Sunday, December 6, 2009

Bravery, Eh?

Momalom is hosting the half-drunk challenge (see the button on the right??). This challenge is for both lushes and teetotalers. It is a challenge of bravery. Since I don't drink (never have, never will), I decided to write this in a sleep deprived state. My delirium after 4 hours of interrupted sleep dampens my senses as much as a couple of alcoholic drinks. I am writing something of a serious nature. Something that has occupied my mind. Not quite in line with Sarah's first half-drunk post (the initiation?), but something that requires me to be in an abnormal state to admit to. To write about. Readers, be kind.

In the wee hours of the early morning,
And in the middle of the night,
I am caught in a trembling state
As I think about that thing that frights.

My body is rigid,
As this fear thrusts me,
Into the throes of a winter storm
Despairing to be free.

Attempting to ease my mind,
from these woeful thoughts,
I thrash about my bed
to escape from being caught.

What is this fear?You might ask.
But I am afraid to answer
Wondering if I speak out loud
the truth will become my captor.

The answer must be spoken, and done without clever rhymes. If I pursued that lovely poem, I would never uncover this secret.

I was attending college full-time when the Queen was born. My mind was engrossed with assignments and exams. So much that I felt I could barely devote time to my precious baby. My husband and I shared the tasks that accompany having a child. For that, I am grateful. At the same time, I felt I was cheating my baby out of having a mother. A good mother. One that cuddled when needed, fed on demand, and didn't get frustrated with crying, feedings, and other things that consumed my valuable time.

For practically the first year of the Queen's life, I was in school. When I finally graduated, I became a stay-at-home mom.I did not know how to handle being with my daughter without school's burdens. Without being incessantly hammered by various school assignments. Without being busy.

I tried to play with her, but I didn't know what to do. I felt lousy.

The Queen is an independent girl. She has been since birth. It was God's intention, because He knew I, and my husband, would be busy with classes. 

Each day of my newly uncluttered life brought in new anxieties. The education I received, which focuses on children, seemed useless. I felt I knew less than before I went to school.

The birth of Manly has increased this anxiety. I hold, comfort, and feed Manly without worrying about time because I have all the time in the world. Yet, those same thoughts about the Queen creep into my mind.

Do I actively engage with the Queen enough? When she grows up, will she remember her early years with sadness? Pain? Hurt? Am I a bad Mommy because I still do not focus on the Queen? 

These are my thoughts almost every night and morning. They devour any peace I might have, like hungry wolves upon an animal's carcass. As I rock Manly to sleep, these thoughts will enter into my mind. I start to feel like I am suffocating. As if I am under water and am unable to reach the top. The life saving air is beyond my grasp. I am drowning in anxiety.

Dear readers, I tell you this, not for pity, but for understanding. I write to soothe my soul. To provide words where I otherwise lacked. To breathe in the succulent air of freedom.

To your sage selves, I entreat your wisdom for answers to these questions.

How do you cope with your anxieties?
How do you effectively divide your time between two (or more!) children?
Do you feel this at times?


  1. I only have one child but I already feel this way! And I am going thorugh the same thing trying to adjust to just being a stay at home mom with no school! And I miss school sometimes because that was normal and I was so busy I barely had time to think about the time I was spending with my daughter. Now I have all the time in the world to reflect on how I"m doing as a mother! ahhhh frustrating!? do all moms feel this a tiny bit!? I think so!

  2. Dear Michelle, I mistakenly did not include mothers of one child in my supplication.

    I know we are on the same page. It is nice to hear someone else struggling with the same thing!

    P.S. Could you e-mail me your number?

  3. I do not know a single mother, personally, who has not felt these things. I have felt these things. There were times when my boys were babies and they seemed so foreign. My body held them and fed them and my brain couldn't get around how I would ever be able to parent them. I loved them in a wave of physical connection, in breaks through fog when one would tighten his grip around my finger or smile for no reason. And then the fog of exhaustion and worry and aloneness would close in again and I would go through the motions and I knew I loved my babies but I couldn't imagine ever loving them enough or correctly whatever correctly might mean.

    And there were fewer books, no people to talk to, a husband who was a wall even when he was there, and the knowledge (I had never shared at that time) of being the child of an abusive parent. An abusive mother. Physically, emotionally. How could I ever properly parent?

    And I thanked all the gods of the universe for giving me sons because I thought that I would have a better chance at loving sons and doing right by sons and I think that is and has been true.

    Exhaustion plays with our minds. Exhaustion hollows out resources. Exhaustion exacerbates fear.
    Exhaustion strengthens stress which, in turn, plays on our anxieties and moves us away from our truest pieces of self.

