On Motherhood & Sanity


Thursday, December 10, 2009

on staying sane and other mysteries of motherhood


My mother likes to say that mother hood is not a sprint sport, but a marathon. She says this so that we try to think long term. So that we try not to get too overwhelmed on the bad days. But sometimes, knowing that this will never end (ok, it will, just not in then next 25 years or so), is its own source of stress.

I quit my job because I wanted to be present in my children’s lives. So when I have a bad mommy day, the guilt piles on. There are days when this “job” is so rewarding. When it feels so right. When you are so glad to be able to have the time, the mental space and the freedom and flexibility. But then there are days when you just feel like a total fake. I’m not working. I’m not earning my keep. And I’m also not being a good mother.

So what is a good mother? Hell if I know. How much patience makes for a good mother, how much is spoiling, how much is neglect? These are the questions I struggle with every day. There is no answer out there. As an intellectual I opt for reading. During the first years I read every book in sight. Recently, I have gone back to reading novels and books on things that are about me and what I do. So again comes the guilt. I’m not doing my job right.

I’ve recently decided to divide my time in three: 33% for being a mommy, 33% for paid and recognised work, and the last 33% to write my book and take my photos. There is of course the flaw that there is not time designated there for my partner. Maybe I could sneak him in the first bit as “dada” but the truth is that I use a lot of the time for myself as well. That is another one of the problems.

I am a relatively independent person and somewhat of a loner. At least I used to be, before I would have company even to go to the toilet. (although I put my foot down at pooping in company, no matter how good that company is). So when the kids go to bed, and after dinner with my husband, the only time of the day we have together, the house becomes quiet, everyone is in bed, and my castle is once again my kingdom.

It doesn’t matter how tired I am, I am unable to give this time up. It is MY time, alone, when nobody questions what I am doing, what I am eating, its just me and the silence. I am able to stretch this time quite a bit, into the early hours. Sometimes I get some work done, but the truth is that usually I am too tired to be of any use, so I turn the TV on, and watch crap, and I love watching this crap. And I really savour these moments. Except, then the wake up call arrives between 5 and 6 am. Early rise, assuming nobody got sick or missed mommy during the night. One or two midnight awakenings are a norm, so in short, after a few years of this, I am a wreck. I am so tired I cant seem to get anything done day or night. Which makes for a pretty bad mommy and a pretty bad artist, the only thing that gets done is paid work. I guess just like society, I value that more. Maybe not value, but clearly, I respect it more. There is a deadline, there are consequence if you are not ready, not done in time. So it gets done. Everything else can wait. The kids always get their fair share too. It just never feels like its enough because they always want more. Actually, I am pretty sure that the more time I spend with them the more the cry (literally) for more.

So here I am, trying to be good at some thing, trying to focus my life again. To get back on track.

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