Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Grey Area

Time for another writing prompt from MamaKat's Writers Workshop.

Mama's Losin' It

This time I chose:
1.) Choose a headline from The Today Show website and write up an opinion post based on the story you chose.

I saw this headline ("I Love My Children. I Hate My Life. Do You Agree?") on the Today Show Website and it made me do a simultaneous sigh/laugh/cry. I could completely relate to the feeling of gaining children but losing my self-identity in the process. Becoming a mother causes a person to shift their focus from herself to her children.

But, some of us have more success than others in this monumental move. I went through waves: I wanted to be the caretaker of this little priceless, irreplacable gem. What do you need? I can get it! Anything at all! No request is too big! Then I wanted to turn this little, priceless gem into an accessory. Like, here I am! I am a mother! See? I can prove it! Here is the baby on my hip! Now I belong to the club! Then, when I got tired of the little priceless gem crimping my style, I was all about, here I am! I am a mother with a BABYSITTER! I can have it all! Be a mom and go clubbing too!! Yeah, that lasted about as long as it took me to see all the other girls/women, with their non-stretch-marked flat bellies and non-breastfeeding-perky bewbs. That just got depressing. Plus, the tolerance for getting up with a screaming infant in the middle of the night just isn't as high when you've been out partying.

Sadly, I did fall into the phase of resenting my children, and this phase lasted a LLLOOOONNNNGGGGG time. I had one child, then another 18 months later, then a third 18 months after that. I was perpetually nursing or pregnant. Then I turned into a woman who had to REMIND herself to shower, because the dishes and laundry were more pressing matters. (*shudder*) I looked at my children as the cause of me losing my identity. I blamed them for sucking all my time away. I wanted them to just SIT STILL. And DO WHAT I TOLD THEM TO DO. And, preferrably, LEAVE. ME. ALONE.

Please, don't click away. I promise there's a happy ending.

I can pinpoint what happened to change me. I don't think it was just one thing, but rather a beautiful combination of many factors that fell into place.

1. My daughter Sally was born, giving me a chance to be the mother to a baby again, without the constant concern that I'd break her or screw her up for life. After all, I'd been through this whole rigamarole 3 times already. Being a parent with confidence is a completely different ball game.

2. I hit my mid-30's, and my metabolism caught up with me. I used to minimize the importance of body image, but never again. I had to completely change who I thought I was and who I wanted to be, not just with my body image but with my self-image too.

3. My 3 older children went to all-day school. Halelujah. I always had a hard time justifying paying a babysitter to watch my kids when they were younger, just so I could have some "me time". It felt very selfish. Looking back, I wish I would have made that financial investment in my own mental health. Now that the kids were in school, I got my break during the day and I was able to play with the baby. I was also able to accomplish some jobs around the house.

4. More kids = more mess = more acceptance of less perfection. Sometimes I hear a mom in my playgroup get stressed about getting the housework done. With one child. Who naps. Now, I would NEVER say something rude like, DUDE YOU HAVE NO IDEA. But I'm thinking it. Still, I've always said, you deal with what you've got. When I had 2 children, I wondered what in the hell I did with all my free time when I only had 1. When I had 3 kids, I thought that having 2 kids would be a walk in the park. And so on with 4 kids, and now 5. With each successive birth, I've probably let things go a little bit more. My house gets beat up a little bit harder and the baseboards get dusted less and less. More pre-cooked meals. Less bill-sorting. More, "Mom, I'm out of underwear again!" and less "Hon, the house looks so nice and clean!" But, it's okay. I'd say that the only thing that hasn't fluctuated is the time I spend with the kids. I still love for the kids to do their own thang, but I also read to them and we do puzzles together and go to Six Flags and the library, etc. But, the hardest part of the chores going undone was getting comfortable with the new chaos. It's an adjustment with growing pains, I will admit. By having a messier house, am I giving up on life? Am I morphing into a slob? Are my expectations lowered so much that soon there will be no where to go except Hoarders? It definitely feels that way. But no. My house is decently clean and occasionally tidy. I have people over reguarly to visit, which is a great excuse to clean up and put stuff away. Sometimes it DOES feel overwhelming, but I gave up long ago on the idea that my house will be tidy and perfectly decorated. I've accepted that I'll have that house when my kids need me less (or, maybe more accurately, want me to leave them alone and just let them borrow the car).

