(or, I am not the mother I want to be)
I usually don’t go this long between posts but for obvious reasons I haven’t always felt like writing and, when I have, I have a hard time pulling my thoughts together/finding the words to accurately convey the thoughts I do have.
I am a Type-A personality (without obsessive-compulsive tendencies) and a high achiever. Lately, I’ve been thinking about this in relation to motherhood (I have a draft of a post called Gentle Mother that I might finish one day but it talks about how I am not that and how reading blogs about mothers who are make me feel bad about my mothering, but, I digress).
Between how I was raised and surviving the accident that killed my brother, how I live my life (not my love, mind you) is about conditions. From a young age, we did daily and weekend household chores. I was responsible for things like wiping down the baseboards, meticulously cleaning each crystal droplet on the dining room chandelier, folding clothes (I really disliked and was embarrassed having to fold my father’s underwear), vacuuming, and ironing (no way my mother would have spent money at the dry cleaner so we did a lot of ironing. In fact, my maternal grandfather would come over to help with the ironing!). We weren’t allowed to play until our chores were done. When we would complain, my mom would say that hard work builds character. Apparently.
So, it surprises no one, that, as an adult, I cannot relax (as in stop moving) until whatever needs doing is done. Much of the day, my body is in near constant motion. And, whether you are a working outside of the home mother or a stay at home mother, you know, there is always something that needs doing. It is physically impossible for me to allow myself to relax unless whatever I’ve decided needs doing is done. And, I especially cannot relax when things are messy. Think, a place for everything and everything in its place. (Although, I am not nearly as bad as I once was as, yes, there are days (like today) when our bed doesn’t get made and no laundry gets done because the baby didn’t nap this afternoon and I did manage to hang and I can leave the house with dirty dishes in the sink, etc., but it’s not the norm).
For a single person or even a wife with no children, this isn’t so bad. It’s easier to keep up with things and there are less people making messes. Chores are predictable. But, as a mother, particularly of young children, this means that there is no rest for the weary. Like I said, body in constant motion.
But, there is a darker side to this, one that I am trying hard with little success to change, and that is that, as a result, I can rarely just be with my children. I should say that of course there are hours when I am with my children. I am on the floor with the baby or in my son’s room sorting Legos with him or we’re in the kitchen cooking or we’re together running errands or at an event or activity. But, you can see that in themselves those are tasks, a means to an end.
I am not the mother who can let the housework sit or the laundry go unwashed or the errands go un-run. I am restless and ill at ease when I’m not accomplishing something (and as a former hard driving executive, I think this is worse now that I’m not working outside of the home). I am not the mother who takes a spontaneous trip to the beach, or hikes up the nearby trail, or who makes homemade play-doh or my kids’ Halloween costumes or turns on the sprinklers just because or, or, or. I don’t just while away a day with them with no thought about what needs to be done or when I’m going to get to it. I enjoy the hell out of them and there are hugs, kisses, tickles, and many “I love you”s, but I am not the mother I thought I’d be in the enjoyment of my kids in what I thought was a more traditional stay-at-home mom kind of way.
I used to say that I was the teacher of things and my husband was the be-er. And, that is basically true. But, I’m not sure that I get to enjoy this version of motherhood as much as my husband enjoys his version of fatherhood (he took our older son and a friend to a museum today and instead of leaving when they were going to, decided to stay another hour or so. That likely would not happen with me (the staying later just because part). And, now, he is in watching Star Wars with him and I am in here writing. I can’t muster interest in Star Wars just to be with them).
I think that the way I am as a mother also stems from how challenging it was raising a spirited, strong-willed, defiant and prone to full-body-tantruming-for-his-first-almost-4-years-of-life first child. It required a degree of diligence and hyper vigilance that detracted from my ability to just be with him much of the time. Instead, our horns were often locked. And, so, as that was my first foray into motherhood, I find myself more or less still that way even though Baby G who is still young has yet to exhibit the same behaviors as his older brother.
All this to say that as I work my way out of this depression, I’m noticing more how I am as a mother (and, yes, even sometimes compared to other mothers I know) and there is a lack of go-with-the-flowness to my mothering, my life. I don’t want to look back on these years with my young children and wish it had been different, but I’m just not sure I’m wired to make it anything other than what it is. Having this awareness, though, is a start.