Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Wonder Years

It's hard this parenting lark. And I'm not sure I am any good at it.

My husband just came home from work. I was feeding our daughter and as she threw her spoon full of food over me, I exclaimed her name, Olivia. It's always serious when it's her full name. Perhaps a little too loudly, perhaps a little too brash. I don't remember. I do remember my husband's shocked face and his concern as he came and lifted her from my lap.

Am I a monster?


How do you explain that this was the umpteenth time she had done this today and i was at the end of my tether? That i had a second degree burn from a pan that i lifted off the stove earlier today and all day long it had rained so i couldn't take her outside even if i wanted to.
How do you explain that I just wanted my mum today so I could just cry over my stupid burnt finger? That I didn't have it in me to entertain my daughter.

You don't explain. You just stand up and walk away and feel like a monster.

Actually, more of a monster.

Since returning to New York, i have been a "play all day in the park mom" with Olive. I've been on both sides of this in the past 18 months and a return to work will be inevitable in the very near future. Being a "you must nap between 12-2 mom" is the most taxing job in the world. Yet, I have to work. Financially we have no choice.

But isn't that actually a wonderful cop out when really, I've discovered these past two weeks, (deep breath) that I actually don't enjoy it. At least, I don't think I do.

There, i said it.

It feels like a club that I have no idea how to get into and i don't really want to anyway. I can't explain it. You are left utterly drained, exhausted, flat out crazed and yet, there's an entire part of me that is left brimming with stuff that needs to get out. My mind whirrs. It is constantly singing a song that is designed to educate toddlers. I couldn't sleep for the sound of Hey Diddle Diddle pounding my brain the other night. And, guess what? I have a favorite cartoon. Not since the age of 8 have I actually contemplated which animated character is my favorite. Yes, I have formed opinions on these things. Even worse, my favorite is not Olive's favorite. In fact, one of her favorites is an irritating animal bouncing around discussing nature. I turn this one off if she hasn't already seen it start.

You see, I'm a monster.

I think i am more fulfilled/balanced/ less unhinged (!) when i go to work. I think.

Ok, so how can I reconcile loving my daughter more than anything in the world and not wanting to spend all day, every day with her? Yes, I have no choice because of finances and the need for insurance for her but if i did have a choice?

IF i had a choice, what would i choose? I honestly don't know, but my head tells me that it would be going into work. My heart wilts. How can this be a legitimate question from a mother?

I'm a monster.

Is there something wrong with me? Is there a gene missing? I didn't enjoy pregnancy. I suffered with post partum depression and now this? Am i a man trapped in a woman's body? Am i one of those people that shouldn't have had children?

But I love her. I know her better than anyone. I fantasise about throwing myself in front of cars, bullets, knives - I'm back in Brooklyn now ;). I would let someone burn every finger I have slowly just to save one head on her hair from being touched. I nearly kicked a kid in the face yesterday when he tried to push Olive and he hit another little girl. You see, I'm a child abuser - i wanted to kick another child in the head. And really hard, too.

Yet, would i willingly pay someone else or a daycare facility to look after her during the day so i can go to work? You know, work, that thing that you moan about everyday and then dread on Sunday night. Makes it worse, doesn't it. I see the nannies at the playground and immediately pass judgment. I imagine wealthy parents that have little time for their children. Ouch.

I pushed Olive in a swing yesterday next to another lady pushing her daughter. She also had a 2 month old strapped to the front of her. We did the usual chat and I was so desperate to find an ally or someone to talk to that when she told me that she was returning to work the following week, I asked her if she was excited? The pause was painful enough for me to realize that she likely thought she was being attacked. I quickly explained that i was likely returning to work and was looking forward to that adult interaction. She agreed. And then it was like we were in a secret club. We weren't giddy about our lack of enthusiasm for being at home with our little ones, nor were we melancholy that we felt this way. We were just honest. It's hard being apart from our children but what we get from going to a 'formal' job (I'm careful about wording because there is nothing stay at home about a stay at home mum) is food for our soul.

