Here I am, ending week 3 of the next phase of my life…. ‘no kids 4 days a week’ (except Griffin at lunch)
What am I to do?
I think this is the time I have been looking forward to for so many years. I used to have a vision for what this would be like. I would get up, get the kids to school, naturally stopping to chat with friends on the way in and out (from now on this is stc--stop to chat), go to the gym, stc, do an errand or chore, have lunch and spend until 3pm writing, or volunteering in the classroom or at a library, stc. I would have time, maybe once a week, to read a book or maybe even start a new project. I was going to get a puppy! OK – you may have realized that vision belonged to Philadelphia life and involved lots of stc. Sooo….. maybe that can still happen later? But, what about the France vision? Well – I was going to do chores, travel planning and classes in the morning – and maybe get a job, or write in the afternoons or something – it was never really clear. The reality of this life is that I am bitterly alone but also busy and pressured – how is that possible? I realize I’m not that far into this phase, but so far I don’t feel like I have any free time – I am still trying to catch up on blogs, photos, packages, upcoming birthdays, travel plans, cooking, cleaning and just the normal chores of life. I still am trying to exercise daily – but I hate and loathe it- and sometimes skip it – the kids being around must have really helped my motivation over the summer. Plus, even though I have been doing this for over 30 days hating it and sweating like a pig, I don’t really see any results. I have lost about 15 pounds but my gut is still big, my clothes don’t fit any better and I don’t feel stronger. Also, I have spent years trying to accept my imperfect, flabby body as it is. Trying to be able to look at myself in the mirror and feel, not revulsion, but a gentle acceptance for me, as I AM. I have heard loving yourself is the first step to loving the world around you – and if, whenever you look at yourself, you think: “I am so fat and ugly” how will that ever work? Well, I had been making some progress on this, sometimes even thinking I was slightly pretty – and sometimes able to not judge myself so harshly. But, since this summer, I have been feeling so bad about my body – you would think that would motivate me to get skinnier – but it mostly just depresses me so I don’t want to do anything at all. The video routine is so repetitive, the people in it are so perfect and, far worse, it is just so lonely. When I used to go to FitLife, I got to interact with others – and be a part of my community.
And then there are the kids. I want to be this super perfect mom. I mean, it is my supposed job right? That thankless one? The one which everyone looks down on? But not me, no, I know this is a real job, and a hard one. (At least, that’s what I have been telling myself for the last 8 and a half years). So, who can blame me for wanting a break sometimes? I mean, who doesn’t take a vacation day off of their job? Who doesn’t have an occasional bad day at work? Look at this summer, I was with them, almost 24/7, for 2 and a half months straight. I admit, I had my bad days, my times when I was less than patient, less than kind. I am only human. In general, though, it was a great summer and I was pretty happy most of the time. But not now, now, I have all this time to myself, all this time to recharge, relax, do whatever, right? So when the kids are with me, it should be easy to be consistent, follow all those parenting rules, and never, ever scream. But I find I am no better than I was before. In fact, I am worse. I find myself struggling to keep my temper and often losing the battle. Sometimes, when I am screaming at my kids or wrestling a charging Zander to the ground I feel like this must be happening to another person – surely not to me. It is easy to blame the kids for bad behavior – why don’t they just do what they are told? But the real fact is that it is hard to be a good kid when you don’t know what to expect from your mom. Some days she is soft and gentle, greeting you with homemade cookies, doing special art projects with you and being patient as you struggle through your homework. Other days, when you refuse to pick up a toy, she throws it in the trash without warning and screams her head off at you. I am so conflicted. I want to be in charge of my kids – the boss – but I don’t want to be a drill sergeant either. I know I should hide my emotions around the kids – but I am not very good at hiding anything from anyone – as loyal readers of my blog know very well. Who is this woman I have become? I wanted to be just like my mom. She worked, baked goodies, sewed our Halloween costumes, cooked our meals, helped us with our homework and kept an immaculate house. She was always there to play with me, or talk to me, or snuggle me too. She was usually very mellow, but would stand up and fight when it was really important. And she did it all with very little help from my dad. But look at me, I am none of those things. I want to be that kind of mom. That cool mom that all the other kids wish their moms were like. The