It really was a good week.
I’m contemplating that it really had been just a great week. I was happy. I felt genuine, uncomplicated, happiness.
Both of the kids had been relaxed and pleasant. There was a random, late-winter snow storm and we all got stuck at home. But instead of contracting cabin fever, we lounged blissfully in our jammies, snuggled, and watched TV. I even snoozed. We baked muffins. We ate muffins. It was a day of cozy comfort.
Then Jack found out a piece of his art had been chosen to be in the district art show. It was a totally unexpected accomplishment, and we were absolutely thrilled to celebrate it with him. He was proud and humble as he reluctantly posed in front of his drawing at the local library where the exhibit was held.
The very next day, Emily picked up a book and started reading it to me. She is having a pretty great year in kindergarten, and all of a sudden, a switch has been turned on in her brain and all she wants to do is read. She tenaciously sounded out words and struggled through page after page of Dr. Seuss as I cheered her on.
It felt almost too good to be true.
Things almost never go this smoothly.
We were getting out of the house in the morning in one piece without any drama, on time, and with cheerful attitudes. The kids were not bickering with each other as much. I made a French Toast Bake that Jack (my super picky eater) declared was so good it should be on a cooking show. Emily slept through each night without coming up to our bed and waking us up. They said “thank you” for random things that they normally overlook as crap that I just do on the daily because I’m their mom.
Part of me was tempted to break into song and dance, because surely this sort of delightful existence only happened in musicals.
Honestly, I just felt like I was nailing it. I was totally rocking the working mom gig. I wasn’t even doing anything different or extraordinary.
I didn’t post about it on any social media for fear of seeming braggy, although I did put up pictures of Jack’s art and a video of Emily reading. But the larger, greater sense of the motherhood machine running just right- I did not post about that.
It isn’t often that I feel this way; like all is well, and all will be well.
Much more often I am beating myself up for letting the kids watch too much TV, not serving as much veggie as I should, and forgetting to check if Emily has remembered to change her underpants.
I so easily fill with self loathing because I lack energy to force my kids to write thank you notes. I convince myself I am a failure because my kids’ rooms are pits of despair and I’d rather not deal with them.
And then there are all the times I wonder what the hell I am doing wrong when I can’t seem to get places on time, or when I burn dinner, or when I forget to sign a field trip permission slip.
Even worse are the times when Jack is having a sensory meltdown because his anxiety has gotten the best of him and I am completely helpless to assist him in regulating his emotional state. Or when Emily is annoyed and frustrated and she tells me she hates me.
This stuff is so hard. I had no clue that the hard stuff would be so hard, nor that by contrast, that the amazing stuff would be so amazing.
I also had no clue that motherhood would frequently and chronically consist of so much more of the hard stuff.
So, that’s why I’m writing about the little sweet spot we shared that nice week.
It’s important to acknowledge and remember what it feels like to nail it in this gig. It’s good to write it all down so when times are tough we can remind ourselves what it feels like to know and hold happiness, to do it right. It’s important to remember that we are doing so, so great, even when we think we aren’t, or when we feel like we are struggling to even put milk in our coffee.
There are good moments if we look for them. We create them, like we create life, like we create last-minute, haphazard recipes from the last four random things in our fridge at the end of the week. It doesn’t have to be anything earth shattering. There can be joy.
And that’s the other important thing to remember in this parenting game: that there will be joy again. Even when it feels like the rough patch is going to go on forever, there is still a potential for change.
When was your last parenting sweet spot? How did you nail it as a mom? Are you going through a rough patch now? Talk to me in the comments!
Find something small.
Stay with it.
Give it your heart.
Resonate with it.
Tell it your secrets.
Feel the urge to leave.
Trace its grooves with your fingertip.
Find its secret scent of earth and salt.
Allow your tear to drip onto its surface.
Laugh, but do not leave, not just yet.
Realize the terror in adoring something tiny and tender.
Whisper to it that which you know is certain.
Pull your hand back and continue to find the energy pulsating.
Find something small.
Give it your heart.
Do it again.
Do it over.
This is science:
I read that for years,
after a miscarriage,
of the deceased fetus
in the mama,
having crossed a barrier
with her tissue,
and altering her own
body in ways of which
she may not
or ever understanding.
So it is
This is science.
So it is.
What a fucking crock of shit.
Do you remember those “Chose Your Own Adventure” books from when we were in fourth or fifth grade?
They were these young reader books where you’d get to the end of a chapter and if you wanted to take the character to a cave to fight a dragon it would tell you to flip to a certain page, and if you wanted the character to get in a boat and sail off someplace, you’d be instructed to go to a different page.
As I got in the shower, and reflected on Mother’s Day, I thought how motherhood is sort of like a Chose Your Own Adventure book.
I thought this because I thought “Mother’s Day; what a fucking crock of shit.”