We wouldn't question the fathers on this. So, do i have a gene missing? Do other women feel this way? How can we claim to love our children more than anything and yet not want more than anything to be there all the time. Olive bumped her head today and as i snuggled her I took back every thought of wanting to leave her in the arms of someone else. And when she woke up and asked for a hug, my heart melted. I can't describe the pain of this conflict. Yet, it's a moot point. I HAVE to work. But, what if i didn't, a little voice asks?

I know this is a divisive issue. I offer myself up as sacrifice. I know people who will read this and take comfort in pulling me down to their spouses. Why bother having children if you don't want to look after them? If that helps them sleep better and not question their choices, then what do i care? I also suspect that there maybe more of us that feel this way. By that I mean conflicted. Torn. Confused. There's nothing easy about thinking these thoughts. I'm just choosing to share them.

Does this make me less maternal? Should women like me not be allowed to have more children? Well, i'm ridiculously maternal. My breasts just about leak everytime I see a newborn. And as for more? God willing, yes, please.

Do I secretly wonder if my husband is disappointed that I don't seem content and fulfilled when he comes in from work? Actually, I don't. I flat out asked him and he flat out told me that he knew who he married and he loves me more now that ever before. I mean, it's not as if i don't get giddy when i show him videos of her playing at the park at the end of the day. You see, i enjoy it...but...but...that's it. There is a but.

I'm lucky. My husband knows me. But his face this evening? Was it concern for me or for my daughter? I'll know soon enough - the end of day chats in bed will tell me and either way i know that he will love and support me. Yet when we roll back over to our sides of the bed, I will lie awake and wonder.

Am I a monster?


  1. Thank you. My friend sent this over to me after a recent conversation we had. You are not alone and your honesty is so refreshing.

  2. I have loved everything you have written and this is no exception. This is honest and so raw, I can almost feel how hard this was for you to write. You aren't alone - I hated being pregnant (each time hated it more...ask my husband) and there are so many days when I question my abilities here at home. Many times I wonder if it would be easier to work. At least at work you know immediately if you're doing a good job (not 18 yrs later!)
    You have to cut yourself some slack. Parenting is the toughest job in the world with no pay. And you just had a huge move and lots of changes. Give yourself a break. You are not a monster. By doing this kind of reflecting, you are the best kind of mom.
    All the best always,

  3. Darling you are FAR from a monster! I can relate to those days when you're just at your whits end. And than there's that one additional temper tantrum that puts you over. I get it, more than you know. A dear friend told me that one of the greatest gifts you can give your child is showing them your own personal fulfillment. Love you!!! xo

  4. Nope, I hear you completely. When I was home with my daughter I enjoyed the time with her and my son who was 7. When I went back, I left her in the loving arms of my aunt and she kept her young for 2.5 years. Then she went to daycare and THRIVED! I don't feel guilty. I feel more now that she is in fifth grade and I can't make every one of her events! Same with my son who is 16 now. But as their mom, I knew it would be better for me and thus for them that I wasnt' there to aggravate them all day long! ;-) Hang in ther Mom, you are doing just fine!

  5. I should add you are right, it is a NO NO to kick another kid in the head. But you could "accidentally" bump them while reaching for your precious girl!!! LOL! JOKING!!

  6. Paula,
    You're not a monster. It sounds as though you may be still struggling with your PPD and its after effects. I too have felt the same way, and even though I'm years past my postpartum OCD, I still realize that I'm one of those moms who needs time on her own to be the best mom I can be. I can't stay at home all day with my children, though I love them more than life itself. I too have struggled with the fact that other mothers love being at home all day with their children, and the idea that there must be something wrong with me. But there isn't. We are all different.
    I hope you'll stop by Postpartum Progress and hang out with us for a while. We understand what you're going through.