Being a mom is so hard. Anyone who says it is just all fun and fingerpaint and snuggles either a)is at least 10 years post-empty-nest, b) doesn't have children, or c) is on crack. Being a mom IS fun and fingerpaint and snuggles. It's also self-sacrifice and lowered expectations and disappointments. It's also facing scary changes that give us the weird uncomfortable feeling like on the first day of school or a new job, but it happens over and over and over with each new decision that doesn't have a black-and-white answer about what's the best thing to do. And, it's also crying when your child walks across the stage in their graduation gown, whether it's Kindergarten or Confirmation or High school. It's hours of video taped events and hundreds of moments captured on film so that we can preserve the memories of how these little blank slates became the amazing, complex, beautiful people they are today. It might even be to remember how sweet they once were now that we can't pry themout of the basement.

So, to answer the author's question "I Love My Children. I Hate My Life. Do You Agree?" : Yes, I did agree, then I didn't. Like most of the things I'm learning through experience and maturity, there's a lot more grey area and a lot less black-and-white. If everything in life were black-and-white, everything would be SO much simpler. The grey area is complicated. But it makes me a better person.

Motherhood ain't for sissies. But, every woman has the power within herself to do it.

Texan Mama


Lindsay said...

Thank you for this post. I've been adoring your blog for a couple of months now but haven't commented. I'm a mother with a 2 year old and a 5 month old. We are adopting the 2 year old who moved in with us when she was 1 so basically, I had 2 children in a year. I was crying to my husband a few nights ago and trying to explain to him how I feel - tired, overwhelmed, lonely all day without an adult to talk to, not at all like myself. I'm trying to figure this mother thing out. It's nice to read that someone else felt exactly like you do. Thank you for being honest.


Jennifer said...

Yes. Exactly. I think accepting the fact that I'm not perfect or a super mom or whatever makes my life so much easier and it makes me way happier.

Anna See said...

Wooohoo! Awesome post. Thank you for taking us through the ups and downs. I can definitely relate!

Maggie S said...

Well put. I always say that, but with the day I have had... I mean it in a whole new way.

misssrobin said...

I think you captured well the difficulty of motherhood that those who haven't been there don't understand.

At every stage there is something hard and something beautiful. It's really tough to see the beauty when all of your kids were puking all night, and you're sick, too.

Well written.

Momlissa said...

I could relate to this in so many ways, especially wanting to say "DUDE, YOU HAVE NO IDEA." I was at a party recently & one of the dads cornered me and was telling me how hard his mornings are with getting their one 5 yr old daughter out of the house by 9 a.m. Ugh. I wanted to smack him, but just nodded & smiled 'cause dude clearly had no idea. lol.

Gigi said...

Gretchen! I nominate you for a Pulitzer (or whatever award you wish!). This post was the most honest look at what motherhood is all about - especially when you have smaller ones. You brought tears, smiles, and goosebumps. You told the truth - and so eloquently.

Sandra said...

I found you on Mama Kat's. I haven't found a prompt to write about, I'm still browsing through what other people have written. But I'm totally with you on the topic. I think I saw that being discussed on The View, and I was like, "Yup, love my kids, hate my life." Mind you, I have so many hobbies now, I'm too busy and too tired to hate. As for my kids, well, I love them, but...well, you said it better than I will.

Coma Girl said...

What a great closing line! And a great post. Love the honesty!!

Ms. Anthropy said...

Mothering was my purpose in life, even when it beat the crap out of me! It gave me a reason to wake up in the morning... or 15 times before morning. Now that they are grown and gone, I miss it!

Sarah said...

What an amazing post!! Thank you for sharing, that's exactly how I've felt in the past, present and hope to feel in the future. I'm working on taking charge of my life and getting a little 'me' back as my girls are getting older...and it's definitely making me feel better.

michelle said...

I used to play the headline game too! This post makes me miss it.
And, I so agree with your insight!
I try to give myself at least a few hours a is worth the $ and I am nicer to my kids and husband!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for directing me to your post. This is so on the money. (And so well written! Great job!)

I love that you had a baby and tried to keep going to clubs! When I read that line, I thought, "Oh good lord! Good thing you didn't have a blog then or the anonholes would have a field day in your comments!" :) (Personally, I want to go clubbin' with you right now. I got the first round!)

Each baby new baby is an upheaval. (Just learned that secret...oh...10 weeks ago.) I never considered it before I got thrown in it. But just think, Michelle Duggar is looking at EVERYONE thinking, "Dude, you have NO IDEA."

Shannon said...

Love this post! "Being a mom is so hard. Anyone who says it is just all fun and fingerpaint and snuggles either a)is at least 10 years post-empty-nest, b) doesn't have children, or c) is on crack..." Amen! I love my daughter, but it's been challenging and makes it hard/confusing as to if I REALLY want another.