I’m feeling like a lousy mom today. I can’t be the only one who has these days, the ones where you just think you’re not doing good enough. I’ve been in a slump, my house is a wreck, and I am completely unmotivated. My blogs are half-assed, and I feel like I’ve been ignoring the boy.
When I talk about being a stay-at-home mom, it sounds like I have this shit dialed in. We have routines and songs and books and games we play. I’m down there on the floor playing with him a lot of the time. But the TV is almost always on. The house is in varying stages of chaos. And I feel like I am often only half-present. The other half is wishing I could get the laundry/kitchen/floors done, is wanting to write, or (worst of all), is wanting to stare off into space with my feet up.
Some days I can do it, I can grab that brass ring. I’m up and engaged with him, we’re talking about colors and body parts and numbers, and he’s bringing me books to read, and we’re out and interacting with the world. Some days the house is spotless, and I feel smug as I check off everything on my to-do list and dish up something delicious and homemade and pretty. Those are the days that I wear makeup, a shirt that has minimal baby-related stains and the bra that makes me look like my tits are still on speaking terms with each other. Those are the days I beam as strangers comment on my beautiful, perfect, well-behaved son.
But they aren’t all “those days” and logically, I know they can’t be and shouldn’t be. I don’t want to raise E to think that life is effortless and always perfect. That’s just setting him up for disillusionment and a vicious Emo phase when he’s fourteen.
And on the normal days…I am tired and quiet, letting him watch PBS from Curious George all the way until Sid the Science Kid, often encouraging it so I can drink my coffee and maybe read two or three status updates on Facebook before he notices that Mommy is touching the Awesome-Cool-Not-For-Baby-Thing and starts hanging off my chair and bitching.
I am handing him a teething biscuit and curling up in my chair, keeping “Mommy’s Sippy” away from him. I am wishing I could go back to bed, sit alone, hang out with other adults in the garage, read, write, or get moving on my endless to do list. Those days, it’s the morning purgatory just holding out until that nap that sometimes never even comes, or ends in only half an hour. Those days, I only change out of my pajamas so the neighbors don’t notice I’m still wearing them when I check the mail. Those days, I am trying to avoid playing in his room, because it is so goddamn boring.
And even on the good, smug days, I feel like I’m not doing it all right. I gave up on cloth diapers about three shits in and never looked back. I spent one weekend making and freezing a variety of baby foods, then bought fruits and vegetables for weeks intending to do it again…and just never did it. Half the produce ends up wilting, the other half gets tossed into something I’m cooking for adults. We don’t co-sleep, as that was E’s choice. Three days in and he already defeated both his parents; he just would not (and still won’t!) lie down in bed. Occasionally he cries it out in his crib at bedtime; usually he crashes after a few minutes. I don’t feel bad for anything sleep-related, but I do feel defensive about it sometimes.
Mothering is so loaded. People are so willing to judge that it makes me eager to judge myself. There has started to be this bizarre Motherhood-as-Martyrdom movement, going so far as strapping the baby to your body and never being physically apart. I encounter that a hell of a lot more online than off, but it happens. When E was a couple of months old, I was out with some girlfriends for breakfast. I complimented a woman at another table on her coat. Her baby was strapped to her chest, and she was wearing a cloak that had two head openings. Cute. She apparently took this as an invite to eavesdrop, because minutes later she was interjecting how important it is to co-sleep (as I was talking about putting E in his own room). “They don’t know that they’re separate from you! How would you feel if your arm just got up and walked away?!”
There are so many encounters like that and it all comes out of this Radicalized Motherhood stuff. There’s a bar of expectation that is just ludicrously high, and we end up hanging ourselves from it. There’s no reason I should feel guilty about using disposable vs. cloth (and no, I don’t want to argue about landfills, chemicals in the water from sterilizing diapers isn’t exactly better). There’s nothing wrong with feeding him store-bought food. It isn’t like I’m feeding him candy and Cheetos here. The kid’s doing great! Nobody but me cares if the house is messy!
Maybe we could start a counter-revolution, where Every. Single. Thing. isn’t the difference between a smart, well-adjusted kid and some kind of Norman Bates Mama’s boy. Maybe we could take a step back and praise mothers for more important things than how they fed their baby, or their choice in crap-receptacle, or if they watch some TV so they don’t go insane. Think of it! It could be a sisterhood; no more judging because we’re all going through the same kinds of things! Sisterhood! Support! We can do it!
Or maybe I should just get a sitter tomorrow.