Tuesday, June 29, 2010
My friend Rachel is one of the best moms I know. She’s dedicated. She’s involved. And she has two great girls to prove it. You might classify Rachel as one of those women who has everything: nice house, great sense of humor, slender figure, and hard-working husband. She even has a dog with extra personality.
Rachel is my go-to girl when my inner bitch appears. She gets it. She has one, too, and it’s just as sarcastic, frustrated, and hard to contain as mine is. We both work to curb our tongues. And we’re really hard on ourselves when we don’t succeed. Most of the time our husbands are on the receiving end of our verbal release, and this does nothing to help our marriages, which makes us all the more frustrated. We really do adore our husbands most of the time.
There is one thing Rachel and I both agree on: We got everything we wanted. We wanted children, a nice home, and the luxury to stay home with our children in that home in order to be there for those brief, beautiful moments that transpire magically in childhood and motherhood.
And we got it. We got it all. And we’re happy with it.
So then why are we so bitchy?
Six months after having the twins I was over-the-top tetchy when it came to taking care of the boys. There was one way to do everything: my way. I got so mad when my husband would rearrange things or not follow protocol. I spent a lot of time talking myself down from the ledge of rage over the smallest, stupidest things. I felt horrible about myself. It was so bad I called my doctor. She told me it was normal. I would outgrow the hormones and irritability after a year or so. Fourteen months later I do feel much better, but I am not back to me.
There is still a shadow of resentment along with a show of frustration and exhaustion. I don’t think my husband knows how hard it is to run the house with a set of twins on hand. I don’t start my work at nine. I don’t stop it at five. I am on the clock all day long. Even when I have a nanny I am working. She watches the kids and I cook, clean, run errands, and then usually for 45 minutes in there somewhere, I go out to lunch and read a magazine – a parenting magazine – so I can stay on top of any issues that may surface. I’m all mother all the time.
My mind is obsessed with minutia. At any given time of the day I can tell you roughly how many calories each boy has consumed, how much more they need, the last time they pooped, and how much sleep they have had in 24 hours. It’s almost impossible to shut the calculator off. I know used to think about other things that were worldlier, but for the life of me I cannot remember what they were.
I’m also defensive. Everything my husband says becomes a critique about my parenting. This is from a woman who for 20 years made her living having her work criticized by three to four people before it was accepted and published. Dave said once: “The boys are starving.” And I said back, “For the love of God, David, the boys are not starving. I’m a good mom. I don’t starve my children. They’re hungry. Not starving. You need to be careful what you say to me.” He just looked away and said softly, “Yes dear.”
That’s so not me.
As much as I love motherhood, and as wonderful as it is to be typing up this story while my little guys sleep with their butts in the air, I still struggle with who I am as a mother. It can be really uncomfortable. Sometimes my frailty is embarrassing. Yet at the same time, I have never been stronger as a human being. I have never been so loving, so understanding, so sensitive and awake.
Maybe that’s what it is. It’s being so awake. So alive. It’s agitating. Stirring. Motivating. It’s so many things at once. Everything is in hyperdrive, and I can’t shut it off. I feel like George Jetson stuck on the treadmill and yelling, “Jane, stop this crazy thing.”
There comes a time when we know as mothers we have to surrender. Rachel and I are well aware that we have to lay down our arms. Become vulnerable. Release our quick and defensive judgments. But we both suck at it. So we have a beer and chuckle on the phone together, making sarcastic remarks. We know it’s a difficult challenge to be both protective and unprotected at the same time. We hope our husbands understand that. We hope our friends and family do, too. Because we know we won’t be like this forever. It’s a short time in our lives, and the best we can do is laugh at ourselves and get through it together – and try to honor our well intended, high strung, minutia obsessed, exceedingly exhausted, quietly happy, inner bitch.