Archive for the ‘Mother-guilt’ Category

So one of my guiltiest pleasures is browsing Hollywood gossip sites. Usually I scan OMG for the picture galleries (I especially like the ‘What Were They Thinking?!‘ gallery…) and today I discovered Parade Magazine’s site. (You know the insert in the Sunday paper written for the over 60 crowd). Of course I had to read the article on Ashley Tisdale since ‘The Suite Life of Zack and Cody‘ still plays daily in our house–AND we know all the words to Sharpay’s song ‘Fabulous‘ from High School Musical 2.

Then I saw this gallery/article on “What Celebrities Would Tell Their Younger Selves.” As brain-mushing as this activity is, this article really got me thinking. So many of them said they would tell themselves to relax more, and enjoy the moment. After I read the article, I went out on our back deck with my coffee and thought about what I would tell my present self from my older and wiser self: Stop wasting your time worrying about how Sadie is going to turn out. Enjoy the fact that she is an only child instead of carrying around all this angst about it. Even if you think you are doing nothing with your life now, wait! You’re going to love what’s coming next. Oh. And you are so not fat right now!


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It’s the usual summer stress: convincing Sadie that she DOES NOT need to be occupied every second of the live-long day. She does NOT need a friend over the minute her first friend of the day leaves. Same issue, different state. What is most frustrating to me is that I have created this world for her. I have scrambled and schemed and made plans and provided her with a fairyland life where all her almost 6 year old dreams come true. She doesn’t have to learn to entertain herself…not when Shelley-the-Cruise-Director is at the helm. Bored? Let me fix that for you. I’ll dance and sing and win the Camp Counselor of the Year award. Meanwhile, deep inside me rumbles resentment and anger. I’m upset because she NEEDS me to entertain her. But I can’t be angry at her…though I want to. I want to say Stop being so demanding of me! I want to shout Leave me alone for two seconds to read the paper for crying out loud! I want to run away and escape, but I can only blame myself, and I’d be taking my stupid-self with me.

It’s sticky; sticky. I have this anxiety that Sadie will have the same experience as I did as a kid (following my mom around while she cleaned…) so I do the OPPOSITE, which is not get a thing done around the house when she is home for fear that she’ll feel that cleaning is more important than her. There is no balance here. Because I end up wanting to send away my demanding child, the monster that I have created with my own dysfunction. She hounds me, hounds me, hounds me, and then I lose it and shut her out completely in a stompy huff. AND the house is still a mess. Same coin–different side.

It’s not like this is a new issue in my life–I’m sure I’ve devoted many blog posts to it. Which is why I created a category called “Things I can’t stop talking about.” I’ve had this suffocating attention/resentful ambivalence issue with Sadie literally since the day I brought her home from the hospital. Sometimes I think it’s because Sadie is an only child. (Another subject I can’t seem to stop talking about…) Like I believe the solution in a perfect world would be to say “Go play with your sister!” But my rational brain tells me that if I had two children, I’d have twice the anxiety, and I’d be worrying that one or the other one would need to go to therapy and talk about how I didn’t give them enough of my undivided attention. As it is, my one child is going to go to therapy because her mother is alternately ‘let’s play’, and angrily ‘leave me alone.’

A big fear of mine is that Sadie will get this message that she is a burden, or just an issue that needs to be slogged through, and not a person who I deeply love. As it stands, she is a tool in God’s hands for sure, and I know I need to learn these lessons quick: setting boundaries, allowing her negative emotions, finding my own healthy detatchment, and basically figuring out how to NOT bend my life around the whims of a six year old.

Yeah, she’s going to need therapy for sure.

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So I was talking to my good friend Charlie today about mommy-guilt. She was saying that it comes with every baby. Well I feel plagued with it right now. I mean, simply PLAGUED! I have to keep telling myself that I do not have to be my child’s sister. You know, the one I haven’t provided for her since she is an only child?? I almost have to say out loud that I am not depriving her and that she is not going to be crazy or demented or damaged in any way because she doesn’t have siblings. I do not have to feel bad because I don’t feel like playing with her today. And I don’t feel like making 50 calls to find someone else to entertain her.

