If you’re going to get all judgey-wudgey with me and tell me to shift my perspective and appreciate the precious moments, please stop reading and go away now, for the love of all that is holy. I. Can’t. Even. I intend to rant a little. Or a lot.
I’m exhausted from this time of rest and relaxation, and I go back to work to a week of back to back clients with whom I have to play catch up, and hear about all of their holiday woes and really valid trauma reactions to stuff. To be completely honest, I’ve been anxious about going back to work since about a week before my vacation even started, which kinda’ harshes the holiday buzz. So, if you’d humor me, I’ll take a couple minutes to talk about MY feelings about the holidays, motherhood, and my consummate failure as a human being.
First of all, the house is a disaster zone. I know, I know. I’m not supposed to worry about the state of the house, but I do. My children have eight grandparents because my family is crazy and blended several times over. I’ll give you a second to let that sink in. EIGHT grandparents.
Now imagine the influx of stuff they get from said eight grands. You there? Good. Now imagine all that stuff dumped and scattered throughout your entire small home.
Footnote: You can’t ask them to *not* get stuff for the kids because that engenders all kinds of offense and hurt feelings. Been there, done that.
I have crates and bins and dividers and shelves and all of the home goods crap that is supposed to make life neat and organized. You know what? None of it does a bit of good. I wander the house picking up toys and clothes and dishes, and as soon as I put away one thing, ten other things appear in its place. The mess makes my anxiety flare and spin inside of me like a Hawaiian fire dancer.
I don’t have cute anxiety. I have cranky, prickly, ragey, sweary anxiety. It’s a thing. Google it.
Some people, like my darling husband, have an impressively high threshold for chaos, disorganization, and clutter.
After ten years of marriage, he sort of understands that when I get like this, he should not take it personally, maybe clear the kids out of the way for a little bit, and bring home a bottle of wine.
He hasn’t seemed to figure out that firing up the vacuum or organizing anything within his reach would go a long way toward deescalating my fervor. That is, he doesn’t get it until I’m screaming and crying about it. . . because that’s the point it gets to. Not all the time, but once in a while and more often during the holidays than I would like to admit. It makes me feel really ashamed, then depressed I can’t get it the fuck together.
Then, there are the children. My sweet, happy, playful children who become maniacal, aggressive, and very loud lunatics when their schedule is upended. Rather, I should say my nine year old Jack has this low threshold for change, is easily overstimulated, and sets off my typically placid five year old, Emily. Jack has meltdowns that escalate really fast and involve a lot of sensory seeking in the form of yelling, pushing, and crying.
If you know me, or can relate to any of this whatsoever, you know my first thought: I created this monster and it is my fault he is unhappy because he inherited my anxiety and depression and it is just a matter of time until I’m being judged by another therapist just like myself and my kid has to go on medication because I’m a complete failure as a mom and have no idea how to parent my kid. It’s science.
And yes, I know that sentence needed some punctuation, but that is how my mind works.
Part of the stress for me, and probably also for my kids, is that with such a big and blended family, there are a shit ton of family parties, get togethers, and visits to be made. In a perfect world I would really enjoy seeing all of these people hither and yonder and would feel awesome about reconnecting and celebrating with them.
Truthfully, I do enjoy it, but it’s also stressful, draining, and unnerving. It seems like more proof I’m a complete asshat of a person. While I enjoy seeing people, it also makes me feel guilty that I haven’t seen more of them, that I haven’t made more of an effort of helping my children get to know them. It is more fuel for anxiety and self depreciation.
And while I know I might be a bit harsh on myself, it also seems there’s a lot of evidence I suck at life.
I DO realize it’s not all bad. And trust me, I’m grateful, despite how this post is making me sound (more proof?). We had some truly happy moments over the break. We laughed. I actually napped a few times! My husband got me everything on my holiday wish list and the kids were delighted and occupied with their gifts. I adore my family, and they fill to overflowing with love, which I believe is the most important thing in life. We have it all.
So what is it about the times of loud chaos that so upends my joy?
It’s a rhetorical question, folks. I don’t actually have an answer, which sometimes I’m okay with, and other times cranks up the hurdy gurdy of nerves and makes me want to run away with the circus. But let’s face it, I’m terrified of horses and clowns. Like actually phobic of them. So, the circus is probably not a viable option.
There’s no escape.
There’s really only embracing the uncomfortable, nervy sadness and frustration along with the sense of being completely bowled over by living. It’s tough to get my arms around, and it wiggles while I try to hold it.
