UnfitPosted: August 17, 2011 Filed under: Great Expectations 12 Comments
Have you ever heard someone described as being “unfit to be a mother”? Usually it’s in reference to a woman who neglects her children, or murders them, or gives them tobacco instead of biter biscuits. (I don’t know about that last one; my list really needed three things on it.)
But I think it about myself a lot. Don’t get me wrong – in my opinion, I don’t neglect the Bwun and jr, and so far I’ve never given them tobacco, and I highly doubt I’ll ever murder them. My problem is that I got it in my head that a “good” mother is one who is endlessly patient, cheerful, energetic yet calming, and tidy. This is not true, right? I hope not. I’m not patient. I complain a lot. I bribed myself to get out of bed this morning (fresh donuts from the Creamery). And oh man, this house is not tidy. Not even close.
Most of all, I imagine that a “good” mother is inherently selfless and never tires of putting her own needs second.
Here is where I desperately hope I’m wrong. The other night jr woke up crying just as I was getting into bed and I’ll be honest, I really resented having to get up and feed her. I love jr dearly. She’s sweet and adorable and quirky. When I’m tired, she’s a little less sweet and a little more of burden. But I almost feel like you can’t say that about your kids. They’re “angels from heaven,” right? The Romgi’s grandma swears that all five of her kids were perfect babies who never cried, and she can’t understand that anyone would dislike having young children. Maybe the march of years since she was a young mother has helped glaze over the frustration of late nights and messy diapers.
You know what? Sometimes I resent that I can’t just go out to the grocery store with the Romgi to get some Ben & Jerry’s. Sometimes I resent that I don’t have any personal space. Sometimes I resent that jr has a sense that tells her when I’m about to go to sleep, and compels her to wake up screaming in a manner that makes it clear Only Mom will do. Sometimes I resent changing diaper upon diaper and feeling like that’s the extent of my contribution to society that day, that all my hard work has literally gone into the garbage can. (I should give the kids credit, too. They worked hard for those messy diapers as well.)
For me, the ideal mother has no resentment. She loves every minute of motherhood. As I type this it does sound ridiculous. Please agree that it’s ridiculous?
I feel conflicted because I do have moments of resentment, but I also adore my kids. The way I love them is incomprehensible. And so when jr starts crying just as I go to bed, or the Bwun tells his first lie (while I’ve been writing this, no less), I’m frustrated and annoyed and exhausted but I know that these are two of my favorite people in the universe. So then of course I feel guilty for not loving every minute of motherhood.
This is the part where you tell me that such feelings are normal. I won’t go so far as to ask you to validate me for being a good mother, but maybe just hint that I’m not unfit to be a mother.
P.S. I know, you want more pictures of the kids. Right now our regular camera is a little bit broken and our awesome one is tricky for kid pictures – they just want to hold it, so I get a lot of blurry shots of little hands in front of the lens and not much else. Sigh.
I think it was two or three months ago that I posted a status that read: being a good mother doesnt mean that you don’t occasionally and sometimes often want to give up, it just means that you don’t.
i think you paint a picture of motherhood that realistic and honest which is so refreshing to read. i love it.
These are ludicrous theories, and I shoot them down!
I still feel that way about motherhood. Some days we even lament that we weren’t sterile … At the same time, that doesn’t mean that we don’t love our kids. If indeed someone had kids who never cried and were otherwise perfect, they are the rare, rare exception. A good mother tries to do what’s right most of the time, even when she doesn’t want to.
KHL – I’m glad you said “most of the time,” because today we had donuts for breakfast and we’re probably going to have crackers for lunch, and I think technically that may not be the “right” thing to do.
Everyone else – thanks. You guys are the best.
I don’t believe Romgi’s grandma for a second when she says she had perfect babies who never cried. Her memory is quite selective.
