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?
Labels: navel gazing