Archive for the tag 'mothering'

On my shoulders

NS June 9th, 2010

I stood in Noble Boy’s room at 9.15pm last night, rocking him, singing to him softly and with tears running down my face. I was slightly annoyed that he wasn’t in bed yet, yes, but it was much more than that; it was the crushing weight of responsibility for his health and well-being.

Earlier in the day, he had had a scary episode upon waking from his nap, wherein he screamed and raged and kicked and writhed with such force and for so long (25 minutes) that for a moment I thought he was having a seizure or was choking.  He howled and turned red and bent his back in such contortions that I feared it would snap. The terror in his eyes mirrored my own. What was happening to my little boy? He arched away from me so violently that it felt like Rejection itself had inhabited his limbs. I sat on the floor and cried with him, both of us desperate for whatever it was to ease its grip.

Finally, it went. He choked out, “Mama!” and held his arms up to me, ready for a cuddle. He clung to me like a baby monkey and sighed great big hiccuping sobs into my neck. I rubbed and patted and sang and whispered and soothed. Fifteen minutes later he was running around after his sister, laughing and chomping on a snack. He was fine but I felt like a ghost for the rest of the day.

So that night, when he wouldn’t go to sleep and I heard him crying in his cot after NH’s third attempt at calming him had failed, I climbed the stairs once more and scooped him into my arms, even though I had a ton of work to do downstairs. He needed lots of cuddles and reassurance so I had a long time to stand there in the dark, thinking.

I was thinking about my first doula client interview, which is today, and the conversation I’d had with my mother-in-law when I’d had to ask her to come watch the children while I raced off to the dentist at 4pm and then straight onto a train at 5 to be with the client at 6. Noble Husband would leave work early and be home by 6 to relieve her, would that be okay? It was, but only just. She had other plans and would have to change or delay them accordingly. I felt bad. I felt guilty. I felt frustrated.

This work-life balance stuff, the childcare arranging and juggling, the endless ‘favours’ being called in — it’s all on my shoulders. I’m the woman, I’m the mother, I’m the one who has to try to carve out a career after her other commitments have been met. For my husband (and most other ‘breadwinners’) it’s the other way around; work comes first and family is squeezed around its looming pillar of worth. I can’t go anywhere or do anything on my own without my mental tally of who I can count on, what time x or y has to happen and how early I can get NH home. It’s exhausting.

Taking care of these little people all day, trying to make a career work and creating my own sense of self…it’s really difficult to feel confident and autonomous when you’re dependent on others for everything; their salary and cooperation (NH), their flexibility and willingness (mum-in-law) and your children to not to scoop the contents of your heart out, day by day.

Eventually, I realised that NB was not going to let go of me and settle in his own bed so I carried him through to mine. I laid down beside him and stroked the soft skin of his arms and face as he took comfort in the warm milk and closeness my body provides. He drifted off to sleep, finally. And even though my eyelids were heavy and I wanted to stay with him, to stay cuddled up with my baby, I knew a mound of paperwork and dishes awaited me downstairs. I disentangled myself from his embrace and crept away, stealing one last glance at his face in the moonlight.

Sometimes, the weight on my shoulders is lifted just long enough to set me afloat.

iLactate

NS May 27th, 2010

As I sat breastfeeding Noble Boy while reading blogs on my iPhone (as you do), I briefly averted my eyes to gaze at his nearly-asleep face by the glow of the screen. And it hit me; it’s not a deep desire to nurse my child until he naturally weans himself that keeps me going —  it’s Steve Jobs. Without that hand-held miracle device, I may have gotten bored with the whole affair a few months ago. As it is, I’m happy to carry on for as long as he wants, so long as I can look at my iPhone over his head.

Photo credit

Glad that my apple fell near this tree

NS May 10th, 2010

I know (US) Mother’s Day was yesterday but procrastination, as my own mother would tell you, runs in our family. Things that also run in our family: fat knees, night owl tendencies,  long goodbyes, a love of bourbon and laughing at the annual Christmas party until sides are clutched, bladders threaten to burst and asthma inhalers are needed.