  7. You are not the only one who feels this way. You are not the only one who has spoken a little to harshly to your child or gotten frustrated after a particularly bad day. You are most definitely NOT a monster. This is what I am always trying to explain to my husband. Being a stay at home mom is the hardest job EVER, and sometimes I feel like I would give my right arm to go back to work. Thank you for sharing your feelings on the subject, and you should, in no way feel ashamed about them!!

  8. Lets chant our mantra together, ready? First, deep breath in and out...then..."We are all doing the best we can!" Good. Okay. So, you know that I love you and think you are incredible (for what that is worth). You are an amazing wife and mother. Olive will never suffer from you having or wanting to work. She knows she is loved. You are not a monster. Don't be too hard on yourself. Olive is an incredibly lucky little girl. I can imagine it is hard to find that you don't feel the way you think you are supposed to feel (if that makes sense). So change the way you think, readjust your mindset and then move forward. Working mom is a silly term to me. You are a mom. And you work. Those two terms don't really have to have anything to do with each other. I know I am rambling and this probably doesn't really make sense. This is why I need you back here so we can just talk it out. :) Love you and miss you!

  9. During my own struggle with depression and after the loss of my baby, I learned to stop second guessing and questioning what is really in my heart. What I mean - is that there are things deep down we want to do (or feel), but we will supress them for the sake of doing (or feeling) what we think we should.

    It sounds as though your struggle lies in the fact that you may actually "want" to go back to work. As if that somehow means that you are not the mother you should be. The best thing for all children is to have a healthy, well-adjusted, fully engaged mother. Working a job, or not.

    What people do not understand about depression is that you have to take extra care of yourself and build a lifestyle that assists you in being emotionally healthy. It is important for you to do what is best for you. At this point - it may be best for you to work -
    and you do not have to feel guilty about it.

    Go back to work and love it! It's ok. Go back to work and realize you are at your best at home - quit. That is ok too. (I have done both).

    You are a great mom.


  10. thank you. thank you thank you. I can't find this club either and I've been wandering around feeling like a complete failure for preferring an office over the playground. I too see what I can only call my 'monster' peaking it's head out near the end of my 3 day weekend, alone,with a 2-year old who won't eat, throws food at me, kicks me and then hugs me. I can't wait to get to the office. So much that I actually wake up early to go. I've found that I need that balance just to keep the monster at bay. Thank you for expressing everything so perfectly. Thank you for reminding me that I'm human.

  11. Normal thoughts. I think there is a very slim number of women or men who would want to spend day after day and the only interaction being with their children. I'd die. I have three boys and when I became pregnant with the third I decided to stop working, part-time. The childcare etc. wasn't worth it anymore. And, I must say, the job was actually getting fun...the job of staying home with my kids. First, my oldest two were becoming best friends and I'm not a big fan of playing with my boys. I love facilitating and teaching, but hate playing. And, my oldest joined a co-op preschool, so I got to get invovled and make new friends...and I became very social and made playdates with other moms and their kids. Moms need playdates as much as the kids.

  12. You are not a monster - you are a mommy who has too much time on her mind. I feel the same way and often wonder if my husband thinks like yours. All I know is that I'm doing my best and this stage will lead to a better stage (more interaction/enjoyment) with my daughter. Now following you.

  13. Every mother feels like you do at some time in rearing their children.Remember the strain you are going through at the moment, a big move and a change for Olivia.I ran a nursery school for many years, and let me tell you that all the children I had, thrived. They learnt many new skills, social, emotional & educational.
    The mothers picked them up feeling physically refreshed,and emotionally fulfilled. You are being too hard on yourself.

    A Monster! Never! You are a highly intelligent girl. The fact that you are questioning yourself makes you the most perfect of mothers. I know how much you love your daughter & I also know how much she loves you.

  14. thankyou so much....... i clung on to every word you wrote, if i had time to tear myself away from my two littlies i would find myself writing exactly what you have expressed.........who knew there was another me out there!


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