mom they write those cheesy Hallmark cards about. No, I am not. My kids deserve better. I know that, but I feel helpless to change and feel like a total whiney baby for even writing about this. I know I am being extreme. Logically, if you look at my life, at my kids, at our typical day to day living, all is fine. On a logical level, I realize this. But, I also know that some of the mistakes I make are just not OK. I spoke to Zander’s counselor about how, one day, I slapped him in a store because he kept ramming the cart into Griffin. She said, that it was OK to cross that line sometimes, it means he knew I was serious and it made him stop, perhaps saving Griffin from serious harm. She said, it may have traumatized me, but it didn’t traumatize Zander. I’m not sure that I agree, but with Zander, sometimes nothing else works and he’s putting others in danger. Other times, like when I insanely broke a broom on Zander this morning for not sweeping up a dirt pile, I can’t use that excuse. It’s just not OK. In fact, despite my Zander issues, I think it’s never, ever OK for me to use force. But even more than that, it’s wrong for me to lose it. Often, when I am in the moment of making mistakes with the kids – I know I am making a mistake – but I feel like I am trapped in some sort of nightmare. You know the ones. When you are trying to run away but your feet are somehow stuck to the ground and the bad thing just keeps on coming, coming, coming, surrounding you so you can’t even breathe…. Why do these small creatures that are our children have the ability to make us so angry? Zander can push my buttons more effectively than anyone but his daddie (of course). But, in the end, I’m the adult. I need to recognize that he’s trying to infuriate me and rise above it. I’m the mom, I need to stay calm, take deep breaths and follow the agreed upon discipline plan. I know this. I know this. I know this. I have been focusing on it for a long, long time. Sometimes, though, I just fail. I recently read, in Parents magazine that, according to a study done at UNC, 89% of parents with kids ages 2 to 10 admit yelling at their kids at least twice a week. When you are a parent of a 4 year old - the number jumps to 98%. (Well, I am the parent of a 4 year old - but I hardly ever scream because of him!) It did make me feel a bit better to realize I am not alone. What I probably really, truly need is just to accept myself as a person, love myself for who I am and learn to be a bit more level. It’s a process. I just wish the evolutionary cycle wasn’t so slow – since my kids are the victims of my own ineptitude. I remember, years ago, when Zander was having a really hard time and attacking us every day, I, protecting Callie and Griffin from harm, kicked him down the stairs. He wasn’t hurt, but I felt like the worst mother in the world. Please, please, cart me off to jail right now because that is where people like me belong. Frankly, that’s how I feel again this morning. At the time, my friend Catherine overheard my crying conversation to my friend AJ and sent me this email – I have saved it for years and I read it from time to time to help me remember I’m not the only one who is struggling. I don’t feel like what she said is true. I don’t believe it. But I hope someday that I will learn these things – and that my kids will know that I made lots of mistakes but that I always felt bad after, and wanted to do the right thing.
Here it is for you to read – I got approval from Catherine ahead of time – I dedicate this note to all the moms out there who majorly screw up with their kids from time to time – if you are not lucky enough to get this note directly – know that it still applies to you….
Hey Rebecca: After eavesdropping on your conversation with AJ this morning, I wanted to tell you that I think you're a great mother. You're always so willing to try new things and do whatever's needed for your family. You work really hard in everything that you do and it shows in your wonderful kids. We all have really rotten days, weeks, months,... It's definitely the most challenging job that I've ever had. Your fellow survivor, Catherine
Thank you Catherine! I miss you! Oh, how I wish I was somewhere where I could talk all this over with another mom from my era and my culture. Where I could share it with a real friend who would listen and give me a hug and tell me they care. On the one hand I feel like I should be able to go it alone – part of the reason I came here was to learn to stand on my own two feet. I think I have grown in this way more than I could have imagined. On the other hand, it takes a village, right? And André, as wonderful as he is, cannot be an entire village. I miss Mt. Airy – all this being on my own is just not going very well at the moment. I get so scared when I blog like this – opening my rawest wounds to the air. I worry that I will be judged harshly and worry my family. But these concerns have been festering for a while and I think that’s part of the reason I have been having such a hard time. Just writing this helped me have a good cry – which I sorely needed – and I thank you for listening. You all are my village, at least for now.