I’m seven years in to this parenting gig. I’ve grown, birthed, and nursed three fat babies. I’ve lived through having a 2-year old pee on the rug while I was nursing the newborn (many, many times). I’ve sent one off to kindergarten. I’ve flown on planes with them and endured several road trips (per year) with all three.
So when my friends are just starting out, they often turn to me for advice. They ask questions about pregnancy, nursing, diaper rash . . . They ask about managing time and energy and patience once #2 comes along . . . and then #3. They ask for tricks to get through the longest of weeks—weeks when Daddy is out of town and Mommy is on her own.
And although I’m happy and honored to listen and respond with the best suggestions I have in my arsenal, the truth is, I’m a fraud. I might be somewhat of a veteran mother to my friends who are just starting out, but it is only years that makes me higher on the ranking scale. It isn’t ability. Or success. Because, quite, honestly, I am still failing. I am still drowning. And I don’t know what the EFF I’m doing, even now—seven years in.
Last night my children (and neighbors) were treated to quite a show. After 12 straight hours of bickering, kicking, throwing food, and Stop touching me, and It’s my turn, and I don’t want water! I want juice! and I’m NOT tired! and He stole my pencil, and I’m not playing with you ANYMORE! . . . Mommy broke. Mommy screamed. And cried. And slammed doors. And slammed the garbage can lid down outside as she threw out a stinky diaper that was only changed via a wrestling match ending in scratches and tears. After putting all the kids in the car (because, after 12 hours, the day wasn’t done. We still had Cub Scouts to attend!) she went back into the house and sobbed.
What a failure this woman is. The negativity in this house, despite it being a joyful time, her favorite time of the year, is suffocating her, and she has no idea what to do—how to make it better. Because she’s been here before, two other times. This is life with a 2-year old. There are mothers who are well equipped at managing 2-year olds. I am not one of them. The 2-year old year (which has occurred every other year around here since its inception in 2011) is ugly. It makes Mommy ugly, inside and out.
So last night when the husband called on his way home from a 2-day work trip to ask how my day was, I told him.
Not good, I said.
Another bad day? Like every other day? (He didn’t say that second part. But he was probably thinking it.)
I told him the same story he’s heard 2,306 times—a story of frustration, exhaustion, and disappointment in myself that I can’t do better.
A fixer, his response was to take my 2-year old to work with him today while the big kids were at school.
“To give you a break, he said.
Because you are failing miserably and need to get your shit together (I added, in my mind).
Just try to relax and recharge, he said. Enjoy some peace and quiet.
So you can start acting like a real mother, I said to myself.
My adorable 2-year old is at work with his father today, in a big downtown office where men wear ties and woman wear heels. And I’m home alone, stewing in my shame. What must he be telling his coworkers?
I wanted to give my wife a break, he’ll say.
Because she is a fucking train wreck, I’ll add.
His privileged, healthy wife, living a life that many working moms dream of but cannot afford, is a failure. Oh, poor her, with her three healthy children, none of whom have any special needs. None of whom really have any needs other than a sippy cup, some cheerios, and help with a lego project.
Because that’s the truth. We have it all—health, food, a home, toys . . . and yet this mother is going to claim that her life is hard? She is going to sob in one of her three bathrooms about how hard her life is before she dries her tears and climbs into her mini-van, pulls out of her garage, and drives her son to Cub Scouts? Seriously?
So enjoying my day I am not. I am embarrassed and ashamed. My husband is doing my job today because I couldn’t do it. I will never reciprocate. I will never have to do his job for a day. But here I am, needing help and being weak.
Because a real mother would not admit struggles and accept help, right?
Wrong. Yes she will. She will know she needs help and with help, will do better for herself and for her children.
I am not a failure because I had a bad day. Or 29 bad days. I am not a bad mother because my children saw me cry. I am a good mother who told the truth to her partner and who is accepting a little help today. (And I am going to keep repeating that to myself until I believe it.)
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I am going to go pour an extra cup of coffee and sit down to a good book. Because my house is quiet and I was told to relax and enjoy some time to myself. So I’m going to try to do just that.
Originally appeared on The 21st Century SAHM
Karen Johnson is a free-lance writer and editor. Her blog The 21st Century SAHM is a cathartic mix of sarcasm, angry mama bear rants, and confessions about how she’s screwing up her kids. She has had work featured on Scary Mommy, The Good Men Project, Good Housekeeping, and Sammiches and Psych Meds, among others. Karen is also a contributing writer in Lose the Cape: Never Will I Ever (and then I had kids!) and in What Does It Mean to Be White in America? Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.
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