Look, I could tie this post up by refocusing on a tender moment and telling you it’s all good in the end. I really could do that, and I could probably mean it. But it seems like that would be disingenuous. It doesn’t seem like it would be totally helpful to ignore the tough times when they really feel so weighted, because if I ignore them, they might subtly start to pull me down, hold me under the surface.
I also feel it’s important to acknowledge “the most wonderful time of the year” is really freaking difficult for a lot of us out here. The commercials and songs tell us we are supposed to feel and act a very specific way during the holidays, and these unrealistic images and expectations create tremendous cognitive dissonance for those who can’t understand why we don’t “get it.”
Sometimes stuff is just hard and heavy to hold onto. I have to believe that’s okay and it doesn’t make me a bad person; at least not all the time.
In the summer I am way too hot and frazzled to do much with my hair. Up it goes into a lazy ponytail or sloppy bun. We don’t have central air conditioning so, I do not usually have a lovely blow-dried coif from about May to October because it just makes me too darn sweaty. And frizzy.
But on this one morning, I was wearing a lovely dress. I’d washed my long, blonde tresses and it was cool enough that I gave it a good, round-brushed, blow-out.
“Oooohhh, Mama,” she gasped. “Just yeave your hair yong. You yook just yike my Baahbee doll.”
Yes. My daughter has Barbie dolls. And she adores them. And she thinks they are all kinds of beautiful.
“Baahbee even has bwuue eyes yike you, Mama.”
It was her way of telling me she thought I looked beautiful.
And to her, I am beautiful.
She doesn’t know I am 35 pounds overweight.
She doesn’t notice the bags under my eyes. Eyes that are also starting to sag and wrinkle.
She doesn’t realize or care that my face is riddled with adult acne.
She doesn’t mind that my boobs hang down to my arm pits, or that sometimes I forget to shave.
To her, I am silky and creamy, safe and warm, soft and inviting.
To her, “beauty” is a place that is squishy but strong, fun but predictable.
We can sit here and debate about why it is “wrong” for little girls to think Barbie is pretty. We can talk about standards for “beauty” and how Barbie gives women a bad rap. I feel you. I do. If you know me at all, and if you have read any of my posts about self acceptance, you know I do not subscribe to “traditional” ideals of cosmetic loveliness, and how much I despise the diet industry and how it preys on vulnerable women.
I’m not going to lie. I’ve been compared to Barbie before, and I get a little lift from it. One time someone even told me that if I were a food, I would be a Barbie cake. Whatever that means.
Maybe that is wrong and embarrassing and bad. I don’t know. But I’m almost six feet tall, have blond hair and blue eyes, and up until the last decade was skinny with big boobs.
I also struggled with huge issues around my body image and self esteem. But that was not because of Barbie. That was some inner struggle that had way more facets than a simple doll could craft. There are, I am aware, many who would like to blame the ills of society on Barbie, but I think that oversimplifies things.
Barbie was one of my favorite toys. I spent hours dressing and primping her for fancy dinner dates or for a casual walk with her doggie. This didn’t make me a bad person, nor did it force me to believe that anyone who did not look like Barbie was not worthwhile.
But here’s the thing: I was also raised to consider the beauty of classical music, nature, and theater. I was taken to art museums and exposed to all manner of human form and figure. I plan on raising my children in the same way, and showing them that beauty comes in many more shapes and sizes than 36-24-26. Or whatever that formula is. I don’t do numbers.
We have the power to teach our daughters and sons what beauty is.
To raise them with a healthy sense of self, a strong will, and an appreciation for all the things their bodies can do.
To teach them that beauty has to do with acceptance of self and others, openness, and kindness.
So on that day, I left my hair “yong” per Emily’s wishes. I kept it down all day and flew high on the compliment my little girl had bestowed upon me.
It feels good to know my daughter thinks I’m beautiful, despite my many, many flaws inside and out.
And I bet your daughter, or son, thinks you are beautiful too.
A few weeks back, I posted about something I was trying with my children to help us all get along during the beastly dog days of summer.
On our first day home together, after Jack finished his second grade year at school, the kids were at each other’s throats and I was at my wit’s end. I just wanted everyone to get along and play nice in the sand box. So, I invented a reward program to encourage them to be kinder to one another.
Everytime I “catch” them in the act of being kind/polite/generous/supportive to one another, they are rewarded with a point. When they get 50 points I will take them to a bouncy place like Chuck e Cheese, or they can pick out a cake, or earn some other desired reinforcer.