Like most teenagers, I swore I’d never become my mother. Our relationship always remained largely amicable and intact but we fought like cats and dogs for many years, mainly because we were so alike in personality and spirit. I see it now in my own daughter, the similarities that will make our future relationship tumultuous. One day, probably in about nine years, she will hate me. If I’m lucky, she’ll just be embarrassed by me. If things go like they did for me and my mom, she will do both in small doses but come back to me, back to a place of love and respect, once those rocky, hormone-fuelled, independence-driven days wane as the maturity level grows.

And I know that when I call my mom to mull all this over, angry and sad and confused over my changed status and mourning the little girl lost to me, she will understand perfectly and yearn to wrap her arms around the phone, around me, and provide comfort. She won’t say ‘I told you so’; she won’t tell me I’m blowing it out of proportion. She’ll remember how much it hurt and think not of what I inflicted on her but how she can make my hurt better. Because that’s what mothers do.

I want to tell you more about her, my mom. In thinking about what a hero and inspiration she’s been to me, I tried to come up with some less-sappy and clichéd synonyms because those kinds of euphemisms are meaningless, overused and not at all my style. And the great thing about my mom? She would not only understand but completely agree. So instead of telling you in minute detail how strong she is or how she shaped me, I’ll just share a few glimpses into what kind of person she is.

  • Never afraid of getting her hands dirty or of physical labour, she drove a forklift at a factory when she was eight months pregnant with me. She can also move a sofa or bed in or out of a house, on her own, literally on her back. Her brute strength and pivoting skills are unmatched
  • My mom is the McGyver of the crafting world. Give her a bit of cardboard, a scrap of fabric, a safety pin and a magic marker and she can make a superhero outfit, an exact replica of an ancient Egyptian funeral pyre or a Native American headdress
  • She never gives up on her dreams, no matter how long it takes to achieve them or how slowly she progresses. I know that before she dies she will have put on paper the book that’s already inscribed in her mind, have taken those glass-blowing and language classes she’s talked about for years and have travelled to many of the places she dreams of seeing. My biggest dream is to be able to, one day, help her achieve at least one of these
  • She is the most honest, hard-working, ethical person I know. This is a woman who would not take even ten minutes over her allotted lunch break without docking it from her own pay. And she does the payroll! As a result, I am utterly incapable of cheating at games or not saying anything when given incorrect change that would be to my advantage
  • If caffeine were made illegal today, my mother would be in jail tomorrow for trying to procure a coffee or cola on the black market. This is the only thing for which I can envision her breaking the law
  • She is an unashamed backseat driver of the most extreme proportions. I’m not talking about little arguments over map-reading skills or a bit of bickering about speeding, I’m talking about being surprised she hasn’t actually shoved my dad out of the driver’s seat of a moving car and taken the wheel herself. My dad affectionately refers to her as The Nagigator
  • Her dedication to tirelessly advocating and caring for everyone in our family who has ever been terminally ill (including her own daughter, father, mother, grandmother, brother and father-in-law) leaves me speechless with awe. The kindness and respect she showed to the most socially awkward, mentally unstable and physically unwell or disabled people she dealt with on a daily basis in her former job, one she held for nearly 20 years, had a huge impact on me and my views towards fairness, equality and the importance of humanity
  • As a busy working mom when we were growing up, she often cleaned at night instead of sleeping, when the mess got to be too much. I would wake up in the morning to a tidied room, vacuumed carpet and new sheets on my bed, all done right under my nose while I slept. It was like magic. Mary Poppins and her spoonful of sugar crap had nothing on my mom
  • The holidays were never complete until she’d uttered the words, “Merry fucking Christmas” before slamming a door
  • She always apologised afterwards and we always forgave her because we knew how hard she worked and how much she did for us, even when she didn’t

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom.