    You love your children and you will learn more and more ways to love your children in the ways that they need. Sleep is healing. Talking is healing. Writing is healing. Knowing you are absolutely not alone in these feelings is an offering to help you heal.

    These are the things the books never tell us, our mothers never tell us, our society of "shoulds" never tells us, dictating instead degrees of perfection that no human being can attain.

    Loving children is a roller coaster; we are nonetheless bound to them in a sort of knowing and breathing but it is not necessarily immediate or easy, consistent or productive. And sleep deprivation is brutal and numbing. Try to find a way to sleep (says the woman who cannot seem to sleep).

    Be kinder to yourself. Keep talking. Keep writing. This is bravery. Necessary bravery. Productive bravery.

  4. Ambrosia, I'm not sure to follow up BLW's comment, as she covered so so much, so so much that I agree with. Your writing strikes a chord with me perhaps in a way different that is different, though. I often am full of anxieties. And yet I'm not sure I've felt what you are feeling. I came into mothering blindly, as I firmly believe we all do, and I know how lucky I have been to have felt confident in the big stuff. The loving. The attention giving. The emotional providing parts of parenting. My anxieties right now lay in the non-parenting aspects of life: finances, health, decisions about the future.
    I hope that your writing does soothe your soul. That the community of readers you have makes the anxieties more manageable. I hope that sleep comes for you soon, if only sporadically for a while. I hope that you can give yourself the space to be confident that what you are giving your children--separately and together--is precious to all of you. There is no magic solution to how to split your time or spend your time. But I will tell you that as my kids have gotten a little older (my oldest is in kindergarten) there are more opportunities for alone time with each of them. And even if it's only a trip to the grocery store with one child, I make it something special.
    One last thing: Night-time parenting, as far as I'm concerned, is the biggest unknown, untold truth of parenting. It is so difficult. The thoughts I have during the night, whether about my children or my bank statement, are weighted with the stresses of fatigue. And in the morning I often can't believe what I was thinking. So, let yourself off a little easy. And know that we all have anxieties.
    And, this is a GREAT GREAT GREAT contribution to our Challenge!
    Hugs to you.

  5. Not at times - ALL the time. Emma was such a stubborn and independent child. From birth. She didn't like being cradled as a baby, didn't like being held for long stretches of time, and was fussy and discontented much of the time. Feeling close with her was a real struggle!

    And I am not a mum who plays. I'll pull out the playdough or suggest activities, but I'm a supervisor rather than a participant. That worries me a lot sometimes. But then, I've seen the opposite end of the spectrum. The mum who plays ALL the time and is at their child's beck and call all the time. Whose children are completely dependent on mummy for all their entertainment.

    As in all things, there must be a balance I think.

    Yesterday I made cookies and I let the girls dip the dough balls in sugar and put them on the sheet. And I laughed and joked with them while we did. This was a really, really big deal for me. And for a brief moment I felt like the best mom in the world.

    Maybe having room for improvement isn't the worst thing in the world? Makes it easier to feel extraordinary.

  6. There really is no need for me to add my own inadequate words since the first paragraph of BigLittleWolf's response to you put the complicated emotions I feel always so much more eloquently than I ever could. But since you were wondering whether others feel the same way you do, I thought I should say something, just to be counted, to show you that it is true: Yes, I feel the panic in my heart all the time especially since my boys are five years apart and my youngest loves me more than anything in the world. I am not sure I can keep up. I also do not PLAY either. I just don't know how. I can't do pretend play despite a degree in theatre (I need a script...) I can play Scrabbles with my oldest, and cards with my youngest now, but when they were little, I dreaded the moment when I had to "pretend" that the cow was a real cow and the bear was a real talking bear... I don't know how to cope with anxieties either. I am hoping that as they get older, this will be come a non-issue on its own...

  7. Ambrosia - You are not alone! Trust me! To this day, I still cannot explain how to raise children and I had six in ten years. People ask constantly, "How did you do it?" My only response is - over and over again - you do what you have to and it is so true.

    I was a full-time working mom for the early years of my first three. I went back to work eight weeks after having twins (#2 and #3). I didn't have a choice. I made more than my then husband did and had been on disability since 26 weeks. I left three children ages 2 1/4 and two at eight weeks with a nanny. I felt horrible. I traveled for work and kept a breast pump with me until I couldn't take that anymore. More guilt.

    We all experience it. We all do what is best for our children. We love them with all our heart. We fumble our way through raising responsible adults ... eventually.

