In All Honesty...

Spoiler alert: serious post ahead. Believe me, I’d love to write a light, upbeat entry about my “Seasonal Activity Disorder” flaring up again and our Christmas tree debacle. But it would take more energy than I’ve got right now.

Besides, I took a quiz on Oprah.com that told me my true destiny is to be an “adviser” and an “equalizer.” I took that to mean I’m here to help other moms in any way I can and show people that if I can do this motherhood thing, then any idiot can.

Except sometimes I can’t.

I’ve half-joked about quitting being a (mostly) SAHM and about my ongoing quest for optimism and balance. Though some (such as my spouse) might disagree, I do try to look on the bright side of disasters and not dwell on the ugly parts of life. I’m all for honesty, but I prefer to leave the all-cards-on-the-table confessional stuff to the Dooces and Anne Lamotts of the world.

But you know, sometimes motherhood isn’t funny or light. Sometimes -- a lot of times -- it’s the hardest f@#$%?!ing thing I’ve ever done in my life. And the scariest, too, because there are 2 human beings dependent on me for survival and I can’t quit or call in sick. EVER. For the REST OF MY LIFE.

There have been plenty of days I didn’t want to get out of bed and/or I didn’t want to go to sleep at night because that would make the morning come sooner. And then I’d have to get up and do it all again. There have been plenty of days that I cried when my husband left for work.

I’m not a big believer in medication (maybe because both my epidurals failed?!) especially the mood-altering kind. I did briefly seek help from a therapist, but since I believe my current state of mind is situational, not chronic or chemical, I eventually stopped. Besides, who has time to fit one more appointment into their schedule?!

One thing that does really help me is knowing that I’m not alone. I’m lucky that I have several close friends, family members, and neighbors who keep it real and help me out whenever they can. When a friend told me she nearly got divorced following the birth of her second child, I was grateful for her honesty. When a blogger I follow confessed she’d made “The Call” to her husband one day (as in, “Get home IMMEDIATELY if you care about the safety of your children”), I thought, thank God it’s not just me.

And when my writing students share essays about miscarriage and postpartum depression I admire their bravery and think about all the people they will touch with their words. (And they do, because many students have gotten their essays published and received heartfelt responses from readers.)

So I’ll admit here that I have been having some really bad days lately. Behavior issues, sleeping issues, teething, the holidays, too much sugar, not enough exercise or help -- all the usual stuff but all at once and without a break. There was one day in particular I really thought I was going to hurt somebody. REALLY HURT THEM. So I dumped the baby in his crib with some toys and put Miles in his room with a baby gate across the door. And I walked away.

And you know what happened? Absolutely nothing.

Everybody was fine. In fact, Riley had a blast. He was probably thrilled to have his brother off his back for 30 min. And even Miles, aside from calling mournfully down the stairs every few minutes, was fine playing by himself.

I related this anecdote to the kids’ pediatrician the other day. And you know what she said? “I’m so glad you did that.” And then she went on to ask if there was any way I could get some more help. It might be tough, but I’m going to work on it. Part of me wants to pretend that I’m a perfectly competent mom and writer who juggles it all by myself with grace. After all, I know plenty of people who do. But I am not one of them. And that’s OK.

READ O’ THE WEEK: Author Claudine Wolk sent me a review copy of her perfectly titled book, “It Gets Easier! … And Other Lies We Tell New Mothers.” It’s part “Girlfriends’ Guide” and part “What to Expect” with a healthy dose of humor and practical, real-world tips.

I think Wolk really hits her stride in Ch. 10: “How Did I Get Into This Mess?”, Ch. 11: “What is a Housewife & How Did I Become One?” and Ch. 12: ”The Most Frustrating Job on the Planet.” Unlike other books that gloss over the working vs. staying home topic in a couple of paragraphs, Wolk goes deeper into the real issues.

Like coming to grips with all the chores that accompany new motherhood. And how your marriage will change. And how neither working or at-home moms have a easy choice or often any choice at all. (She points out that working moms have TWO f.t. jobs.) In fact, Wolk’s is the most thorough and respectful discussion of this topic I’ve read.

This book deserves a place on the bookshelf alongside the other titles about this life-changing, gut-wrenching journey we call motherhood.


Carrie said...

I applaud you in posting that. I've had the same thoughts, feelings, issues running through my head ever since I became a mom. My return to work has eased it somewhat but I still have those days where I wonder, "what the HELL have I done? I want to go back to just being ME, not Mommy"

I think I will check out the book you reviewed. Sounds like a good read.

Crysi said...

