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Sunday, May 9, 2010

Don't Ask

Really, there are times you shouldn't ask what you're wondering. Don't ask questions if there is a chance the answer will be something you don't want to hear. I've often shared that tidbit with folks. Today, I did not take my own advice.

After a particularly demoralizing morning in the department of mothering, I felt like a let-down. I am nothing like the mother I had hoped or imagined to be. I'm not "coochie-coo" or "let me just stare into your baby eyes" nor do I chirp "time to nurse!" I was never depressed for more than a total of 10 minutes about the six years for which I was labeled "infertile." I don't bound out of bed in the morning in anticipation of playing with my kids. In fact, any chance I get, I hand the baby and the toddler off to play with their dad. I was quietly thinking about these things while rocking the infant who would let me do nothing but sit, rock, and think.

I wondered something. I got up and walked into the bathroom where the husband was getting ready for the day and casually asked him, "Are you disappointed that the woman you married is not the kind of mother you thought she'd be?"

I guess I asked hoping to hear some comforting words like "you'll grow into it" or "there are different kinds of mothers" or "I didn't have any expectations either way."

Instead, I got, "A little bit" and a kiss on the top of the head while he rubbed lotion into his hands. I looked down at the baby in my arms to hide the shiny wet film forming over my eyeballs and quietly walked out of the room.

Ouch. Who likes to be a disappointment to any extent?
That's what I get for asking.

Happy Mother's Day to me.


Kristen said...

Ah, the only catch here is that at YOUR stage, NO mother is that way. Dave will learn, just as you do, that mothers become mothers over time. It doesn't happen the instant you give birth. Really. Really really. If he is disappointed at this time, it's because he saw his mother after all her years of experience. She was probably just as overwhelmed in her day. Give it a year or ten and you will find that mothering is about teaching and loving, and NOT about being ga-ga over God's little bundles. And if it's not his mother he's thinking of, it's the mothers around him. Like me. (Insert hysterical laughter here.) The moms at church are loving yes, but only that composed for three hours out of the week. Then they go home and have a breakdown because they're certain they're the most horrible mother ever. Not enough energy or sanity to get by. I LOVE motherhood but half the time I think I'm insane. (In a good way. I think.)

You're right that you probably shouldn't have asked, because he wouldn't have thought it without being prompted. And oh what a marriage you have that he was HONEST. Now, a few years from now, when he tells you that you are an amazing mother, you will know that he MEANS it.

He's not disappointed in YOU - he's disappointed in today. (And only because you asked.) In truth, he knows that you are a goddess waiting to happen.

I don't say this out of holier-than-thou-peptalk perspective. I say it out of been-there-done-that, wondering every day the same thing. Can I really cut it? Do my kids deserve better than me? How am I going to get through the next hour?

We are mothers because we are. If we're not what we expected, just hang on and we will be.

You rock! (Literally.)

Sheree said...

Wow Adhis, I've had those same thoughts at times. I loved babysitting all growing up and had so much patience, I just knew I'd be the best mom on Earth.

Unfortunately, popping out a baby didn't make me perfect and being a mom full-time is a lot harder than I'd imagined. I get that feeling sometimes too that you described that I'm disappointed in myself.

I don't have endless patience like my MIL. She's gentle and sweet all the time. That's not me and that is okay. I am giving, tenacious, dedicated and organized. There is a lot of humor in our home. I know that my kids were sent to ME for a reason.

That feeling of letting myself down really motivates me to remember who I am and to build on MY strengths. You don't have to be a coochy coo mom to show your kids you love them. You are a great example and your girls are lucky to have such an inspiring mother.

Kristen said...

Oh Sheree, I'm so glad you commented. After I left mine, I thought of the other moms who might read it. And I thought of Sheree, who IS the perfect mom, and what will she think of me? I almost deleted it. Maybe I still should =o) but it's a relief to hear your perspective too. We all know that Adhis' children's friends are all going to be jealous that her mom is so fun.

Hmm I wonder if Sheree will even see this.

Adhis said...

Ladies, those are fantastic words of advice and reassurance!

Kristen, it's true, one of the things I cherish most in my marriage is honesty.

Sheree, what a great reminder to focus on the strengths God gave me. He knows what these are, and he still sent me these children.

Thank you. I am so grateful you guys took the time to share your insights!

Sheree said...

I am so not that perfect mom. Far from it! I am the last person who is going to think ill of anyone who confronts these issues honestly. So you're safe with me.

I just also wanted to add Adhis, that you should give yourself a few months to ponder the type of mother you are. I know the times when I am harder on myself is during those transition periods where things are just "off." My mom stayed with us after Simone was born and I was a mess. I was so worried that she thought I was a terrible mom. It was just a difficult time.

I rarely played with my kids when they were toddlers and I don't know many moms who do. I used to feel guilty about it until I remembered that my mom never played with me. That is why they have siblings.

