobs.

2. In most times and societies other than our own a woman had domestic help. Only when technology lent us a hand around the house was it decided that a housewife could do it alone.

3. Many other societies around the world know raising children takes community effort. No other culture isolates and puts the pressure on its mothers like we do.

4. Stay-at-home mothers of the 1950s spent the equivalent amount of time with their children as the working mothers of today. Why? From a young age children of that decade (and probably the 60s and 70s also) left the house to go to school or to play in the neighborhood, woods, barn, etc. in the morning and only reappeared for meals and bedtime. (I can't give you a notation on that tid-bit except that I heard it on NPR, so it's gotta be good, eh?)

5. Everyone needs to practice some self-care for their own mental and emotional health.

But we believe:
1. I SHOULD be able to do it all.

2. I SHOULDN'T feel this way about my children, I love them. I have no right to get so angry.

3. ALL other women handle it just fine. I am the ONLY woman who locks herself in the bathroom to cry (while the kids are pounding on the door to come in).

4. I am SUPPOSED to be always available to entertain and educate my children. (And feed them organic local food and not let them watch TV and sleep in my bed and breastfeed until they're eight and ...).

5. I am a FAILURE if I cannot control everything (plus, provide brownies for the bakesale or volunteer at pre-school).

6. I CANNOT leave my children to take of myself, that would be SELFISH and irresponsible.

I don't know how to do away with these self-expectations and beliefs. And our society will practically need a revolution before it completely loosens its vice grip on our self-efficacy. But the conversation has begun. All these mommy-blogs and the social-networks are helping us communicate. Reading our own thoughts, feelings, actions, fears, gripes and joys in other women's words - women from all walks and ways of life - brings us closer to accepting ourselves.

And until we accept ourselves we will continue to suffer.

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kate said...

hello mate, i want to make you feel better.
This morning i had to take both my kids to a clothes shop to return a couple of things. (Bought incidentally in a panic buy due to having both kids with me on that occasion also)
I had gone prepared with snacks and drink but as soon as in shop my 3 yr old leapt away from my grasp and ran behind the shop window display and started bashing the clothes dummy. I just managed to catch it before the whole, lifesize lady fell over.
I managed to then get 2 minutes peace whilst they ate and drunk but in true boy style this was over in a flash.
Stupidly before i dealt with my returns i thought i would try on a couple of things, it was sale time after all! My 3 yr old dashed into the changing rooms and began to crawl under the doors to a couple of very unimpressed women who were in a state of undress.After rescuing i tried on two tops in record fashion whilst listening to my youngest (again) singing "i love boobies" at the top of his voice. I was now beyond embarrassed, stressed and just wanted to vacate the premises asap which i duly did after having to queue to change items whilst carrying said nightmare child under my arm kicking and screaming!
You would think that would have been enough for one day but no. I thought i would attempt a very quick food shop. Bribed with promise of comic if behaves i ran around supermarket gathering items giving no thought to what i had to go with. Lost 3 yrold twice. Replaced tins back on shelves that 3 yrold removed. Put back sweets, drinks all taken by 3 yr old. Managed to get to check out and whilst packing away in bags had to witness my 3 yr old and usually delightful 7 yr old having a full on scrap! Needless to say i wanted to go home have bottle of wine (11 am) smoke 20 cigs (gave up 2 yrs ago)and throw both children out the window! Instead had large coffee, put on their fav dvd and took 15 mins out away from them so i could love them again later.
The point is this is all in a days work for me and i think i am a good mum, ensuring high standards of behaviour and good manners but sometimes i have to hold my hands up to giving them another biscuit, buying the comic etc just to try and save face in public, and i guess kids will just be kids. x

Jo said...

My life in every word. I spend my entire day in spasms of guilt about being the reason they will grow up to be axe wielding sociopaths, because I refused to let them draw on every wall, or asked them to turn the tv down whilst I am on the phone. Of course then I don't get to talk on the phone anyway because of the deafening roars of indignation and "I don't LIKE you mummy"

I have given in and allow my mother her guilty pleasure of occasionally cleaning bits of the house I don't mind her seeing. I also occasionally throw them at daddy the minute he walks in the door, with sobs of "they are YOUR children" and run to the nearest cafe for a 10 minute cup of coffee....again wrapped in guilt. Luckily, he doesn't mind.

joanna said...

Oh my dears! We are all in the same boat, aren't we? Like you, Kate, I try to keep going too even though I am beyond stressed and the kids are beyond reasoning with. But we are determined to WIN! But who loses in the end?

Thanks for sharing and know that I am sending hugs across the ocean to my best mate and my cousin - altho' we've never met, I know we'd get along famously (how could we not, sharing a name?)!

Iota said...

I think the mummy blogging cuts both ways. Yes, it's a huge source of comfort, humour, companionship. But I think it can also breed competition, smugness, and a sense that everyone else is doing it better than I am. It has its own way of setting targets for us to fail at.

Brittany at Mommy Words said...

This is so true and I have been feeling this recently myself. Moms especially need to open up and be more supportive and know that we all have the same crappy stuff in our mommy closets. I am hiring cleaning help now that I am pregnant because the smells are driving me crazy and yes, I want the bathroom cleaned with bleach. I am going to keep this angel with the Clorox after the baby if at all possible. Also, I am trying to get my neighbors to do community kids stuff in the afternoon so that our kids are close, feel safe up and down the street and moms get to relax and actually relate to each other and hopefully hash out the bad days. I just found your blog. Love i and will follow!

joanna said...

Iota, you're right. There's one blog I read whose author does science experiments with her kids and I think, man! I can't even play Barbies let alone grow something out of baking soda and lentils. I suck! But then again, I read NS, for example, and I wish I had the time to research like she does and write something *important*. The self-judgment never ends.

Brittany, I wish I had a neighborhood that allowed for that kind of thing. Mostly old people on our street. And good for you getting a cleaner!

Thanks for following.

kate said...

I feel i also need to add that, yes at times my 3 yr old is a complete nightmare and i have panic dreams about visiting him in a secure unit once older, but for the most part he is a loving, affectionate, funny little man who makes my day a little brighter. (Just easing my conscience!)

Heidi said...

Hi, sorry I haven't been around lately to comment.
You are definately not alone. We women are too hard on ourselves.
As for the never yelling too loud, hahaaha...
Lexapro is my savior. I still yell, though maybe not as loud or as much.

jo said...

I hope you don't mind, but I linked this to my mummy website....its a conversation that crops up on there a lot....I thought some of the girls would like it.

joanna said...

Of course, I don't mind, Jo! Bring 'em on!