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Black & White

February 1, 2011

“I can’t do this.”

“I’m not cut out for this.”

“Yes, I do think moms who stay at home by choice are lucky. I couldn’t do it even if I wanted to.”

“I’m not as good a mom as [insert name here].”

“My husband is totally a better mom than I am.”


This is my internal dialogue. It’s what I tell myself. Heck, it’s what I tell other people. But I got called on it today.

It’s not the first time. People have been telling me, all along, that I’m a good mom. That, “you are, too, good at this. Shut up.” That he loves me and I love him and I care for him and meet his needs and feed him broccoli and all this is what being a mom is about.

But my head tells me I’m not. I’m just not. The experience of being a mom is not what I thought it would be, and I don’t act the way I thought I would, and therefore I’m not good at it.

It’s all hooey, of course.

I’m going to say that again, because I need to start to believe it: It’s all hooey, of course.

Last week I wrote about the last Sunday. My husband has changed his working day to Saturdays (ah, the freedom of freelance) because we think that might work better for me. So last weekend was the first Saturday I was on solo-mom duty. It went all right. Better. Except I think I managed to distort my expectations such that I thought it would be perfect. Perfect! Or at least totally fine. I even put the beginnings of a post in draft on Friday night (oh, the arrogance). A post that was going to be all about how well I managed and how from here on things were going to be different. (Perfect!) But they weren’t, and I’m still thinking about it, so I didn’t finish that post.

But in reality it was actually totally fine. The short version is that Connor was out of sorts in the morning so he and dad didn’t go to gymnastics. I slept in and when I got up they were hangin’ on the couch. Rich left for work, Connor and I hung out and played some more and pretty soon he was standing before me saying, “Mama, I’m ready to go in my bed.”

All righty, then!

Up we went. Milk, stories, all tucked in. And then meltdown.

“I don’t want to sleep! I’M DONE!” (Have I mentioned this is my favourite phrase? Really, it makes my heart sing with anger and frustration joy.)

I tried a few things and then gave up, because that’s not a battle I choose to fight. We hung out downstairs some more and I managed to get him to eat something finally, but it quickly became clear he wasn’t feeling well. At a certain point I decided he really needed to try a nap. Went back upstairs, told him he could sleep in my bed. MELTDOWN.

[We interrupt this post to acknowledge that this isn’t the short version after all. Sorry about that.]

Anyway… He cried and cried. And cried. I picked him up and held on to him and told him I would sit with him and read a book, hoping that would calm him down. He cried some more. “I don’t want to sleep!”

Finally said he just wanted a cuddle. Two minutes of that and he wanted to lie down. Two more minutes and he was asleep.(“Ha! I knew you were tired…”)

He only slept for 40 minutes and woke up right as I was (finally) stepping out of the shower. And he cried and cried in the way little boys do when they aren’t feeling well and they just want their mama. So we went downstairs and sat on the couch and he fell asleep again. On me. This hot, sweaty little boy slept on me for half an hour and it was lovely. It’s times like that where I really feel like a mom. That is something I can do for him. In those moments, I can make him feel better and I catch a glimpse of the part of me that is the mom I always pictured myself being.

However, this meant our plans for the afternoon got thrown out the window. Dog didn’t get walked, husband had to bring home groceries. But we managed. And I didn’t lose it.

When I told my counsellor about this today she said, “What is it about that where you didn’t do well?”

“I had moments where I hated it and thought, ‘I can’t do this!'” I said.

“But what about that couldn’t you do? What could you possibly have done differently?”

All right, I see where she’s going with this.

My experience of being a mom is not having everything planned and having all those plans go perfectly. (No one’s is, though I’m just going to put it out there: some people’s experiences are a lot closer to this than mine.)

My experience of being a mom is as someone who tends to be a bit on the sensitive side. I have less patience than my husband. So he copes with these things better than I do.

Upon having this pointed out to me part of me thinks, “Please, no.” Tell me this isn’t my reality now. I’m waiting for it to get to be what I expected. I’m waiting for it to feel easy. But it’s not going to. Right? It’s not, is it? This is what being a mom is, isn’t it? At least for me.

