Thursday, March 08, 2007

Surprise! I'm a martyr!

There are a lot of voices, powerful voices, telling me what a mother is, and how a mother should behave. These range from my own mother telling me how important it is to take care of my physical appearance above all and teaching Madam to obey me, to my mother in law sighing about how motherhood means that you cease to matter, that all of your energy should go to your children, and, basically, that motherhood is pain and suffering, with an occasional shout out to joy or satisfaction. Motherhood is a path of faceless servitude to your children and husband (hey, how did HE sneak in there?).

I thought that I had managed to shut out these voices, both of them, as neither of them really expressed the experience I wanted to have through motherhood, and the relationship I wanted to have to Madam.

Well, see the subject line.

My Shadow has paid me a visit this week, and she’s certainly made herself comfortable. She’s cast a gray pall over everything, and only my worst, most cringe inducing traits are magnetically highlighted. Envy (truly my Waterloo), shame, embarrassment, anger, resentment, bitterness, self-loathing, elitism, judgment. I’ve spent most of this week trying to put on a happy face, trying to put a bow on the pile of crap, even while I snarl at TEG for saying something innocuous and shout at Madam for the crime of waking up an hour early.

But, I reasoned with myself in those moments when I tried to make myself feel better through sheer force of will, at least I am NO martyr.

Well, see the subject line. Somewhere along the motherhood way, I’ve taken a serious detour and am well down the dreaded M path, deeper and deeper into the icky, sticky Shadowlands.

I’ve somehow convinced myself that, because I am a stay at home mother, that I shouldn’t need any help. TEG is earning, ergo, everything in the house should run in accordance to his needs and his schedule. And his free time should be HIS free time. Thus, I put off and put off what I need to do for me, if I can’t manage to do them while toting Madam around (you should see my hair. On second thought, no, you shouldn’t). I should be working harder to keep the house running smoothly, keep the Toddler quiet, keep dinner on the table. And if I slack, or if I use a shortcut, then I am not holding myself up to a high enough standard. And why should I need a shortcut, anyway? I am just a stay at home mother.

And whatever scheduling isn’t for TEG’s convenience, is for the Madam. Her needs come first (well, obviously). She’s a little too young for patience.

People warned me. They kept telling me to carve out more me time. My sister, Punkish Middle, took this to an extreme (as she did most things)—she would enlist us for an hour of babysitting and take four. So, I thought that was just another yuppie selfish mom cliché, to be honest. I’m not working. Isn’t it ALL 'me time'?

See, the thing about clichés is that they always exist for a reason.

I know part of this is trying to prove that I am pulling my own weight in our family. I know a BIG part of this is rebelling against my own mother, and her rigid framework of femininity, complete with a full face of makeup and set hair at 9am.

But, something interesting has happened this week. I sat down and gathered all of my snipes and bitterness and resentment and anger around me and said, OK, I surrender. what’s REALLY wrong here?

And what’s REALLY wrong is that I don’t feel important, to anyone, least of all to myself. All of this time, I was able to find one or the other fix to feed that need, Madam’s dependence, this blog, friendships. But one by one, all of these have proven unreliable. Nothing satisfies me for long. Not your very sweet comments on my writing, not Madam’s affection, not even my friends. All I can see is lack (ironic, since my word for the year is abundance)—the readers I DON’T have, the affection I’m NOT getting, the friends I can’t make or seem to keep. I’ve become a hungry ghost, curled like a fist inside, unable to feel gratitude or pleasure. Unable to look past my own screaming desires and wants. Self-obsession of the worst order.

I hate being this way. I don’t even want to be around me right now.

After a good, self-pitying rant in my journal, I’ve come to the uncomfortable conclusion that I’ve been playacting at this motherhood thing, pretending to sacrifice myself in the hopes that some Great Scorekeeper in the Sky would see me and give me rewards and karmic points, and then would send someone to rescue me on a white steed. Isn’t that what happens in all the best fairy tales?

Alas, I don’t think anyone is coming to rescue me. I think I need to ask for help, and to start acknowledging that motherhood hasn’t cured me of the need to feel like I MATTER and am important, if only to me. I can’t keep doing it this way, deferring my own gratification endlessly.

I want TEG to see and offer to help, I want friends to materialize from the woodwork and stretch out a hand. But that’s putting it on them, another version of the rescuer on the white steed.

What I really want is to learn how to be on my own side.

So, mothers, non-mothers, ANYONE…what makes YOU feel important? And how do you find a way to keep that sacred in your life, even in the whirl of duties and work?



Blogger melba said...

I hear you!
I struggle with this too!
I often feel guilty when I ask Sean for help because I make no money. We live on his income. But then I also get Angry! Why doesn't he help more! It is a constant back and forth for me. I will initiate you do bath once a week or something, but then it always gets changed. Sean will do anything (pretty much) that I ask him to do. But I am TIRED of thinking...of being the one to Run the household. Then I get mad too because we barely have enough money to cover our expenses and at times I wish Sean was more ambitious...I feel like If I have to be the one working so hard to be this great stay at home mom and wife, he should be the one working really hard to make more money.

I don't always feel this way. but it is always under the surface.
I am working through it... I know I am a loving parent and I know I am contributing to the world with my art and ideas (even if they are not revenue producing!) and I know it is ok and necessary to Ask for help.

