“How sad and bad and mad it was – But then, how it was sweet!” Robert Browning
Last Sunday, I escaped the cozy turned chaotic sanctum I call home and spent the afternoon away from my children. There are days when you ache for carefree days- when sleeping in was the rule rather than the exception; when all that distressed you was missing your date with the manicurista; when afternoons were spent draping oneself by the pool, when a cup of coffee could stretch into hours; and when you love only yourself, without the guilt. And oh the guilt! Why is it, that we mothers torment ourselves with guilt (i.e. when we steal a few precious moments in bed and not rouse as soon as the baby bawls, when we shoo them away to go to the park or the neighbors so we can be by our lonesome, when we relish a good book instead of read them their fairy tales…) We are so hard on ourselves when we blunder. Many a time I fall short of my own ideals and feel like pounding myself on the head. Parenting can usher regret, resentment and a host of other emotions. Suppose we master the guilt or forgive ourselves at each slip up? Still, parenting takes so much energy. Again and again we are overwhelmed as parents because there seems to be a monumental task ahead of us. We are accomplishing so little and yet we are so worn out! I read that young children take so much energy to parent because the life forces of the mother and baby are interconnected through the first three years. Children draw on our own vital energy that is why we are exhausted by the end of the day. (Rahima Baldwin Dancy, You Are Your Child’s First Teacher.)
Be the Sun, according to another book. Certainly a tough act to follow. But actually, the Sun has it better. She rises everyday with so much spirit and pizzazz while I peep through one eye and could barely get a foot out of bed. She unwinds at sunset with a slow dance of radiant red, orange, pink, purple and blue, while I can only plop right on bed wearing my dark self. And She slumbers for a full twelve hours while I am roused with tears at least once at night to suckle.
During my Mommy Blues respite, I knew I had only a few minutes to sulk. Unlike any other human pain (i.e. a broken heart, a bruised ego, a gripe about someone), the Mommy Blues does not have the luxury of healing. Ready or not, in an hour or two, there’s the baby to feed, the older sibling eagerly waiting her bedtime story, and the hubby who needs you home smiling. I only had a handful of moments to discover an antidote. A call of despair to my mom, tete a tete with a learned neighbor of four kids, a frantic search through my how-to books, and a cup of tea later, I (had to) went back to the pandemonium.
I find solace in the understanding that every mother, throughout all generations, in any culture, and no matter how perfect, will, at one, two, or a few times, wish themselves single again. I have tucked the blues underneath my grouchy self, for the next time my baby howls while my older daughter screams. Until then, I have mustered a troop of what to dos.
Taking care of ourselves
I recognize that resentment comes only when I have failed to take care of “Me.” One of the best gifts we can give our children (and ourselves) is to be joyous, well rested and content. We are compelled to take care of ourselves so that we can take care of our children (think oxygen masks on the plane.) Also, one mistake we mothers make is to presume that caring for our children and our family is our wellspring of happiness. We reckon that it is the sole source of our nourishment. But we constantly have to remember that before motherhood, we were already ourselves, with our distinct and unique individuality. Before we were mothers, we already loved to bask in the sun, to curl up with a good book, to have coffee by our lonesome, to loose ourselves to writing, to sometimes get drunk on wine and friends… I thought my friends would never call me an “old fart.” But it happens. We get caught up in motherhood (and it is truly exhausting) that we no longer find time to unwind with friends. One friend even told me that we (my husband and me) should check in at the “Home for the Aged!” We need to find ways to bring ourselves back to those soulful moments. I know my children need a mother who knows how to find a joyful connection with herself and the world. Trusting ourselves Frequently, our expectations and simple reality are just at odds with each other. However, it is not always our fault. Although we cannot always have what is ideal, we can consciously do the best we can with the options as we see them. We must accept who we are and make our best choices at each moment. Who we are is more critical to our child than what we do. It is futile to feel guilty, as long as we are doing all we can.
Trusting our children
Parenting is as much a part of our own inner growth and development, as it is our children’s. Trust in nature and that our children will unfold according to their own timetable. It does not matter whether your baby is still not dawdling at one, your toddler is not potty-trained at two, or that your child is not conversing the same way your older child was discoursing at three. Each child is remarkably unique. They are neither just the sum of experiences nor the product of parental skills. They, albeit unconsciously, help create what happens to them and are participating in their own development. Once we realize that each child is unique with her own ego and life to live, we can slowly let go of guilt feelings.
We can never take absolute credit or blame for how our children turn out to be. Our task is to do our utmost and have faith that all is in the best. Children are incredibly resilient. They heal and will turn out to be good people despite our flaws or regrettable acts. I know this from experience, having grown up with three dads and moving homes at least twenty times. But my mom was always constant in her unceasing, unconditional and perfect love. And so despite the mayhem, I know I am fine (whoever thinks to the contrary, keep that to yourself ;o)).
Finally, there is no one else who can do a better job at raising our children than us. The secret to Mommy Blues is in realizing that although we will have the Blues sometimes, we can always handle the grief AND go back to the sweet sanctum of home, ready to greet our children with a mother’s loving gaze, overflowing heart and with wide overarching arms. And oh, the bittersweet cycle starts again.