And maybe all of this – this and this and this (and yes, this!) – is what my experience is.

Maybe “good” is relative.

Maybe the definition of a “good” mom doesn’t come in black and white.


8 Comments leave one →
  1. February 5, 2011 7:07 pm

    I loved this the first time I read it and it has the same effect the second time. Great job.

  2. February 5, 2011 1:40 pm

    Oh, this was so well expressed. I don’t know anyone whose experience as a mother has been exactly what they expected. This is what makes it such an extraordinary thing, no? It is one surprise after another, constantly evolving. Just when I think I’ve got it down, there’s another twist in the road. No black & white, indeed. Thanks for the great read…glad you appeared after me on TRDC. 🙂

  3. Pam permalink
    February 5, 2011 10:39 am

    Hang in there. You’re doing a great job. It’s so hard not compare yourself, your situation to others. But keep in mind that we only see the outside surface. They may have some of the same struggles. I think most of us, even without PPD, question how good of a mom we are at one point or another. I questioned that multiple times this past week but my boys overall are doing well. I love them to pieces & they love me. Just as you love Connor & he loves you.

  4. Michelle permalink
    February 3, 2011 7:29 pm

    Sister, you have the hardest job in the world! I don’t know because I’ve never experienced it but I know parents, I work with parents, the kids I work with have parents who share their struggles with me, and I have parents who had the hardest job in the world times 4 (or even 6!) You don’t get paid, you don’t get an employee manual, you don’t get coffee breaks and sometimes you wonder what you missed in the interview to land here. You love him, he loves you, you are making his world and his life *so* much better just by being the person you are and you are allowed to feel however you feel but remember that he couldn’t get a better mom if he’d interviewed you himself.

    To summarize, you are amazing!

  5. February 2, 2011 11:44 am

    I feel you on this, Robin. I’m feeling frustrated lately that while life with Kieran seems to be going well…. I feel like we’re all little hamsters with our individual wheels. My time with my son is limited 5 days a week to quick kisses in the morning while I get ready and Paul handles him, and then trying to get a bath in along with some solid food before he passes out after bringing him home from daycare. (So far this week? FAIL.) Yes, we get to cuddle a bit while he has a bottle before bed – but where is the fun? Where is the mothering of my baby? I feel like I’m a robot, tending to his basic bodily functions only.

    This, of course, makes me feel like TERRIBLE MOMMY #1 when I try to do errands or housecleaning or blogging or anything other than spend every second playing with Kieran on the weekends. Needless to say, my house (and sanity) are suffering.

    This isn’t what I thought being a Mom would be about either. I’m not saying I don’t like it, or I don’t want to do it anymore… it’s just not what I expected. But at the same time, I never expected to love a little man who pulls my hair and uses my shirt for a napkin and tissue so much either.

    I’m working to adjust my expectations. Knowing that I’m not the only one struggling with learning to not plan everything, and being OK when what does get planned goes pear-shaped helps A LOT.

  6. February 2, 2011 7:03 am

    Some days I feel the same way.. like I can’t take it and I wonder when it will get better.
    you’re doing a great job!! You’re little boy called for YOU and feels safe with YOU.

  7. Briegh permalink
    February 2, 2011 6:48 am

    Perfect is also relative.

    A mom at my strollercize class was telling me that her husband asks if they’ve had a happy day – and their definition of that is a relatively happy child and dinner made. I thought that was a pretty good measure of success.

  8. February 1, 2011 9:24 pm

    OMG… I wish I had read this 6 years ago when I was in the middle of trying to figure out how I was ever going to manage with a newborn, a 2 year old and a 5 year old. I thought I was sinking in quicksand. I cried every day. Every. Day. I thought there was nobody else on the planet who could understand that I just wasn’t cut out to be a Mom. I was miserable. Just ask my husband… I’m surprised he is still around.

    My postpartum lasted about 18 months and was pure hell. I look back and wonder how I managed to get through it all. I KNOW I was a great Mom, but sometimes it sure didn’t seem like it.

    Hang in there… it WILL get better.

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