Wow. I don't think I need to write my morning pages because it is all here!
Thanks for listening!


9:18 AM, March 09, 2007  
Blogger earnest and game said...

Maybe on your blog you can take a break-write about something that gives you pleasure, makes you happy. Carve out that time. Those minutes add up. Thinking of you and sending hugs,

2:14 PM, March 09, 2007  
Blogger Jessie said...

I wish I could jump out of the woodwork right now and offer you my hand! Well, you know I would if I had a damn car! :)-

I miss you and I want to hang out with you. After I got off the phone with you I went for a walk and wished we were walking together. The snow is melting and creating sparkling rivers that run down every street.

What do i do to keep the sacred in my life? Geez, I don't know...that's a good that would do me some good to know how to answer too. When we get together next time lets sit down with our notebooks and make a list together. We can include that as part of our "date." :)

4:16 PM, March 09, 2007  
Blogger Amber said...

Hmmm...Yes. I think this is something most SAHM's might struggle with, at one time or another. I did, and still do sometimes. Often. But I am good at asking for (demanding?) what I need. It comes from a childhood of not getting what I needed, and years of painful therapy that just turned me into a person who can not stand to be silent about getting my needs met. And I know that I meet other's needs always, so...

At the same time, your MIL is a little bit right, in that little ones needs come first...So I have had to put away my own wants for a bit. But, when I need time for me, I tell the hubs, and I take it. Period. I think he is extra good about this, though, from what I hear from other women.

At first I felt like because I wasn't bringing in money, and he was, that I had to hold up my end all alone. Not ask him to kick in. But you know what? It came down to the fact that we don't GET breaks from our work, when we are home. He might be working all day, but he is also talking to adults, getting minutes alone to think, getting to take a piss without some little person at his feet 9as far as I It is a team we are making up here. And we need to spot one another, and support one another. That's just the way it has to be.

You need to-- you MUST!-- find a way to ask for what you need. If not, you shouldn't feel bad about not getting it. People--MEN, pft!-- need to have it spelled out.


6:40 PM, March 09, 2007  
Blogger Leah said...

what a powerful post. thank you for writing it and sharing it.

i struggle with this as well and i'm not even a mother. i feel myself butting up against the idea of feminity that my mom held up and what my own role is in my home. it's very odd.

you are so smart.

i think one of the things that helps me feel important to myself is having something (like a class in something i love) that is just mine and taking very good care of myself (exercises mainly) and sometimes being vulnerable and asking for what i need.

10:16 PM, March 09, 2007  
Blogger kate said...

I have been there, lady. Isn't it amazing that even after the second (third?) wave of feminism, we (and other people) still have the same expectations for women/mothers?

Get outside and take a walk by yourself (right now). Sometimes sunshine and 50 degree weather is almost enough to put things in perspective for me.

2:43 PM, March 10, 2007  
Blogger Colorsonmymind said...

Oh my freakin god-thank you-I am not alone:)

3:52 PM, March 10, 2007  
Blogger Paula said...

From today you have another suscriber to your blog. :)

I have literally laughed out loud at today´s label. Your navel and all the rest of you MATTER. :)

4:51 PM, March 10, 2007  
Blogger Alexandra S said...

I wish I could remember the details of this article I was once read but someone had done a study of SAHM's and found that if you added up all the hours you really work all day & night long between cooking and feeding and cleaning and watching to make sure a child doesn't hurt themselves and diapers and bathing and dishes and clearing tables and grocery shopping and laundry, etc, etc it adds up to far more hours than a FT job. It isn't a wonder that you feel so drained and you deserve compensation whether it be in time or whatever you need and want. I think you have more to give others when you take care of yourself first ultimately. Whatever it is that replenishes you and bring you alive is what must be infused slowly again back into your days. You owe it to yourself. You're an extraordinary person who deserves so much and I know you will figure this all out and do what you need to do to restore that inner equilibrium/sanity/peace. In the meantime, I'm sending you another hug and love. p.s. :Laini said you sent us something and I get to retrieve it tomorrow- I can't wait- Thank you!!!

6:03 PM, March 10, 2007  
Blogger Amber said...

I popped in because you left a nice note on my own blog, and this was the first entry I read. Ironic, because I was just complaining (whining, really) to my husband that getting three two-hour sleep increments spaced throughout the day does NOT equal getting six straight hours of sleep. I ended up yelling at him because he could not get the point - I am exhausted. (And he is the nicest, most helpful man.) Now I feel bad. I have to make sure he's happy and fulfilled so he doesn't do poorly at work and get fired. Right? *sigh*

After I yelled at him, I went upstairs and picked up my daughter and nursed her. She was beautiful. She was half-asleep and must have been dreaming of climbing breastmilk waterfalls or something. It's amazing that no matter how tired I am, or how much I whine, she can break the spell I'm under.

To answer your question, though - what makes me feel good/happy/at peace? It's actually when I'm in the middle of writing a scene and I'm tapping into the ether of creativity. I feel so alive then.

12:37 AM, March 11, 2007  
Blogger Caroline said...

Very powerfully written!

You write from the heart and you are clearly finding your way through the morass - even if you don't feel that is so.

I wish you all the luck you need to help you in your endeavours!

6:20 AM, March 13, 2007  

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