Motherhood Blues

Even thinking about writing this post makes me feel a bit uncomfortable, like it will expose me for the fraud I am. Like perhaps the mommy police will find out who I am and beat down my door to berate me for these thoughts. But I have to say it--sometimes, I really don't enjoy being the mother of a toddler.

The baby days were idyllic, once E and I got on a schedule that made her happy. She ate every three hours and napped shortly thereafter. Most of her awake time was spent with me marveling about what an incredible baby she was. And she was one of those wonder babies that was adaptable. As long as E was fed on time, she was perfectly content to bask in our adoration and go anywhere--to a restaurant, to a crawfish boil, to JazzFest.

After her first birthday, things became a bit more interesting, as she navigated learning to walk, learning to talk, and beginning to learn that she is her own person. But since she turned two (and now three), I find myself more and more exhausted, exasperated, and frustrated as we both try to learn how to make our way through the toddler years. Now, although there's still plenty of marveling at the incredible being that is my daughter, it seems as if a lot of my time is spent wiping her bottom, picking up her toys, negotiating with her on learning to pick up after herself, putting her in time-out, saying "no," saying "hurry up," doing laundry, and trying to come up with meals she'll eat, all while also holding down a full-time job and having a husband who mostly works nights and weekends.

The best way I've been able to describe it to friends is that at least once each day, she makes me laugh out loud, followed shortly by wanting to beat my head against the wall. Why do so few people talk about this part of motherhood? Is it wrong to get bored with playing princess eight times a day? Or to feel terribly unchallenged when putting together a puzzle for the 432nd time? To get frustrated when you try to prepare a somewhat healthy meal for your child, only to have it rejected, while the ungodly orange Kraft macaroni and cheese is always devoured? To feel frustration when you have to fight the same battles over and over again? To sometimes feel relief when bedtime arrives?

I tried to do an internet search last night for other mothers who might sometimes feel this way--but apparently, I couldn't figure out the right words to google. Searches for "toddler + mother + frustration" resulted in lots of tips for how to deal with a frustrated toddler. Searches for "mother + dissatisfaction" brought up psychiatric evaluations. All of that was a little disturbing to me--is there really no one out there talking about the dissatisfying parts of motherhood? Do I really need psychiatric help because I feel frustrated with parenting some days?

I love my daughter fiercely and immensely. But sometimes, I miss my pre-parent days. I miss staying out as late as I wanted on a Saturday night and drinking too much, knowing full well that I'd have all day Sunday to recuperate, if need be. I miss those long, leisurely Sundays when K and I would order takeout and a couple of pay-per-view movies and never leave the house. I miss long, romantic dinners. I miss going to the movies. I miss sleeping past 6:00 a.m. I miss feeling like I have time for myself to read, to shop, to tackle a new recipe. I miss quietness. I miss solitude. Hell, I even miss going to the bathroom by myself.

This too shall pass, I know. When I pick up my daughter from daycare today, her face will light up and she'll run across the room as quickly as she can to hug me, and it will all be worth it. And one day, I'll look back with longing on her toddler years, just as I do on her too-short babyhood. But still, I wonder--is it okay to sometimes feel less than enthralled with parenthood? And if so, why do so few people talk about it?


Leigh C. said...

Yes, it's okay to feel this way. Yes, nobody talks about it for at least two or three reasons that I can think of:

1) These moms are too busy to dwell on it.

2) Anybody like you mom or your grandma or anybody still alive from previous generations has conveniently put this stage out of their heads and is glorying in their grandchildren or great-grandchildren, knowing full well that they DON'T HAVE TO deal with all the details anymore - YOU do. Call it yo' mama's revenge, if you will.

3) God forbid anybody should talk about how difficult motherhood actually is. If it gets around, it might actually make people think twice about procreation. Plus, the people who kvetch too much about this are indeed somewhat suspect by some segments of the parenting population out there. Not all segments, but enough to make the actual speaking out about the truth seem a little dangerous.

More women do indeed feel like you do, and the general consensus seems to be "this too shall pass". I was pretty uneasy about that, though, because I really couldn't wait for my son to quit following me to the bathroom, and, even though he is 5 1/2, something in me still can't wait until he is less attached to me. It's harder when one's spouse is not present most of the time, either, and despite the acceptance of both men and women working outside the home these days, it is still more incumbent upon women to be taking care of the kids and the home on top of that.

I feel you. In some ways, I'm still there with you. Some have suggested that having another child is some kind of solution to this, but I don't buy that. Just hang in there and know you aren't alone.

Check babble.com's blogs, too. Good stuff there, as well as Girl's Gone Child's earlier posts.

Kelly said...

Every mother that I've spoken with who is currently rearing a toddler feels this way in varying degrees. Every kid is different and every parent has their own set of limits -- but to a large degree, we are all banging our heads into the wall hourly. Collective headbanging -- that's going to be the title of the self-help parenting book that I'll never write.

Anonymous said...

You're definitely not alone in feeling that way! It gets better, I promise.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your post! I feel like I've been in this state for years and after reading your post, I realize that I have. I have two toddlers and when # 2 was born, #1 was at this state. #2 is now 2, but #1 gets jealous of the attention #2 requires and behaves like a 2 year old instead of a 4 year old. No wonder I am exhausted! The good news is when # 1 acts her age, #2 tries to act 4,too. Maybe next year we will be out of this stage, but what will the new one be?

Anne Glover said...

This is honest, open and heartfelt. I came across your blog while researching for a book I am writing on exactly the sane subject.
A journalist for 40 years and now retired I decided to write a book and chose this subject because, I, too, had the same issues when my three children were young.
I thought now is the time as I can look back in retrospect and it’s also turning out to be a bit of self therapy!
Motherhood is the hardest job in the world for people like yourself because you try so hard to make a success of it.
When my children were little, my mother said: ‘just because you have a baby, it doesn’t automatically make you a mother- you have to learn’.
Learning is constant but if I can offer you some advice, it’s that every child is different and you need to find something that works for them as an individual. It’s so important to remember that when setting and reaching a target, it must be what they can achieve and not your demands or your expectations.