Monday, August 22, 2011

Overwhelming guilt.

I always wondered what events in my life would be the ones that taught me the greatest lessons. Who would be my greatest teachers? Today, I learned a valuable lesson about appreciation. The lesson was bestowed upon me by my children, both under two years old. It was one of those non-stop-suck-the-patience-right-outta-ya days. My littlest, the 2 month old, somehow came to the conclusion that today was a great stay-awake-from-dusk-til-dawn-and-mama-you-better-not-put-me-down kind of day. Not behavior suitable for a mama of two under two. My oldest, the almost-2 year old, decided that she just wanted it to be a mama-and-me-forget-about-the-baby kind of day. You can see where I ran into some problems. I was okay for most of the day, running a few quick errands, you know, the PX, the post office, yadda yadda. Things got done. It wasn't until around 5 o'clock when that seemingly overflowing pot of patience just disappeared right out from under me. The tipping point was when I laid the baby down to, oh – I don't know, stretch, breathe, think – for just one short little second. The moment my hands stopped touching his squishy little body, the exaggerated infant squeals rolled from his pudgy little lips, a noise I pretty much had grown used to after a day like today. Meanwhile, this was the moment when the almost-2 year old decided she was "hunggee, hunggee". Well, Mama can't fix the almost-2 year old dinner when the infant squeals are sounding throughout the house, so the toddler banshee screams begin. At this point, I've got squeals and banshee screams of various octaves, rattling my brain. "Cori, you have GOT to wait. *banshee screams infant squeals* Avery, would you just shut your mouth?" Did I seriously just tell my 2 month old to shut his mouth? Why yes, yes, I did. Cue worst-mama-ever-in-the-wide-wide-world guilt. What kind of a parent tells their child – an infant, no less – to shut their mouth? As if he's going to think to himself "well, alright, since you put it that way". It was my breaking point of the day, the week, the year? Written out, it probably doesn't accurately portray how I felt in the moment, but it was awful. My children are clearly upset about a variety of things, and instead of the levelheaded, let-me-see-what-I-can-do-for-you parent, they get crazy-hair-googly-eyes-shut-your-mouth mama with the pot of patience that has left the building. For the rest of the evening, I got to face my guilty feelings about the many millions of ways I could have handled that situation better. While they were just telling me they need something the best way they knew how, they were also teaching me that lesson of appreciation. What if they weren't here to give me the crazy hair and the googly eyes? Wouldn't I take those banshee squeals every day of the week over the mere thought of them not being around for with all the noise and the mess and the gimme-gimme-gimme attention that I have never truly appreciated? I'm not saying I've never appreciated my children, not at all. I appreciate them every single day when I wake up each morning and go to bed each night. But this is like a whole new level of appreciation. Who cares if the toddler is screaming right into my ear drum or that she just won't grasp the lesson of "let's not hit Mama on the head anymore with the plastic pot of rubber peas"? At least I've been given this opportunity to teach them the things in life they need to learn. I feel silly and dramatic even typing this out, but it really was a reality check kind of lesson for me today. It's not about the perfectly behaved children or the house with the vacuum lines in the carpet and the windows shimmering without a hint of smudgy fingerprints. Life's greatest lessons seem to come to me when I feel like I just can't handle it for one more second.

I grow tired of the looks I get from people that seem to be saying, with an air of pity, of course, "oh, a stay at home mom, how quaint to be able to play house all day long". Staying at home with the kids doesn't enable me to cook a four course meal in my pearls and hand-sewn apron, while the children play Checkers quietly in their bedroom. I don't get to vacuum in high heels (although that might be kind of fun) or greet my husband with the day's newspaper and a calming foot rub. Most days, we stay in PJs until noon, forget to brush our teeth until well after lunch, and have a hard time remembering what day of the week it even happens to be. So you'd imagine my surprise when my own two-under-two taught me a lesson that I just can't stop thinking about. I guess they decided today was a great day for learning. My life's greatest teachers are, without a doubt, my children. Who would have thought?


  1. I am so familiar with that mama guilt, but you really can't torment yourself with it. Your kids are loved and well cared for, you bust your tail for them. They know it now and they will know it always. Give yourself permission to lose it every now and then... full-time momming is an extremely difficult job.

    Oh and I tell my kids to "shut your mouth" at least twice a day most days, so you don't come anywhere close to worst-mama-in-the-world. Not even close.

    I love you Hil... and your pretty bebes too!

  2. Dealing with children day-to-day that you are ultimately responsible for is one of the most stressful and emotional challenges that a parent has to face. . .whether you have a job outside the home or not. Anyone who will tell you otherwise simply has either never had that ultimate responsibility or has blocked it out because they lost it more times than they care to admit. Some days like yours here will take you to the brink of self-doubt, when you are just so, so weary, so emotionally and physically exhausted that you fear you will absolutely break down, shut down and do the unthinkable. . take it out on your kids. Don't berate yourself for saying what you said, Hil. There was more harm done to your self-image as the perfectly-composed mom than to your 2-month-old. Others at the breaking point would have done much more harm, and they do every day. . you know that. It is so hard some times when you have no one to relieve you and you just cannot think of what to do next, when you are overwhelmed like you were with two little ones demanding your attention. What saved me a lot of times from losing it was repeating in my head over and over. . ."this too shall pass, this too shall pass, this too shall pass." Thinking about any frustrating or emotionally scarey situation as being truly a temporary obstacle always helped me to stay focused on being emotionally strong and reminding myself to live up to my standards of parenting when things seemed overwhelming. And in those moments when I repeated that mantra to myself in a struggle to maintain control, the thought that went hand-in-hand with it always was how much I loved my children, that nothing in the world was more precious, and that I owed it to them to hang onto my sanity. So I would take a deep breath, even give myself a few seconds of not responding to them to allow myself to fall back into "control" mode and that would clear my head enough to figure a way out of that terrible moment and get things back on an even keel. Sounds to me like you are doing a great job and learning how to be strong along the way. . I love you, Mama