In general I’m a little angry that we idealize parenthood to the extent we do. When my first son was born I was exhausted and worn out. I was expecting a transcendent experience and instead I was overwhelmed and scared. The first three months with him were hell mixed with a few fleeting moments of joy. I go out of my way to tell people expecting their first child that things might be harder than they realize, and it’s ok. Family life is not supposed to be easy. Just like everything else that pays off in the end, you have to invest and sacrifice and struggle. I’m a little angry that we generally gloss over this struggle when talking about families because it makes those of us who are struggling (which is all of us at one point or another) feel isolated and abnormal. On the contrary.
I’m with you all the way on this one.
But then again, I’m not a mother, so I guess my opinion is of small worth anyway.
I would say that if every mother that felt resentment towards her children were an unfit mother, there would be NO fit mothers.
I think a lot of dealing well with having little children is acknowledging that they are little people with their own faults and annoyances (in short, human!) and that we are, too! Some friction is just Going to Happen. If you lose your cool, put jr in her crib so she can’t hurt herself, put on a movie (or other distraction for Bwun) and put yourself away from the situation to do something – go outside and stare at the mountains for a bit. paint something. read something uplifting. call me!!!! and i’ll commiserate. write a blog post! and come back, say you’re sorry if there’s anything you feel sorry about and move on.
(and grandma is Most Certainly looking back with some very Rose-Tinted glasses – the more time, the rosier it looks ;)
I’m not a parent. I know nothing.
I do think your kids are adorable though. :) I feel like I haven’t seen them in a very long time, and it’s time to fix that (but unfortunately, not this week, we’ll be missing another saturday get together…but next month for sure!)
The other day Henry called me to the bathroom. There he was, bent over with his poppy butt in the air. “WIPE ME, MOMMY.”
I can tell you that feelings of blissful enjoyment did not flood my body. And I think that’s a-ok. I mean, I don’t even get a fancy sounding title like ‘Groom of the Stool’ or the prestige that went with being one. It just seems a little unfair.
On a less silly note, I do think we overstress the peripheral parts of motherhood too often because they are visible and tangible and neglect the ones that really matter. For instance, do you actually like who your kids are as people; do you try to teach them the right way to behave ;do you try to teach them about the gospel; do you provide a good example for them etc etc.
Probably it’s hard for anyone outside our selves or spouses to measure how well we are doing on questions like those-which, heaven forbid, means we might have to really know and person and their heart before we’re capable of knowing if they are a good parent. *gasp* You know, of course, if there is no obvious abuse or murder as you mentioned. =)
I know you weren’t asking for validation, but I am here to provide exactly that. Being a good mother does not mean reveling in every moment of your child’s life. Instead, my opinion is that a “fit” or good mother is one who simply loves her kids and does her best. Even if that means a few moments of resentment or anger. I am so glad you have a healthy perspective on this topic.
I have these exact same feelings sometimes. I get frustrated hearing about how everyone else’s kid sleeps 12 hours straight through the night (just on their own!) and I think “I know my kid has medical issues, but the 3-8 wakings a night are getting really old, really fast.” And Jack does NOT stop moving! He’s already walking and (as you can imagine or remember with Evan) is a nightmare during church. Just this last week some old lady behind us in sacrament meeting glared at me and got all huffy b/c jack was standing on the bench, perfectly quiet, LOOKING AT HER AND WAVING! Old people…sheesh… Being a mom is exhausting and not always the most fulfilling job from the world’s perspective, but in the end you know you love your family and just try your best not to screw your kids up. And even if you occasionally find yourself crying on your couch in the fetal position (that’s a frequent occurrence around here) you’re doing just fine.
Well, I only have 5 weeks of parenting under my belt, but since I’ve experienced all the feelings you talk about in those 5 weeks, I’m sure hoping they’re normal. Frustration, impatience, bitterness… it’s all there. If you don’t believe me, you can read my latest blog post for validation.
I think the best moms are the ones that can work through it without taking it out on their kids, and afterward look at it with a sense of humor…. even if “afterward” means years down the road.