    Never fear that you are not enough. You are just what your children need!

  8. What a powerful post and what a wealth of wonderful comments from your readers.

    I am in the throes of this same battle - with an infant and a toddler, I feel like I am never giving enough of me to either of them, nor do I have any left over for myself. I suffered from postpartum depression and, after coming out of the fog, asked Husband if he thought Big Boy would ever be able to forgive me for my emotional absence during those months. My question has been answered in the most positive way during and after every good interaction I have with him now. I think our children remember the love we show and have a tremendous capacity to overlook the ways in which we feel like we're failing them. To them, I believe, we are succeeding far more than we give ourselves credit for.

    I only know you from your words here, but I do not doubt that you are a caring, devoted, loving mother - and one that your children will remember with fondness, admiration, and affection.

    Thank you for sharing this vulnerable piece of yourself with us.

  9. What a wonderful and raw post. I think about these things all the time. I have the same fears, the same frustrations. I am constantly worried about the allocation of affection and attention. Parenthood, I've learned, is ceaseless questioning.

    I think that in thinking about these things, in articulating them as you do so eloquently here, you are evidencing the depth of your love for your kids.

    I appreciate the honesty and humility laced in your words.

  10. There's already been so many wonderful comments, I don't really have anything to add. Just know you really aren't alone. I think we all feel this way from time to time. Hang in there!

  11. oh man, we all feel like this sometimes. i have three kids and none of them get the mother that i want to be. the mom who has endless patience to play the same games over and over or read the same story 5 times in a row. i just don't have that. i am also a "supervisor" mom, not a "get down in there and play" mom. the one thing that makes me feel better is to remind myself that i love my kids more than anything else in the entire world, and that there is no way in hell i want to be a Stepford Mom who only lives to please her children; i need to be ME, too.

    giving your independent child her independence is (from my own experience with an independent-from-day-one kid) the only way you can have a relationship with that child. i tried forcing my son to do it MY WAY (ie. making him sit with me and talk/play with me, making him play games that i thought he might like, etc) and that completely blew up in my face. once i stopped hanging all over him, he *wanted* to sit with me and have me read stories. but NOT ALL THE TIME. just once in a while. such is the nature of kids.

  12. Oh sweetie, you are doing a great job.

    Being a mom at times is tough. So often I would beat myself up, but then I realized I did the best I could with what I knew at the time. When I had Brent, I realized that he required more time then my others. His autism meant lots of appointments and lots more one on one time than any of the others. Again, I knew I could only do what I could.

    I look at my children today and realize that I didn't do it all, but they are forgiving and most of all they know I loved them.

    Hang in there.

  13. There is so much wisdom here I think we should have our own big red tent.

    Ambrosia - the fact that you worry and care so much about this issue is all the more reason Queen is going to love and appreciate and respect you so much when she grows up. I promise. My mom put herself through nursing school when I was a toddler and my sister an infant. It was years before we got any of her all to ourselves, and maybe I was a little bitter for a while, but when I moved on my own, it all clicked.

    You're human, doing the best you can. She will understand that.

    Also, what BLW and Stone Fox said.

  14. I know I'm late to the game here, but I was very late to the Half-Drunk Challenge.

    I applaud your bravery, Ambrosia, schooling with a newborn is no easy task. Newborns without easy task. Parenting easy task. Everyone's already shared so much really great encouragement and insight. This is why we blog isn't it?

    I started having children when I was almost 30. I knew what I was doing. It was a choice. I was very confident going in. I was 38 when my fourth child announced her existence. As confident as I felt going in, as established as I felt going in, as prepared as I felt going in, I was reduced to emotional rubble wondering if I was adequate as a parent. Now my children are 19, 16, 14, and soon to be 9. I still have these doubts and I know I have not been the parent I'd hoped I'd be. I've not provided my children with the childhood I hoped they'd have. My children have turned out alright and they are bright, kind, respectful, creative and adventurous young people. They will be able to provide for themselves and contribute positively to the world when the torch is finally handed to them. They've learned good lessons from me and I from them.

    You'll be okay and your kids will do very well, because you are there for them. Just being there makes all the difference. I work with kids every day who don't have half what those of us here provide for our kids. Trust me, being there to listen and talk and guide and keep safe, making sure there is food on the table, a bath to be taken and clean clothes to get into and a bed to sleep in goes a long way toward developing a healthy intelligent child. You are doing far, far more than that. You are doing an amazing job. Don't for a minute think otherwise. (I know, hard not to do. I get it. I write that last line for myself as well.)
    I'm glad you shared this. Thanks.


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