And you don't HAVE to be depressed about infertility. I can understand why it is so hard for some--I think it would be really tough for me. But people respond differently to things. My sister went through infertility and didn't really think too much of it. She applied for a graduate program and moved on with her life. You may be shortchanging yourself by looking at that as a negative thing. It may just be that you are grateful for what you do have and a forward thinking person.

Sarah said...

I agree wholeheartedly at both Sheree and Kristen's comments. I just wish I had something awesome to add too. I especially like what Sheree said about thinking about what kind of mom you are. Don't compare your parenting style to others. Find your own way. You are an amazing person, let that amazingness spill out into Motherhood and you'll be set.

Kelly(M&M) said...

Hey Adhis,

As usual your post spoke to my heart. You have an amazing way with words. Your perspective on fertility was so different from mine, and honestly, I wish I had had your attitude. Instead, Jeff got to hear me whine about it and it was a very tough couple of years as I am sure Jeff wondered if I was the same girl he married during the emotional roller coaster.

As far as your mothering goes, I think we all have a little disappointment in ourselves and in others as we set a proverbial bar that no one can live up to. I am sure there are things you wanted Dave to be that didn't quite pan out. I have seen the way he looks at you and the things he says show that he knows how lucky he is, in spite of the "shortcomings." I, too, have to remind myself that my kids were sent to me because I can give them what THEY need, based on my strengths AND my weaknesses. They learn by watching us struggle and watching us succeed. I have no question that you are a fantastic mother. Thanks for sharing such personal insight. Wish we were neighbors!

Jackie said...

Ouch. I don't think being human detracts from the kind of mother you are. It's human to be tired, to not be thrilled with breastfeeding, etc. You are going through a very difficult transition right now. The adjustment to 2 children is very difficult, you are recovering from major surgery, and are sleep deprived.You are an excellent and loving mother, and yes, you are human.

Ether 12:27 came to mean a lot to me when I was having the feelings you are having now.

Jackie said...

Me again.

"Be a first-rate version of yourself, not a second-rate version of someone else." -Judy Garland

Katy said...

I don't really have anything to add here, but I just wanted to say I am glad you posted this and have been uplifted by everyone's comments. I could not agree more with their words of wisdom!

Jackie said...'s me.

I just wanted to let you know that I punched Josh in the stomach because of Dave's "honesty".

(Gra)Ma Adhis said...

Yesterday you affirmed "I am a Mommy"
KNOW that you are. The thing is that it is not a Job description, it's not ALL written in black and white. It is hard at times where one thing ends and the next follows it's like the rainbow... the colors are distinct but there is no defining where one ends and the next starts. Your are doing what you can. I know how you feel. I have been told I did NOT do a good job. I know I DID do a GOOD job. I am not perfect just did the best I could with the knowledge and strength given.
How can you know you have won a race if you are but just starting?
You are on a journey just learn and grow and accept that your PRESENCE(what you are, what you do, how you think, how you act, what you teach) is all that is required.

TheOneTrueSue said...

First of all, I know you know this, I'm preaching to the choir here, but - being the mother of a newborn is HARD. Newborns are HARD. Never judge your mothering based on what you do (or do not) during these incredibly difficult months when you are not only horribly sleep deprived, but also transitioning to two children. Babies, especially brand new babies, are needy little creatures and they don't give much back at first. I never enjoy the first four months of their lives. It's just what I have to go through in order to get to the part where they become interesting creatures.

Secondly, our book club was just talking about this a few months ago after reading Free Range Kids. We moms fall into this trap of thinking we need to be an entertaining mom in order to be a good mom. But I don't think that's true at all.

Children need to learn to entertain themselves - it's how they develop their imagination. My son, who has had a part-time nanny for almost all of his chilhood, HAS been entertained almost constantly and has very little ability to independently amuse himself. He has to be led in imaginative play by others. My girls, by way of contrast, will go up in their rooms and will pretend things for HOURS. I'll go up to see what they are doing and they'll be offended, like, "MOM, GO AWAY - I'M PRETENDING."

Also, I think my role as a mom is not to be "fun" all the time, but to teach them the things they need to learn in order to grow into functioning adults who can take care of themselves - how to read, how to work, how to solve problems, how to function emotionally. My book group was talking about some other book (can't remember the title) that said, by nine your kids should understand money, by ten your kids should be able to cook basic meal, by eleven they should know how to sew on a button, etc., etc. It was a good reminder to me that we/I sometimes focus too much on wanting them to enjoy their childhood and forget that my role isn't just to be cruise ship director. Kids are good enough at playing - they don't need us to teach them how.

Don't get me wrong, I'm all for fun, but I think we have to make it via doing things that come as naturally for us as parents as possible. We all have a list of things we are good at, and things we aren't. I don't do crafts with my kids, EVER, (I hate crafting) but I tell fantastic bedtime stories. I don't/won't play Barbies with my girls (because barbies are fun for CHILDREN but not for adults) but I'll play the piano and sing with them. Play to YOUR strengths.

