Dear God, please forgive me for directly quoting from People magazine. Amen.
"Every single day I second guess myself as a mother...it's frustrating because I feel like i'm failing on both ends". Naomi Watts - on juggling a movie career and motherhood.
Not exactly Gandhi - however, as I was perusing the pages of People magazine in the grocery store last week, i read this quote and my nose began to run as i struggled not to cry. I know, how embarrassing - i'll be quoting Kate Gosselin next. However, somewhere in me it hit a nerve. She had articulated in two lines what i had been feeling for months.
Later that week my meltdown escalated into a full on dissolution of mind, body and soul. No nose sniffing could stop these mammoth tears of literally monsooning my face.
I came home late from work. I had a warm dinner waiting, my house was clean and my laundry folded. Olive was bathed and in bed. I should have been kicking my heels off and singing (quietly) some Lionel Richie. Instead i found myself literally destroyed.
I tried to reason with myself to understand why I was lying on the bathroom floor bawling my eyes out and gasping for air. I was one phonecall away from being sectioned when i picked myself up and looked in the mirror knowing the shock of seeing a blotchy, freckled panda would scare me into silence. The tears stopped and were quickly replaced with rage. At the world. At everything. But mostly at myself. I was furious with myself and i couldn't figure out why. I just sat on my bed for what seemed like an eternity revisiting the past 30 years - random memories flooded my brain, of running to catch my school bus, a dance teacher straightening my arms, of showering in flipflops, of olive, of tom, of new york. Of new york. I knew I had no reason to be sad and every reason to be thankful but in that moment - that one moment - I wanted to scream to the world - my life is a compromise. There, I said it.
I'm sweating as i type.
In my tiny mind all I could see was that I'm not around to look after my daughter during the day, I hadn't cooked my family dinner, I had left my house a mess and I had left my laundry in the drier. I can't even call my day job a success because it used to be my career that defined me and now it hurts to even think of that. I felt utterly redundant as a mother and a wife. I had never cared about this before. At least I never thought that I cared. But in that moment I did. I do. It wasn't about wanting to slave behind an oven, nor sing to the sound of my vaccuum or even play with tea sets and teddies all day. Now, these duties are not expected of me - i was met with no disappointment. In fact, nobody could understand what was up with me. It's just that those roles have become a part of me and much of being a mother and a wife seems to come out of being needed. Subsequently, in that moment, I felt unnecessary. And guess what? It's downright painful to fail at something you became by default.
Of course we all give up things when we become parents. Sleep, impromptu showers, dreams. Rarely begrudgingly. It's all worth it when you see the love you have shining back at you. It's tough when you miss that. If only for a day.
The reality is that something has to give. If you are on the fast track in your career then maybe the payoff is affording your family a better life. If you are a stay at home mum then you do perhaps lust for your career but rest easy in knowing that you can give 100% to your child. For me, I fall somewhere inbetween and so I have become precious over what is under my jurisdiction and the desire to do it well.
And yes, I know, I do, that I am a lucky lady if my biggest problem is coming home to a clean house, a warm dinner, folded towels and a loving family. However, this is a confessional (I know, - get a journal) but I have to believe that there are other people that feel this way. And so I go back to quoting a movie star (was she the one in King Kong?) and agree that sometimes I feel like I am failing on both ends.
The tears stopped. The day ended. My headache passed and after letting it all out I felt a bit daft but I refuse to dismiss that meltdown as anything less than real. That night I found myself consumed with the thought that I'm not the mother that I thought I would be. Over and over I ran this through my head. From vowing never to use pacifiers, to insisting that my child will cry it out, and of course the cardinal sin - never having a child sleep in bed with me. There I was, lying in bed, wide awake at 3am with Olive uncomfortably nestled in my armpit and I couldn't understand where I had gone wrong.
The following day I blurted this out to a friend over a toilet stall. "I'm not the mother I thought I'd be."
As if to add insult to injury i had to repeat myself because of an unexpected flush from another stall. - Yet over the rustle of toilet paper my fears were allayed. "None of us are. You're the mother you need to be."
That works. I'll take that. Right now that's enough.