Why do I feel so frantic about leaving her alone to entertain herself? I mean, she resists it for sure. She asks me every three minutes who she can call and when she can play with some one. I don’t want to entertain myself, she says. Many times I give in instead of giving her the gift of solitude and imagination. I don’t give her the chance to enjoy her own company, because she resist so. loudly.

So I feel guilty about catering to her need for entertainment, AND for not. For playing with her when I don’t feel like it, and then for saying with an annoyed sigh that I’ve had enough! It’s not my job to entertain you! Which isn’t something she needs to hear, necessarily, but something I need to say to myself. Because I know it’s not my job. But yet I still feel compelled to do it. Then feel angry at myself for not being the mom, and for giving in to my own compulsions. I worry that I’m putting her off and off and she’s going to get this message that I don’t want to be with her. And the truth is, I DON’T want to be with her in the role of ‘playmate.’ Mom, yes. Playmate and Cruise Director, NO. But that’s what I feel like sometimes. LIke I HAVE to be the cruise director–like that’s my punishment for having only one.

Sometimes I wish for a second child just to entertain my first. I don’t want another child to love and cherish and train and get to know as their own person. No. I just want someone there to let me off the hook. Which is why we ARE not having a second child by the way. Because I just want a servant girl at Sadie’s beck and call so I don’t have to fight her off. I get so weary of the battle. So I don’t REALLY want a second child. I want a child-in-waiting who is assigned to my daughter so I don’t have to be.

Of course this discussion always leads to OVERCOMPENSATION. Worrying that I’ll be so busy that Sadie will have to follow me around and talk to my back (i.e my own childhood…) but that’s so irrational. I’m not my mom…and my mom’s not even that person anymore. But I’m stuck there just the same.

(Damned if I do…damned if I don’t.)

There has to be some spacious free place within motherhood that lets me make mistakes. And allows me to be myself and trust my instincts and think of what’s best for Sadie, even if she is protesting madly. I just haven’t found it yet.

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My friend, Sylvia, died yesterday. She was 85, and liked to listen to the “Saturday Night Fever” soundtrack. She said The Bee Gees could really get her revved up for a project. She let us pop in on her anytime, and kept a stock of Diet Coke just for me. She laughed easily and often, and let Sadie play her new keyboard.

She told me once, when I was worried about getting my housework done, that if she could do it all again, she’d worry less about her house. She regretted scrubbing her floors instead of playing with her kids. She said I was doing a great job as a mom, and not be so hard on myself. “Sadie is a good girl,” she said to me. “You are doing it right.” She had no idea how much I needed to hear it at the time.

I miss hearing her genteel southern voice calling for her ever elusive cat, Popsicle. “POP-sic-kle, POP-sic-kle. She always worried when the cat disappeared down the storm drain. I never could lure that silly animal out.

I cried a lot today. She was so full of life: all white haired and rosy. We never did get to have a tea party.

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So I’m thinking about graduate school. Thinking about it A LOT. My big worry is that I’ll look back and say ‘yeah, I got that degree, but I missed years of Sadie’s life.’ Because I’m not that good multi-tasking. I can be somewhat (ahem…) all or nothing. Balance is hard for me to come by NOW–and I only have a 10 hour a week job. What if I were enrolled in a graduate program? Would I disappear altogether?

And then there are my motives. (Must I always examine those pesky things??) Do I want a degree because I’ll feel like a more valid person? Do I believe it will be the answer to the proverbial What Am I Here For, Anyway question? Like Oh, NOW I know what I want to be when I grow up. Having an advanced degree, much like the idea of publishing a book, should, I believe, fill the vacuous hole inside me that begs for affirmation, and, well, worship. There I said it. I will be worshipped if 1), I publish a book; Or 2), obtain an advanced degree.