Take that stereotype that you and your husband (who I must admit, I felt a slight inclination to smack around a little) have in your heads and toss it out the window. You will be your own kind of mom and your kids will love you for it.

TheOneTrueSue said...

Do I get a prize for most rambly comment? I really think I should.

Joyful Mother of Children said...

Adhis, I'm probably the most imperfect mother alive, but I want to share some insights. I have certain "favorite" ages and stages. I believe all mothers do. They are all different too. I love love love the newborn stage. I love staring into baby eyes. I don't especially like the toddler stage. I'm finding that I GREATLY enjoy having older children, especially my 9 year old, and conversing with them. I like that I can carry on a meaningful discussion with them and LEARN from their perspective as well. I think if you asked any mother you would get a different answer. This may be a struggle for you now but you WILL find your favorite stage and you will love being a mother.

You are honestly one of the most insightful people I know. You are wonderful at helping others recognize their worth. Your daughters are so blessed to have a mother that will teach them to be strong, independent and to feel good about themselves. We all have to play to our strengths. I have many many weaknesses, but one thing I'm good at is taking the time to hug, snuggle, kiss or uplift one of my children. That's MY strength. I'm a horrible housekeeper. I struggle with time management and organization, but I'm trying in all of those to become better. That's all we can ask or expect of ourselves. You are an AMAZING woman! You are funny and smart and independent and a BUNCH of other awesome things!!! Don't lose heart! Keep your head up and let me know if I can help you in any way.

islandgirl said...

Okay, I remember what I was going to say now. I remember back when Natasha was 2 and 3 she had SEVERE excema problems. We kept on having to take her to the doctor because her skin would crack and there'd be open sores, then she'd need a shot of steroids for the infection. My sister seemed to be think we weren't doing enough for her, after all, if it were her child, she'd be doing, this, and this and that....One day she said to me, "You know, it used to really bother me and I wish I could just take her into my home and take care of her, but then I realized that Natasha is your daughter, and maybe this is part of her trial in life to have you as parents" Ah, so glad you feel better Sister! But, you know what, that didn't hurt my feelings at all, because she had a point. Natasha was MY daughter, she chose to live with me, knowing full well what she'd be getting into. I chose her as well. And THAT is that. Yes, maybe there are other mothers that could be doing a better job with my children, but they didn't chose them, they chose ME, imperfections and all.

What I was more concerned with in this post, is your relationship and expectatiions you both have as parents. It was ok for David to be honest with you, because I'm sure there are times where you are honest with him about your expectations of him as a father. And I'm sure there are times when Ken wishes I could be a better mother too. Talking through those in a respective tone can be helpful. That little sentence could open up the doors for you both to communicate more on how you both would like to become better parents and what you can be doing to help each other out on that path, because you can't do it alone.

Maybe now I get the reward for longest post? :)

Abby said...

Thank you so much for posting this, mostly so I could benefit from all the wonderful comments here (that's why you did it, right?).

I'm pretty disappointed in how I turned out as a mother, too, but not surprised. I've never LOVED kids and I don't relate well to them at all, but I did think I'd have an easier time with my own. 'Twas not to be. I don't actively "hide" from my kids, but I do tend to wander into a different room from where they're playing to be alone frequently. I never close the door and I always let them know where I am so they can come and talk to me or ask for whatever they need/want, etc. but I can't STAND to be around them 24/7. They all play remarkably well together and by themselves, so I'm happy for that. But for six years I've been beating myself up for being a lousy mother because I don't race around the room with them or romp on the furniture or dress up as a fairy princess with them or whatever. I couldn't stand that crap even when I WAS a kid, let alone now as an adult. It's so nice to hear I'm not alone in this--that not every mother but me does that, and not just because they can't stand it, but because they choose not to.

I do have my strengths as a mother I realize. I'm a very patient teacher. I encourage healthy living and thinking. I promote good manners, kindness, polite interactions, love, affection, and a good work ethic. I enforce consequences and teach responsibility. I hope I'm a good example spiritually as well. But I'm NOT a playmate. My husband can be to some extent, but he's not much of a "parent" if that makes sense. He leaves much of that to me and backs me up in what I do with them (which is BIG of course--a united front is essential).

But it was always that darn "I will teach you but not play with you" thing that made me feel awful. I always figured I could hide in the next room and be a happy mommy when they came to seek me out, or I could sit next to them with an irritated, short-tempered look on my face and yell a them when they constantly bugged me for stuff. So I figured it was better to leave them be and we'll all be happier, but I still wondered why I couldn't be that playmate they wanted. Now I don't feel quite so bad about that; it's not the kind of mom I am. I can't be every kind of mom. If I am a playmate, I'd probably not be something else I am to them now--I'm pretty satisfied with the list I AM; I'll just have to learn to let go of the things I'm not. So thank you.