Friday, September 2, 2011
So about that commune...
I found it. It's in Western Washington. I spent three weeks there.
We've been back a month and I am still feeling the benefits of that time spent at my in-laws' house. When we went, I was fried. Absolutely fried. And I really wondered if there was something wrong with me that had me struggling so much in this phase of motherhood. Was I suffering from postpartum depression? I've also been going through what I've called "re-grieving" of my mother's death. I will get into that more in another post (I have a feeling the next couple of months will bring some intense ones...), but it is ultimately a good thing and not something to pity me for (mmmkay?).
Anyhow, a few things were particularly fantastic about the trip in terms of long-term benefits. The first was, of course, that I got a real break. I hardly cooked (and we hardly ate out - I was able to stick to my low-sodium diet!). I hardly washed dishes. The house got picked up every night. I cleaned the bathroom a couple of times and I did all of our laundry, and I obviously mothered my children. Those were my responsibilities. I managed to read a book. I started to get caught up on email. The Beast and I took Squeak and got a night away from Bean (taking Squeak was not a big deal - he is so easygoing and also was just starting to crawl at the time - so he wasn't all over the place!).
Another benefit was that Bean's formerly for-Mom-only behaviors - or at least the intensity of those traits and behaviors - came out with other people around. The Beast spent several whole days in a row with Bean and said to me at one point that Bean was "getting worse" (aka more difficult/trying). I looked at him and said, "no he's not. This is exactly what my days have been like."
And my mother-in-law confirmed that Bean was a bit "more" than she remembered either of her kids being. He demanded more attention, he demanded more creative problem-solving, he had more intense meltdowns, he was more persistent, he had more difficulty going with the flow. This is especially evident when Squeak is happily and quietly playing on his own in a way that Bean never did as a baby, and my mother-in-law finds his demeanor so much more reminiscent of her days with small children. Far from being a condemnation of our parenting or of Bean himself, her observations were so freeing. I am not crazy! My kid is just more.
Having that objective confirmation was invaluable. I had really tried not to project my own concerns about my childhood onto Bean. I was a sort of a notoriously difficult/tempestuous/exhausting kid and was diagnosed with ADD. I felt very pathologized, and still feel that my child-self is talked about as something being wrong with me. It is often very difficult for me to hear stories of myself as a kid. So I resisted and resisted any and all labels for Bean. My mother-in-law gets along incredibly well with Bean. I love watching them together. So to hear her say - with immense love and affection and respect for him - that he's particularly intense in every way was awesome. There's nothing wrong with him - or with me - I just need some different tools
Since we've been back, I have felt more centered. The feedback loop of Bean and me pushing each other's buttons has been broken to a degree, and Bean and I are getting along better over all (read: many fewer meltdowns for each of us!). The family dynamic has shifted so that weekends are a little awful - Bean is pushing The Beast more than he is me now! But since it's directed at The Beast, I am able to stay more calm. The Beast gets to go back to work on Mondays, plus he's a lot more patient than I am. So it works out alright.
Generally, I am not constantly feeling desperate for a break anymore. I still have my list of people to call for help. I'm making sure I am taking time for myself proactively; If I don't get an hour during the day, I try to take an hour when The Beast is home. I'm getting a sitter occasionally when I don't have an appointment, just so I can get a few things done and check in with myself.
Family life is good. Which is a major relief because the next couple of months promise to be intense and filled with revisiting the most traumatic event of my life. In fact, it looks like I will spend the end of October/beginning of November sorting through things of my mother's that have been in storage for seventeen years. I'm not entirely sure what I will come across (furniture, and I think a chest of items she held onto from our earliest years to give to grandchildren, and I'm not sure what else...) and I'm not sure what condition it will be in (there have been floods in the area, plus it has been in storage for seventeen years).
I think I'm in a good place for what is to come this fall. And I'm prepared to ask for help, should I need it.