Somehow wanting to be worshipped seems wrong to me. Didn’t someone get booted out of heaven for that?

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Sadie is obsessed with her pink sparkly pants and a pink Disney Princesses shirt. She wants to wear this outfit EVERYDAY. She wore it yesterday, and asked me if she could wear it again today. hmmmm, I thought to myself this morning: should I let her GET IT OUT OF THE HAMPER and wear it again? I mean, it’s not THAT dirty–just a bit dusty around the butt from playing in the park…and only one dark red kool aid stain on the shirt…

So I say (and mentally see my mother cringing…) ok Sadie. Get it out of the hamper, and YOU decide if it’s clean enough to wear. She’s five–she has eyes, she can see for herself. She thought it was fine (of course). So I smelled it, and it smelled fine. Against all of my upbringing, I sent her off to school in the same outfit she wore yesterday, having ,yes, retrieved it out of the hamper. Upon hearing this story, my dear mother said ‘you do what’s right for you even if I would do it differently.’ I appreciated that. It’s nice to have a mom who lets me do it my way. But that still doesn’t stop me from second guessing myself.

I want Sadie to express herself and be free. I don’t want her to worry about how she looks at FIVE. Sheesh. It will start soon enough. But I remember being little and hearing what my mom had to say about disheveled, mismatched-looking kids: “Oh, that poor child. Her mother must not take care of her.” In her lifetime–in her own mothering experience, maybe it was a priority for her to have her kids looking good (read: well cared for). Maybe it was because she came from humble means, maybe it was her generation, I don’t know. But for me, I’d rather not fight Sadie on what she wears to school as long as she is happy and comfortable. My worth as a mom does not lie in the perfect appearance of my child. But every once in a while, I have a niggling doubt. What if people think Sadie IS this poor, pitiful child who has no other clothes? I want to send a note along with her saying “you should SEE what this child DOESN’T wear–PILES and PILES of cute skirts and flowery shirts and adorable dresses and like 8 pairs of jeans, many of which are name brand.”

Then I remember. Sadie is her own little person. She is not a little version of me. She feels GOOD in her favorite outfit, and that gives her confidence. Even if the shiny red shoes she wore WITH all that pink totally clashes. She loves it. And I don’t want to forget that this is her life, not mine.

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I’m working part time. I LOVE it. After 4 loooooong years of stay-at-home-dom, I’m out in the productive world again. Yes, yes, I know that being home with your child is productive (and oftentimes grueling) work, but I must say that it is nice to be doing something un-momly. Granted, I’m just clocking 10 hours a week at the local university doing administrative assistant kind of work for a professor, but WOW. I feel alive again. It’s so funny, when I was working before Sadie was born, (10 years, full time) I couldn’t wait to stay at home. What a life, I thought. Like being on summer vacation all the time. So much time! And how I would float through my clean, organized house and bounce my little one up and down with a satisfied smile on my face everyday. Maybe being a stay-at-home-mom feels like that to some people, but my experience was just about, um, the OPPOSITE. I’m glad I did it. I know it was the best thing for our little family. But that doesn’t mean I liked it.

And I’m finally giving myself the permission to say IT’s OK that I didn’t like it. That it WASN’T the most fulfilling thing I’ve ever done in my life. That I may be a mom AND something else. I’ve been beating myself up for years because I couldn’t seem to fit into a certain kind of mom mold that I saw around me. What was wrong with me that I only wanted ONE child or that I didn’t want to homeschool? It is so hard to find yourself in a place where it seems you don’t think exactly the same way as the majority around you. I know I have friends who understand where I’m coming from–and ones who choose a different way and don’t judge me, but living in the Bible Belt is just so frickin’ hard sometimes. I love Jesus and I love being Sadie’s mom, but motherhood will no longer define what kind of a Christian I think I am.

All I know is I’m alive when I’m at work. And I wonder what God is going to do with me from here.

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