It seems I give the impression that I've "got it all together" as a mom, or that I'm always calm and patient. Neither is true. In fact, I am a stubborn, impatient, passionate tantrum thrower. And a damn good mom.
Let me be clear - when you see me being a patient, perceptive, respectful mother to my children, that is not me faking. I happen to find it easier to mother when I'm in public. There are lots of ways in which it is easier for me: I generally have only one thing to do at a time and no dishes, laundry, clutter, phone calls, emails, etc calling to me and causing me to try to ignore screaming children and requests to read books or "watch this," etc; if either child is feeling needy, it usually eases up outside the house. Plus I really like socializing.
But here's a big dose of honesty, from the private trenches of my home. These are things I am not proud of - far from it. (Ok, actually yes - I am proud of myself for seeing a counselor and meeting my own needs. Other than that, definitely not proud of anything else listed here!)
- I have been in counseling on and off for as long as I can remember. I have talked to counselors about my mother's death, about family dynamics, about my health, and about better ways to handle difficult situations with Bean. There is nothing "wrong" with me that I need counseling - at this point in my life, though, it's an hour set aside for me to check in with myself and talk about what's going on. It's also someone I can call and not feel judged when I truly am losing it.
- I have been violent toward my child
- I have wound up as if to kick a flailing toddler who was lying on the ground. (This scared the shit out of me, even though I didn't actually kick him.) I then called my current counselor and sobbed, "I need help. The rage I am feeling toward Bean is scaring me." I made The Beast come home and I went and saw my counselor.
- I have smacked Bean across the face. It was a reaction to being hit on the head unexpectedly, and I was pregnant with Squeak and my emotions and self/belly protection reactions seemed to be really sensitive when pregnant and for the first few months of Squeak's life. But it was still a reaction that scared me and that was inappropriate.
- I have gotten in Bean's face and screamed. This is something I have been working on with my counselor, but I have always been a screamer. When I get angry, I yell. It is not productive and I have seen firsthand how hurtful and destructive this is for a family. It has gotten a lot better. Some days I feel that I am learning to deal with emotions right alongside Bean - or that I am learning from him! He really does sometimes deal better with his anger and frustration than I do, and I need to "do as I say and not as I do" in this area!
- I lose patience with Bean almost every week during our Monday baking projects. He usually loses interest about the time I lose patience, so it works out well - he just goes and plays on his own while I finish up the project. But the times he doesn't lose interest? Oh man. I'm trying to get something in a hot oven, he's launching flour across the kitchen or playing in dirty dishwater. He pretends not to hear me (or is so focused on whatever mess he's making that he actually doesn't hear me), I get angry and yell. Hmmmmm....you'd think he knows what buttons to push with me, eh?
I told a few people what had happened, and that my counselor informed me that my reactions (including winding up like I might kick him...) was actually within the "normal range" - that feelings of "murderous rage" toward my child could be part of this whole parenting experience. I didn't fully believe my counselor...
But my friends visibly relaxed as I told them all this - and here I was thinking they would fear for me and start avoiding me. Instead, they told me about all the times they had felt they were about to hurt their kids just in the last day or two, or the time they smacked their own child despite not believing that hitting/spanking was ever okay. (I bet my non-parent readers are really wanting kids right about now!)
If I seem to have it all together, I think it might partly be because I am a very social, extroverted person - I am at my best and my happiest when others are around. I'm aware of that, and try to plan outings, activities, and playdates accordingly. Also, I do not dwell on my failures, weaknesses, and struggles (and there are certainly many more than I've listed!). I am constantly and consciously working to do better. My temper is a primary focus when I see my counselor - that is when I focus on my failures. We've discussed specific instances where I wish I had done better in hopes I will be able to generalize some strategies and actually do better in the future.
I feel it is helping, though I hit a low point at the end of last year and almost started anti-anxiety medication. I was always feeling a low level "buzz" of anxiety - even when we went away for a couple weeks and I had nearly constant help with the kids and finished a bunch of tasks that had been on my mind. Plus I was irritable as all get-out with Bean.
I don't know if it was hormones, or if it was starting some specific vitamins, or if it was finally getting rid of yeast/thrush that had plagued Squeak and me (up until then, I was thinking daily about switching to exclusively pumping or weaning both kids entirely), but the clouds lifted sometime in January and everything has been easier and more enjoyable since.
I am most definitely a work in progress
Photo Credit: Έλενα Λαγαρία on Flickr