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On Motherhood and Personhood and Expectations (unrealistic and otherwise)

August 12, 2017

[Note:  I wrote this last night, and because I’ve buried myself recently in climbing out of my emotional hole recently, I just now read what is going on in the world.  With that perspective, the following reads like the worst kind of navel-gazing, self-absorbed journal writing published for the public.  My reason for writing this was and is in case there is some other parent or person out there experiencing something similar–that the “me too!” of a post may help someone else feel slightly less alone.]

This summer.

I planned it out, man.  I figured out a good schedule of camps and weeks with no camps to wrap around our family-wedding-related trips (yes, plural) and made lists of the awesome places and things I’d do with my kids.

Because I got this!  They are six!  I can, like, do things with them!  By myself!  Like grocery shop (which is not my favorite with all three but do-able).  Or road trip to Mt. Rainier! (Oh, wait, one kid is terrified because it’s a volcano and no amount of science or logic can convince this kid that the volcano will not erupt during our day trip. So no Mt. Rainier for the foreseeable future.)

So now it’s mid-August and I’m three meltdowns and several lifesavers in, and the other day I yet again felt like a complete failure.

I mean, my rational brain knows I am not a failure. But that didn’t stop my squeezed-out heart cavity from feeling like a failure. I had plans for this summer. We were going to go to concerts! And hike and spend time outside! And take a day trip or adventure here and there and go places we’ve never been! And then in my kid-free time I was going to develop part of a new curriculum for my class next year, and work on setting up the renewal process for my National Boards, and use up all our CSA veggies every week so they don’t go bad and get composted along with my food-waste guilt. And I was going to eat healthier and run more often and develop a presentation using data analysis from the excel spreadsheet I was going to learn how to create in order to teach my colleagues the power of mindfulness in the classroom. And we were going to go camping. And I was going to clean and purge my house.

In retrospect, that was maybe a few too many plans.

[Aside: don’t even get me started on the “teachers get the whole summer off” b.s. because I’m working on curriculum and renewing my National Boards in between errands and camps and appointments, and my sister-in-law is caring for her kids while taking classes toward an admin credential, and we teachers do not just sit on our butts and eat bonbons all summer thankyouverymuch. I have seen a poorly-informed person nearly get decked by a group of teachers in my grad program after saying, “Teachers! You only work 6-hour days and get summers off!”]

On top of the too-many expectations, which in hindsight were unrealistic though I obviously did not know that at the time, came behavior issues. Like several nights of newborn-parent-like sleep due to fever-induced nightmares in one kid. Or the Pushing of Buttons. Or the Not-Listening–like, if a mother asks her children to do something six times and no one hears, does that mom exist?

All this, plus a focus on spending my time on others instead of on what I know I need for self-care (solitude. reading for pleasure. writing. more solitude.), drove me to insanity. I wrote this two nights ago:

Why am I up late weeping in the dark, too mentally drained to even get something to eat?  Why am I putting my kids through my crying spells and traumatizing one of them such that I hope she makes enough money to pay for a good therapist so she can tell the therapist all about her crazy, unstable mother?

Sigh.

Foolish, foolish Me. What matters? Does the To-Do list really matter? Do the Grand Adventures really matter? One of the best parts of this week was spending a couple of hours at the library while it was too smoky and hot to be outside. My kids love the library, and love books to a degree that even this bibliophile parent could have only hoped for.

Another best part of this week?

Yesterday our van wouldn’t start. We waited an hour for AAA to come and diagnose a completely dead battery, and while we waited, I focused on things to be grateful for:

  • the AAA membership that my parents give us every Christmas
  • that we parked in the shade in front of a library
  • the kind retired school librarian who took two kids to the bathroom so I didn’t have to leave my van, parked too long in a 3-minute Loading and Unloading Zone, or miss the AAA truck
  • my kids, who entertained themselves by collecting and sorting acorns (the girls) and doing loops around the oak tree while drumming two sticks and singing Music Together songs at top volume (guess who?)

How my kids spent time waiting for someone to fix our battery.

An otherwise crappy event turned into a moment of gratitude.  If it did have to happen (which it obviously did, since it was the original battery and was probably overdue for replacement), I’m glad it happened exactly as it did. And then we still got to drop off stuff at Value Village, get some necessary things at Target, and as a reward to all of us, get ice cream at Ben and Jerry’s.

Ice cream may not make everything better…but it sure helps.

So maybe I’m turning a corner from burned-out to being able to handle the rest of the summer (including a week-plus trip with all of us to the East Coast for a cousin wedding [hi Holli!] and time with cousins in Maine and grandparents in Massachusetts). I won’t get through all of my plans.  And we have had fun:  swimming in lakes, celebrating birthdays, going out to lunch, experimenting with tennis, reading lots and lots of books.

But this summer is also the surprise impetus for me to actually post a blog entry, the first since December. (Several started but none finished.)  My take-away?  “Slow down, you move too fast; you’ve got to make the morning last…” (Simon and Garfunkel).  I don’t have to Do All the Things.  Be as kind to myself as I try to be to the mamas in the new parents of twins support group I facilitate.

Focus on this:

Lunch buddies reading and coloring and imagining.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. rayaless permalink
    August 14, 2017 11:06 pm

    Michelle!

    You are so very far from “failure”, and among the most beautiful of women, the most beautiful of people I know.

    Selfless, thoughtful, wickedly sharp, kind, gentle, honest, straightforward, committed, real, curious, gifted writer and a kickass teacher – and this is on a “bad” day !

    What a blessing AJ is, and what a blessing you are to her 😊

    I loved this reflection…. A lens into the very real challenges and very real blessings characterizing Ruth Frindell summertime (and perhaps other families’ summer times, especially when both parents work AND they have three active, smart children to meaningfully engage…. No pressure (insert rolling eyes here 😊)

    I hope to connect with you soon, but in the meanwhile, thank you for your words, your thoughts, your grace!

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