It took off like gang busters. My kids were bending over backwards to be nice to one another. And in general, our days off together on Mondays, when it is just me home with them, are going really well. We have been able to enjoy a series of fun outings that required cooperation and getting along.
They have earned about 35 “points”. Not too shabby…
But our weekends have been hellacious.
For whatever reason, when both my husband and I are home with the kids on Saturday and Sunday, the children are “off”. They bicker, scream, insult, and tantrum with one another.
It is a very weird dynamic that I can’t quite figure out.
The children both ADORE their father, so I wonder if they are doing some major attention seeking with him and if there is a sense of competition between them when he is around. . .
It may have to do with the fact I’ve been really scheduling almost every minute of our Mondays so that they know what to expect and when, but our weekends are a bit more free-flowing.
Transitions during the weekends have been particularly hard for Jack, which really sucks for everyone in the house because he totally flips the switch and the proverbial apple cart with his antics. There have been a couple occasions where Em and I have just left the house to escape the tirades, leaving my spouse home with Jack until he cools off.
So, it is a work in progress and a mixed bag, but you can bet I will keep you “posted”!!
How is your summer going? How are you keeping your cool with your cherubs this summer?
If you have a husband or partner who really nails it on holidays or birthdays, you may have even sampled some of this thing in the form of a yoga class or massage.
If you are independently wealthy, you may have experienced “free time” by being able to hire a babysitter to stay with your brood while you go do something “just for you.”
If you are like me, and are just trying nonstop to keep your shit together on a moment to moment basis, you likely do not get near enough of time for yourself.
Going grocery shopping sans kinder, or listening to music in the car on my commute to/from work, or emptying my bladder/bowels alone (yeah, right!), is about the closest I get to “me time” these days.
So, when I heard one co-worker complaining to another co-worker that I never made good on the casual (read: extremely casual) offer I made to go out to dinner two years ago, I got a little defensive.
I’m an introvert. There’s been a lot of stuff written about us innies in the past few years, and it has helped me to realize that “down time” is a crucial factor for my well-being. Working as a social worker is a job that requires a shit-ton of extroversion and it is redonkulously exhausting for me. Then I go home and have hugging/dinner/bathing/snuggling/stories/bedtime/all the various and sundry duties of a mama. It is my life, and I try not to complain about it because it is what I chose and I am incredibly blessed in it. But the reality of this amazing life I chose is that it is highly demanding, stressful, and just plain tiring.
Some days it is really hard for me to not look at people who are talking to me and just say to them, “Leave. Me. The. Fuck. Alone.”
I’d kind of like to start a Go Fund Me campaign, but instead of donating money, people could donate units of time for me to just spend as I please. Seriously, I think that is a great idea. It’s right up there with the napping café my husband would like to start for sleep deprived parents who would pay just about anything for a half hour snooze.
I realize that people without children do not like being told that they don’t understand what it is like to have kids. I don’t want to hurt or offend anyone’s feelings here, but my childless friends just don’t get it. It is just soooo hard to get anything done outside of work/children/house/marriage.
It really just isn’t that easy to make plans outside of my home right now. My kids are both still little, and require lots of time and attention. It is really hard to be away from them all week, but then the weekend comes and it is really hard for us to all be together all weekend.
Because I really just want to be left alone. Not forever. Just long enough to catch my breath, blog a bit, and do a few yoga poses.
People, like my disgruntled coworker, will ask why I can’t just leave my kids with the hubz and go out for dinner. Well, it isn’t really that easy. There is a delicate balance. My kids are at stages right now (three and seven) where they need lots of one on one, and they don’t naturally get along that great with one another because they are at such different places developmentally. So there is a lot of “divide and conquer” in our family. Neither my husband or myself really want to be left alone with the children, especially at delicate times of the day, like dinner or bedtime, which is when my footloose and fancy free pals usually want to hang.
I don’t mean to be bitchy, but it makes me feel all annoyed that people want to make additional demands on my already precious time. That’s another part of being an introvert for me; it makes me nutty when I feel I am not living up to what people want from me. I mean, I haven’t made time to go out with my best friend in the past two years. Mercifully, she also has two small ones and understands my plight without judgment.
So, if you happen to have a friend who is an overworked mama, cut her some slack, especially if she is an introvert. She likely is not avoiding your invitations and is just struggling to carve out a little time to keep her sanity.
In the mean time, if you happen to have some secret stash of “free time” that you would like to share with me, I will be accepting donations.
We’ve opened our windows to enjoy the natural ventilation. And I’m terrified my children are going to fall out of said open windows.
What the crap is wrong with me?