The unbearable monotony of mothering

NS April 8th, 2010

Doing funny voices all day? I can deal with that.

Waiting patiently for a tantrum in public to subside? Unpleasant, but doable.

Breastfeeding a baby for hours on end and then a toddler who pinches and kicks and squirms? I bear it.

Changing nappies, preparing meals, rounding up all the items needed for an outing, arranging playdates, doing the school run, ensuring they are eating well, meeting their developmental milestones, learning manners, empathy, self-confidence, the alphabet and how to navigate this complex world successfully? That seems like the easy part most days.

You know which bit I absolutely cannot abide, the bit that, no matter how many times I am confronted with and know I cannot escape still manages to drive me up a wall?

The mess.

The endless, self-perpetuating, infinitesimal cycle of spills, crumbs, soggy towels, muddy shoes, water all over the bathroom floor, every nappy taken out of its package, every item of clothing removed from the dresser, made beds instantly unmade, toys underfoot: toys on the sofa, under the bed, in the washing machine, in the car, in my handbag; marker pen dragged along the recently-painted wall, cat food dumped out, containers placed (empty) back in the fridge, overflowing bins no one else seems to notice and a pile of laundry that moves from body to floor to hamper to basket to machine to airer or radiator to basket to bed to drawer and back onto the body where it will remain for perhaps three to four hours before being soiled and removed yet again.

These things —  not the tears or fighting or whining or being jumped on, poked, awakened, kept up, tried, tested and put through the wringer — is what usually ends up being the straw that broke this camel’s weary back. Maybe camels and mothers have more in common than previously thought — we both store reserves of fat and patience to see us through the long, hard slog in the brutal, relentless desert but eventually, if provoked, we get mean and spit; we lie down and refuse to move, dumping our hapless hangers-on headfirst into the quicksand.

Sometimes I look at another mess I have to clean up, another lovingly-prepared meal uneaten or another load of laundry I have to fold and put away and I do one of two things (and on a really, really bad day, both): explode or cry. I have seen a bowl of purposely-dumped cereal turn me from a normal person into a seething, shaking, quivering ball of internal fury that manifests itself with a clenched jaws, fistfuls of hair, eyes filled with teary, apoplectic rage and a river of self-pity and hatred that rushes through me so suddenly and with such force that it dulls the sharp edges of my heart a little.

It can’t be normal to have such a strong reaction to water dumped out of the bath, can it?

It’s not about the mess itself. I know that kids will be kids and that they don’t mean it (most of the time) and that it will get better as they get older. I know that in the grand scheme of things (and even in the not-so-grand), messes don’t matter. I know that Noble Girl doesn’t know how bat-shit crazy it makes me when  she starts chanting, “I’m hungry!” every 30 seconds right after lunch and while I’m doing my daily freelance gig, on deadline; I know that Noble Boy doesn’t know how soul-destroying it is to have to say, “No. No. NO. Don’t touch that, please. No. Please, don’t touch it. No. No! I said NO!” about 90 billion times a day.

But it’s not that.

It’s more about the monotony and knowing that if I don’t do it or say it, no one else will. It’s knowing that while I’m busy cleaning up one mess another will be created in the next room, and then the next, and so on. It’s knowing that even if get down on my knees and look them in the eye and do everything a good parent is supposed to do in teaching their child about appropriate behaviour, it will go in one ear and out the other and I will feel like a broken record, scratched and spinning out of control with no one listening. It’s knowing that nearly every other mother on the planet feels or has felt this way too, and even that is not much of a comfort.

It’s knowing that I will do this every day, several times a day, for years to come, because I have to.

Confession Friday

NS March 5th, 2010

I sometimes (okay, frequently) forsake opportunities to interact or play with my children in order to read blogs, books or articles about the more abstract aspects of parenting. I think this might mean I’m more interested in intellectually analysing motherhood than performing the duties associated with it. And I only feel a tiny bit guilty about that.

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