Tuesday, October 9, 2007

On the jagged edge of frustration (and guilt)

The day started out beautifully enough. Some much longed for cooler weather. A reasonable wake up call. Play time together.

Naptime. A decent length of an hour and half (not the Marathon Naps that some enjoy, but we sleep through the night, so I can't really complain). Then some shopping and lunch out. We had a wonderful time, smiles and giggles. New clothes purchased, a cozy knitted hat and mitts.

They say that if a bird shits on you, its good luck. But what happens when the shit just misses you and hits the recently vacated stroller instead? Then it hits the fan. Metaphorically, of course.

We arrived home in time for afternoon bottle and then nap. I was tired, and not feeling particularly well. The nap didn't happen. There was jumping up and down, there was banging on the music box, there was smashing of feet against the bars and tiny fists against headboard of the crib.

And there was the crying. The wailing. The carrying on.

[In our house, nap time is sacred. After years spent alone, spent hiding in books, it is the time I need - no, require - to be a good mother, a decent mother. With Mr Babbler's work hours, I am on "duty", so to speak, in excess of 12 hours most days, and with the Peanut cruising and exploring and generally requiring constant monitoring those can be 12 very busy, very tiring hours . Without that time, that hour in the afternoon, I start to feel anxious and stressed. It is the touchstone that helps me maintain my grip on my sense of self. It is the hour that is the bridge between my former self, the independent, loner me, and the me that has become a wife and a mother, part of our social family unit.]

I gave up on the nap, but my frustration, my irritation, was palpable. My mouth was an unsmiling line, my sentences abrupt. I could not rouse myself to playfulness. I looked at the clock, counted the hours.

As the afternoon wore on the spiky edges of my frustration jabbed at me unrelentingly. I tried in vain to find my happy place, my best self, but she was lost in the prickliness of irritation, was consumed by my frustration. The Peanut was merciless (that burst of energy that comes before the inevitable crash), climbing over barriers, banging on the television, grabbing papers and stuffing them in her mouth. After pulling yet one more item from the Peanut's grasp (a remote? the telephone? the computer? was it really that important?) my tone turned from merely abrupt to a full-fledged bark.

And the Peanut started crying. She looked at me, and started to cry.

I had made her cry. Oh, dear god, I had made my Peanut cry. (Over a remote? A telephone? A missed nap?) What was the matter with me?

At that moment I loathed myself, despised myself. The guilt welled up, a tidal wave of sick from deep within my belly as I looked at my Peanut, my beautiful little girl, with tears in her eyes. Tears I had caused. Hot tears, my penance for being a bad mother.

I want to go to bed, to close my eyes and let the day with my irritation, my frustration, my sadness, my guilt (oh, the overwhelming guilt) and the fear, the fear of becoming this woman, wash away. I want to wake up tomorrow - a new day, with no mistakes in it, yet - and be that good, patient mother, the brick of guilt removed from my belly (for the time being). I want to be the mother the Peanut deserves. I want a chance, another opportunity, to be that mother on the pedestal in my imagination. The mother I aspire, valiantly, to be.


Lisa b said...

oh b it don't think it is possible for you to become that woman.
Momming is hard. Missed naps are very very hard.
I thought I might die when my girl gave hers up.
you need the time. you need to know when you will get time to yourself.
Tomorrow will be better.

cinnamon gurl said...

You're not alone. We've ALL been in that situation. And I know just what you mean about the sacred sleeping time. Those moments don't make a bad mom. They just make us human. We've all had them.

Suzanne said...

I've been there, too. It's an awful feeling, that desperation and that feeling of letter your child down. Don't be too harsh on yourself -- all your kindnesses weigh out a momentary snapping.

(I know what you mean about sacred naptime. I miss that guaranteed downtime each day!)

Beck said...

Oh, honey.
Everyone gets crabby once in a while. And boundaries are GOOD THINGS for kids to have, even if they make the munchkins cry.
It's hard to acknowledge when we're tired out past coping sometimes. Figuring out when we're at that point and what to do about it is one of the hard jobs of early motherhood. We've all been there.

nomotherearth said...

You are not a bad mother! We've all been there - and I've been there more times than I care to admit. I have the loner/bookish tendencies like you, and that nap is my precious, precious time. I do not fare well when it doesn't happen. You are not alone. But it in no way makes you a bad mother.

painted maypole said...

We all have those moments. You just have to put it away, and go on. You are a good mother. Tomorrow is another day.

ewe are here said...

Like everyone before me has said, we ALL have those moments. Heck, I've had several today alone. Sadly, I'm not kidding.

Hang in there.

Naomi (Urban Mummy) said...

Making mistakes is part of learning. The only time it's not acceptable is when you cannot admit it and make amends. Get some sleep, and start again tomorrow!

slouching mom said...

I agree with the other commenters. I know I have felt and acted EXACTLY the same way.

And when my kids were toddlers, I had the hardest time of all. It is so exhausting running after a toddler. And let's face it -- they don't have any SENSE! Which is really tough for a rational type like me.

Hang in there. And -- you didn't scar her.

Mad Hatter said...

Oh we've all been there. When I posted about it, the blogosphere came as a chorus of understanding. Even with that understanding, though, it's hard to forgive ourselves. It's the guilt that helps us through the next crisis I suppose.

DaniGirl said...

Day before yesterday, I made my three year old cry. I was in a snit to begin with, was tired and pissed off that the dinner I had planned was ruined by an expired ingredient and was just in an altogether bad mood when he did just the wrong (but relatively minor) thing at just the wrong time and I yelled at him. Loud. And he started to cry... and so did I, and we sat on the kitchen floor hugging and crying and both wishing we were somewhere and someone else. I'm feeling the physical echo of our mutual upset even as I'm typing about it.

There is no harder job than this. Truly. Everyone has bad days. I'd be more worried about the kids of someone who said they didn't than the ones who agonized because they did, yanno?

Aliki2006 said...

I can't tell you, in the 7 some years I've been a mother, how many times I've snapped and felt guilty. It's tough, there's no way to mince words, but know that you are *not* alone.

Here's to better days...

kittenpie said...

Oh, honey, we have ALL had those days! I get crabby without naptime, too. Hell, I've been crabby for the last week, and it's showing in Pumpkinpie becoming crankier and more volatile, too. Hell, we're both sick and whiney. Today was better. I hope tomorrow will be even better as we return to normal. I bet the next day was better for you, too. But remember, we may be mothers, but we are humans, first.

bubandpie said...

The missed nap - oh, it is evil.


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