Being a mother is like being between a rock and a hard place, especially if the rock is a petrified piece of carpet food and the hard place is the mother of all Lego bricks.
We live a daily life of conflicting messages:
Cuddle your child but don’t smother him.
Teach your children to stick up for themselves but to be kind.
Help them understand that feelings and emotions are healthy, yet don’t psychologically screw them up by being anything but upbeat.
Know where they are so they don’t get mugged; why are you such a helicopter parent?
Spread out the responsibility of the chores but do not demand too much of your offspring.
Maintain a schedule but be a fun mom.
Put the husband, children, house, pets, and community as the first priority; make sure you spend time on you.
We feel the need to be selfless -no!- we are forced into selflessness that very instant the baby is out and cannot even live without minute-by-minute care. The bond of servitude begins forming as the baby does, but is shackled in place upon his birth.
Whether a mother is a good mother or not; she is, henceforth and forever, tied to another soul.
This arrangement wouldn’t be so bad if we were more like other mammals. Horses are full-grown by about age four. The blue whale comes in a bit longer at 10 years old.
We’re not going to talk about the elephants ’cause they have it worse than we do.
The point is that we maintain this forever selfless connection up till our child is grown and out of the nest. Even then, we stick around to help move furniture or post bail. Understandably, mothers are not able to be more selfish. If we are, we feel guilty for it.
What if your insecure teenage daughter runs away while you’re at a party with adult friends? What if you let your son ride his bike to the theater, only to learn that he crashed and is calling you from the hospital? What if a nosy neighbor calls Child Protective Services because your escaping toddler made it down the block to the park again? And, what if your husband cheats on you with his younger, more fun, unattached coworker while you were swimming in this selfless bubble he helped place you in?
See what I mean? Rock and hard place. They’re not some sort of yin-yang thing, you know.
I wish I had an easy answer for anyone feeling this way, but I don’t. I’ve been able to spend more time on me this past year, but that is primarily due to my children growing older and us having enough money to try counseling services and emotional doctoring.
I do have practical steps you can take; the ones I’ve tried for the last two years:
- First, I joined a young mother’s group at a local Christian church. They referenced some religious topics but mostly strove to be somewhere for moms to go and be supported.
- I also started personal counseling. Not far into it, I started marital counseling with my husband. Both have been vital.
- I looked into a few emotional health concerns by trying hormones. A regular doctor advised against continuing with some, but what I learned about vitamins and hormone balance was useful.
- Every day for nearly 9 months, I exercised.
- I made appointments with people for specific days we would go out to lunch. Sometimes I paid and sometimes they did.
- I visited a real, live person at least once a week.
- I started a blog, and wrote every day. I started a second blog to discuss what was bugging me (you are reading it).
- Through what we’ve learned in counseling, I have asked for what I need and tried not to feel guilty taking it. My husband has toned down his disapproving looks and stepped right up when I ask.
- I’ve made life goals and told myself I will achieve them.
- I’ve made a list of ten things I did to help combat the impotent feelings of motherhood.
If you are feeling trapped between carpet food and Lego-hood, don’t give up. Things really do get better, as cliché as that sounds. Try my list or make your own. If you can do nothing else, I encourage anyone and everyone to find a good counselor and do what s/he says.
Get out of your rut and take control of the direction of your life, and I will too.