I proudly named my baby blog, Momaste, back in the day with the idea I would write about becoming a mindful, Buddhist mother in this hectic workaday culture.
So, how’s THAT goin’ for ya’, Charlotte? My snarky brain wonders.
Sure, I did write some posts inspired by Pema Chodron, hero of compassionate loving-kindness, and seriously, I’ve learned a lot along the way. But in all honesty, it would feel a lot less fraudulent on my part if I had named dear old bloggy, Mama’s Ramblings About Being An Anxious Mess.
But that just seems kind of cumbersome.
Isn’t as cute, and doesn’t roll off the tongue quite as nicely as, “Momaste! The Mom in me bows to the Mom in you!” You get the picture.
Anyway, I think Pema would tell me that it is okay to be an anxious mess and to be scared of coyotes attacking my kids or having them fall out of our deliciously ventilated home. Being an anxious mess and being mindful and being a decent person/mom/social worker/wife aren’t all mutually exclusive. And so forth. (And yes, I do fancy myself to be on first name basis with Pema Chodron. . . but I digress.)
I have a colleague who says it is a researched fact that as a mom you only have to be “good enough” 30% of the time and your kid will turn out okay. I’m cereal you guys. 30%. This is like empirical-evidence-based shit.
Thirty fucking percent.
I don’t know about you, but this fact makes me breathe a huge sigh of relief.
I’d like to think, even, that more often than not, I’m actually giving it more than 30%. I bet you are too. Even on that day I almost popped a vocal cord screaming at the kids because my last nerve was frayed from their fighting with one another, I can honestly say the whole rest of the day I gave it about 63%.
I don’t suppose any of us get up in the morning and set our bar at 30%. In fact, I’d wager that on any given day we set our bars way higher. Maybe we set them unrealistically high and then beat ourselves up a bit when we feel like we have not met our quotas for Awesome-Mommyness.
Being a mom is so much harder than I ever dreamed it possibly would be. Being mindful is great, and then it is also really exhausting because sometimes I just want things to go my freaking way without having to breathe and accept every unanticipated, unwieldy, noisy, messy snafu.
My children mystify me with their glimmering complexities. They are my own creations I grew in my own tummy, and yet they are totally their own people. They mystify me most of all for having chosen me for their mom.
I wonder if I’ll ever know what I’m doing. I wonder if I’ll ever do them justice.
I try pretty hard.
Sometimes I lose my temper. Sometimes I am too tired to sing one more song or read one more story. Sometimes I cop out on nutrition and go through a drive through. Sometimes I want to drive to the beach by myself, or go to a bookstore by myself, or spend money on a mani-pedi and Bare Mineral cosmetics rather than buying organic groceries.
I worry so much about my children. Sometimes the worries are grounded in reality– like, why does Jack do the stuff he does, or why is my three year old daughter already coveting another child’s hair? Other times, my anxiety is just hovering around me like a hot air balloon, distracting my periphery with shadows and making me think there are dangers lurking that will reach out and snatch at my babies.
Don’t even get me started on the fear that a rabid bat will bite them in their sleep.
I was expressing my worry to my colleague the other day, and she said, “Don’t worry. There is nothing you can do by worrying anyway. It’ll all be fine.”
“Yeah, but,” I said, “That right there is my worry! That I should be doing something else, something more, something different to make life better for my kids.”
“You’re doing just wonderfully,” she said, adding the bit about the 30%.
And you know what? For a moment, I believed her. I mean she is an expert in this early child development stuff. Come to think of it, so am I. . . PLUS, I am the expert on my own children.
So why the heck am I always so insecure about my mothering?
It’s just about time to celebrate Mother’s Day. I have mixed feelings every year about this Hallmark holiday. This year, whatever the day brings (which will probably be chaotic as I manage my own brood and obligations to celebrate my own mother and mother in law), I plan to remember how awesome I am, even when things feel overwhelming or frustrating.
This will be my gift to myself. It might not be a 90 minute, full-body massage, but it really is a treasure.
Have a wonderful Mother’s Day, doing whatever it is you do. Celebrate you and revel in that sweet, sweet 30% that you have met and exceeded on so many occasions. Because, really, you’re doing awesome. Keep that shit up.
We are all the experts on our own children, even when it might not feel that way.
And even though my blog is the ramblings of an anxious mess most of the time, the mom in me really does bow to and honor the mom in you. Momaste.
(I’ll get you the reference for that 30% citation at some point. . . but I’m tired at the mo, and only have about 27% to give to this post. . . xoxoxo… )