I've thought all day about whether or not to write about the depth of paralysis and dismay I feel right now towards motherhood. I am Overwhelmed. Speechless. Mad. Spent. Disinterested. Explained- and negotiated-out. Sick of asserting my needs to seemingly deaf ears. None of that is pleasant to feel or to express, it's anguishing in fact, yet I know how comforted I always am when hearing about how challenged other parents are, how exhausted and frustrated and sick of it they too sometimes feel. This candor is a relief because too often we go around deceptively wearing happy smiles and enthusiastically uttering "I'm good, how are you?" responses. We attempt to mask our lack of brightness and light to the best of our abilities which simply adds more to our to-do lists.
One of the most unsettling paradoxes of motherhood is that in any given hour, day, week, moment, you can experience whole spectrums of intense emotions which you ride like waves whether you want to or not. It's like getting to visit the amazing Amalfi Coast but then ending up horribly seasick on a careening hover craft from which you cannot disembark. This happened to me once; I know.
You feel love that brings you to tears alongside real dislike for the little beings providing that joy; pride that pops your buttons and then, not a minute later, the very real sense that your children are no better than feral animals (at least the latter has the excuse of literally being feral). You can laugh until your belly aches when one of your kids says something preposterously funny and you can then cry with frustration when they act like complete asses, spoiled and senseless. You can recognize that their little prefrontal cortexes just aren't developing as quickly as you might like and you can also recognize that you just don't give a shit- come on already. You can plead with them to stop growing while wishing desperately that both could just buckle their carseats without drama or help required. You can look forward to their college years while hoping that day never comes. You can want them to tell you all about school and not a second later wish they would just shut.up. and look out the window at whatever is whizzing past the car window outside. You can yearn so stridently for time alone and when you don't get it -boo!- share the most gloriously special moment with one or both of them. You can thrill when you hear "yes, ma'am" and then seethe when you realize it was said with immature sarcasm.
I never knew, and apparently am still surprised by, the enormous, constant energy suck that being a mother is. I keep waiting for the tide to ebb but it never does for long, and the returning flow seems ever-larger. Sometimes it is. Other times that sensation is a distortion resulting from the funnel of tired-and-too-much through which it's been forced. I'm not sure it always matters because the result can surely feel corrosive.
I'm often told to do less, but that would mean giving up the few things I do for me (as opposed to the children) and that hardly seems like a fair trade nor one that would bring me greater satisfaction now or in the long run. I often read that parenting in generations-past was less rigorous: you sent the kids outside until dinnertime and then called it a day. But that doesn't ring true to me as a fair suggestion for raising kids today. Things, times are different. We are bombarded with what's good for our children, what definitely isn't, and while I'm a pretty laid-back parent uninterested in chauffeuring them through an over-scheduled day, I'm still not immune to the context in which they're growing up. It's competitive, it's busy, I feel -perhaps erroneously- that it's a bit more dangerous than when our parents were young.
Too, the boys are so different and I feel it fair to honor who each is, spending time in ways that speak to their interests as individuals while also spending time with each of them alone and all together as a family. And it's easy enough to say, theoretically, that "ok, you've gotten a good share of my time and now I need some time just for me." But see how well that works on any consistent basis with two little ones, and let me know. Over here, it's not even close to an acknowledgement I can reliably count on without actually being in a different physical location than are they.
Here again, you get the fraught and false dichotomy of being so grateful for the close connection you share with your kids but simultaneously feeling almost suffocated at times by that very relationship. I admire moms who've found some way to balance this, and I empathize with those who've not. I surely haven't and this is the source of my paralytic stuck-ness, my serious feelings of "whoa! really? how can this go on?"
It seems to me that, literally, this can't go on, not quite as it is now. I simply must find more time to rest, to stop, to breathe, to actually care for myself rather than just pretend to. I don't know what that means yet, what the solution is. I'm stumped, stymied, intimidated, sad. I've always wanted to do it all, suck the marrow from every experience, do everything exceedingly well (except tour Vienna because really, I just didn't like it and am OK with that). I suppose I'll have to own up to the limits I have, but will surely do so with a real fighting spirit.