I'm with you all the way. I've made that phone call or, since my husband sleeps during the day, woke him up in tears because I just couldn't do it anymore. 2 screaming babies & a crying toddler while dealing with no sleep & only coffee to eat is just too much. I honestly thought I was going to seriously injure one if them too. Luckily, the massive dose of vit d my dr has me on (I was severely deficient) & Zantac for Mira has made things somewhat easier. It's still rough, but my outlook is brighter & I'm not listening to Mira scream inconsolably for hours which only made leia scream louder & made me cranky & irritable with adia, which only made me feel worse.

I think it's completely unfair that we all go into motherhood not knowing about how dark the days can be. I think it's very important that we share that so we know we aren't alone. We're not all stepford wives or Norman Rockwell paintings & to act like we are or have that expectation is only setting us up for disaster, frustration & disappointment.

Kathleen@so much to say, so little time said...

I think part of the problem is that they're with us all the time now. SAHM used to be plentiful and I think kids went outside and hung out with other kids, and didn't get stuck in the house with an overwhelmed mom all day every day. That's hard on everybody.

help4newmoms said...

Great post and I love, as always, your honesty. Motherhood is by far the hardest thing I have ever done. There were days, when the kids were young, that I literally only thought about going from one minute to the next. By being honest about motherhood I am hoping that mothers will be bombarded with the help they need because her doctors, from the moment she becomes pregnant will demand it. (just like the car seat is mandatory) What can I say? It's my dream!

Anonymous said...

Amen! One day when Charles was out of town and Katie threw a fit picking up a pizza I thought I would snap. I buckled her into her booster seat, slapped a piece of pizza in front of her, and headed upstairs. As I was going I saw her throw the pizza on the floor and I just kept going. No kid ever died from going hungry for 10 minutes while I sat on the edge of the bed with my head in my hands! Lynn

Anonymous said...

I love this blog! I had one of those days this week. I'm a new mom...moved to a new state 2 weeks after I had the baby via c-section. My husband doesn't seem to get it either. The mood swings can be so brutal. I do hope it gets better!! Thanks for sharing!

katie said...

I think there is grace in how you are handling things. There's grace in your effective and rational solution to take a break and walk away. There's grace in your honesty with yourself, your pediatrician, and us readers. And thank you for that. Mamas aren't helping themselves or each other by glossing over the tough days (or weeks or months).

I've been totally honest with myself and the friends and family that I'll call on when baby #2 arrives: I'm somewhat terrified to "start all over again" and repeat those first few months with newborn. And this time I'll have a 3 year-old on my hands too?!?!

Hang in there, and do try to work something out where you're getting a little help. You can return the favor down the road for someone else.

And, thanks for the book rec. I like the impression you give of her work at home/work outside the home discussion.

Name: Holly Bowne said...

You know what, I'll bet every mom out there can relate to your post on some level.

And I can practically guarantee that those seemingly competent moms juggling it all--don't exist. They would probably laugh out loud to realize anybody is thinking such things about them.

We moms have to just stop, take a step back, and remember to breathe deeply every now and again. (And read books like the one you've recommended. ;o)

Sarah said...

I was also in a funk/ melt-down for a couple months after returning to work. I thought maybe I should go see a therapist too... I mean, I'm a social worker. Then I cried in the car thinking I probably couldn't afford that right now! I agree though that it is a situational depression and I have seem to come out of it. Here's what helped me:

Reconnecting with the hubby. We had a talk about feeling isolated and agreed to both make efforts. Then he sent me on a shopping spree through downtown Chicago. :)

Reading. One of my favorite pastimes that I had let go. Obviously you still read but maybe there's something you also love to do that you've had to put off because of being so busy?

Finally: MY NANNY! I don't mind changing diapers so much when I come home from work because I don't have to do it 100% of the time anymore. could you guys swing a nanny once per week? then you could have a day to yourself and your work?

not trying to give advice. just definitely been there and am so grateful to have gotten through to the other side. hang in.

Loukia said...

Oh... that book looks like a must read... so true, so true... I am sometimes resentful of my friends who have no children yet... when the complain about beieng tired... I'm like "YOU HAVE NO IDEA WHAT TIRED IS!!!!" Unless you're a mom, you don't understand how we don't stop, ever. We are always ON. We can't just take a break at 4 p.m. if we want to... we can't even run to the store if we want to... we have to plan, prepare, make arrangements... etc... anyway, thanks for this post! Nothing can really prepare you for motherhood until it happens to you, you know? I was in shock those first few weeks... my goodness, talk about life changing!

Emily said...

At 37w pregnant with my first, not sure whether I find the idea of this book comforting or scary! :)

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