And then the guilty little people pleaser in me poked me in the ribs and said meekly, “But you should be so grateful! It really wasn’t all bad! Why don’t you just chose to think it was nice?”
It’s true. Overall it was a nice day. I felt loved and cared for, managed to please my own mother and my mother in law (nailed it!), and had good laughs among family. My children made me gifts and delighted me by creating beautiful cards for their grandmothers.
I got sweet, supportive texts from dear friends. I felt recognized by my husband who pulled out all the stops with four bottles of incredible wine, flowers, and a balloon. A balloon you guys! I got a freaking balloon!! I mean, how does life get any better than that?
If you want your character to chose gratitude and happiness, and to enjoy and be thankful for what she has, please turn to page 42 where she lives happily after.
Learning to chose the way you think about things is an important step in recovery from anxiety and depression. I know this as both a mental health professional, and as someone who has experienced anxiety and depression. When we are able to recognize our negative thoughts and rework them into something more positive and helpful, it often creates a more positive and helpful feeling space in us.
And when we feel better, we behave better. We get along better with our spouses and friends. We have more energy for negotiating with the little people in our lives.
So, as I lathered my hair with amazing-smelling coconut shampoo, I tried out some different thoughts about Mother’s Day and I wondered why my initial impulse was to be so negative about it.
Why am I always so negative anyway? I must really suck at life. I’m probably going to be rejected by all my friends and family because I’m such a Debbie Downer. Why can’t I ever just be joyful and super positive about stuff? What the hell is wrong with me? Oh. My. Gee.
It’s cuz I’m depressed you guys. That’s why.
I have been for a while. I’ve been ignoring it and working around the super high anxiety that makes me feel like I’m crawling out of my skin one moment and paralyzed with fear the next. I’ve been isolating and only talking to a few people in my life. I’ve had minimal energy to be with friends and family.
I’ve written almost nothing in the past few months because I’ve had so little energy and almost no joy.
Some of it, I suppose, is chemical- my genetic lot in life.
A lot of it is situational.
Work has been super stressful for me. I’m burnt out and experiencing a fairly intense compassion fatigue which doesn’t leave me with much of an empathy cushion for family or social life.
My son’s behavioral issues have been amped up lately and this creates exhaustion and a keen sense of failure as a parent which plays into my depression like a lyrical melody.
I’m also preparing for my daughter to graduate from preschool. While this is a joyful and exciting time and we are so proud, it also brings into focus a new era for which I am simply not feeling prepared.
Then there is preparing for the summer. As a working mom, arranging all the moving parts of summer camps, transportation, child care, etc. is hugely nerve wracking for me. Not to mention a drain on our finances.
Oh, also my mentally ill brother has gone missing again which never fails to throw my family into emotional upheaval.
I’m not sleeping well, so I’m perpetually tired. My body hurts. About 67% of the time I’m too stressed to eat so my blood sugar is wonky and I’m grouchy.
And because I’m already feeling emotionally fragile, every other little thing that goes wrong sets me off like a firecracker.
It’s hard for me to admit this. I actually hate the sound of my own voice in my head as I peck it all out into this post.
It’s hard for me to admit my negative thoughts about Mother’s Day when I should just be fucking grateful.
But you guys, it’s all so hard. It’s all just so fucking hard.
No one ever told me it would be this hard. Or maybe they did. . . maybe somewhere in my memory there is a shadowy recollection of my own mother’s bedraggled face dragging herself in at the end of a working day and trying to get dinner on the table. Maybe she did try and tell me. But let’s be honest, even if someone had told me, I would not have believed them, because if any of us believed such a thing we would never procreate. Our species depends on the very suspension of that disbelief.
I guess what I am trying to say is that it is all well and good to chose your thoughts and mood and destiny. It’s great. I respect it.
But sometimes the adventures of motherhood chose us and flip us into a cave where it is dark and dank and unpleasant. When you’re sitting there face to face with the dragon of your depression and your heart is thumping away at a resting rate of 150 beats per minute, it is really hard to have a cohesive thought, let alone a positive one of your own choosing.
If your character looks up at the dragon and says, “Hey there, guy. What’s up?” go to page 74 where you will work on acknowledging the shit out of your self worth even on your shittiest day and then eat a taco.
Yeah. This isn’t my character’s first trip to the cave. So I know the least helpful (albeit most tempting) thing to do is to put myself down for being depressed.
I also know that probably the first thing I need to do is look up at that dopey dragon and acknowledge he’s there, lurking and looming like he wants to devour me. He’s scared of eye contact and he gets a little smaller every time I call him by his name.
It’s all hard, guys, and sometimes holidays can highlight what feels like flaws and make things seem really raw and painful. Part of healing starts with choosing to make room for all those feelings rather than shaming myself for feeling them.
i would tell you how
all the petals
look like pink butterflies
and i would despise myself
for stating something
so obviously trite,
but you would not despise me.