I was on the ledge yesterday, but another mommy talked me in off it.
It was a bad mommy day for me yesterday. I have had a few in recent weeks, and I was feeling really lousy. I know that all mommies have them (and dads too, obviously) but sometimes it is hard to remember. And you need another mom to remind you.
I have been finding myself being short and cranky with my daughter sometimes. There are days when, as a parent, you get so worn down or tired, or whatever the reason is, that you begin to hear yourself being sharp with your child. Even the most easygoing of children can do things to annoy you some days, especially when you are with them 24/7. Even the most pleasant of children can find something that can grind on your last nerve. Even the most low-maintenance of kids can push your buttons some days.
I was having one of those days. Like I said, I have had a couple in the last few weeks.
If you are a parent, there’s a lot of guilt to being a parent. It comes in various forms. Working parents feel it because they have to work and cannot be with their child as much as they want to, or because they are missing moments with their child that they can’t get back, or because they get to get out of the house and interact with other adults. I am not a working parent, so I am sure there are more that I don’t know about.
I can speak to being a stay-at-home parent. On the surface of things, you feel guilty because you have been given this opportunity to be home with your child and help them grow, and somebody else bears the considerable burden of going off to work and supporting your family. You feel guilty because on days when you are not at your best as a parent, it’s like you are ungrateful for this opportunity. You feel guilty when you complain about your day, given those circumstances.
But on a day-to-day level, there are things that get to you. You feel guilty because you are spending too much time interacting with your child, and things don’t get done around the house. Or you feel guilty for not interacting enough with your child, and parking them in front of the television while you get something done. Or you feel bad for wanting some time to yourself, just to do some basic things like shower or sit and have a cup of tea.
The worst, though, is losing your temper. If it’s just you and your child, all day long, day in and day out, you are bound to get on each other’s nerves. No matter how much you love and enjoy your child, they’re going to make you nuts. You speak sharply or you get angry or whatever. The remorse is almost instantaneous. So’s the guilt.
Part of the problem is that you rarely see other mommies at their worst. You go to visit other parents and they are usually calm and pleasant, even when their child is misbehaving. Their houses are usually neat and tidy. You don’t see them snap at their kids. So you begin to think of how you should be better at this, how you fall short by comparison. But another part of the problem is that you are in a bubble a lot of the time, just you and your child, so it can be hard to remember to keep your perspective on things. When it’s just you and your child, things just seem magnified because you have nothing else to compare to, and no one there to tell you any differently.
Add to that, the fact that you spent years trying to have this child, and everything you went though to get them makes you feel that you should just shut up and be grateful for every moment, and not complain.
So, the pressure builds and the guilt builds, and you begin to feel pretty lousy. And you feel lousy about feeling lousy.
So yesterday, I was feeling bad. I had snapped a couple of times at my child, who had spit food at me for the 3rd time in one sitting, or who had been blowing raspberries for 4 hours straight, or whatever. And I was feeling like a really lousy mom.
Right on cue, who should pop up in my IM window but… another mom.
I confessed I was having a bad mommy day. And she gave me some much-needed perspective.
She reassured me that every parent has bad days, and snaps at their child, and feels crappy about their parenting skills. She told me that it’s okay to discipline your child, and try to teach them things you want them to do and deter behaviours you’d rather not see, and that NO is a good word. She and I compared stories about how things were going wrong. We railed about how hard/unfair/challenging things can be. We talked about what makes it worthwhile, and how we were really lucky to have such great kids. And in the end, we laughed about how easy it is to lose yourself in this parenting thing, and how easy it is to lose perspective.
She talked me in off the ledge.
So today, I feel more like I want to feel. I am not perfect. My kid is not perfect. I love my child, but she can be a weenie sometimes. My kid is happy, healthy and thriving. And I am doing okay as a parent.
And I have great friends who know the parenting ledge well, and are there to help talk me in off it when I need it.