There are days when I dislike myself entirely. As a woman, and particularly as a parent. These are the days of endless aggravation, and constant exasperation. Days when there are no breaks to be had, when it never ends, and nothing is good enough. Days when it feels like I’m inching closer and closer to the edge. What I really feel like doing is jump, rather than wait for the inevitable fall. At least down there I might find some peace.
How is it that while they’re pushing me to my absolute limits I can simultaneously look at them with that primal, maternal instinct to protect them from harm, yet feel that deep desire to throttle their little throats? How is it that I can yell at them, even swear at them (yes, vile mommy that I am) and yet know cognitively that they are watching and learning and modelling my crappy behaviour? How is it that in the heat of such a moment, I cannot make myself stop?
Why do I reprimand them for slamming a door or screaming at a sibling when I do the exact same thing at times?
I sit with an inconsolable toddler and sing soothing songs at a time when the last thing I feel like doing is sing. Or hold a toddler for that matter. How come I don’t feel sheer and utter bliss? My eyes are scanning the area around me. The toddler is squirming for more songs. I’d rather do the dishes. The computer is beckoning me. I feel like going to the bookstore with a tall latte in my hand, reading up on the latest gossip. Or flipping through a Jamie Oliver cookbook. But the baby wants to be cuddled. Again. Instead of enjoying the moment, I am resigned to endure it.
One day this week I completely forgot to take a shower. I dressed to head out to buy basics first thing in the morning thinking that I’d be able to shower when I get back. Or during nap-time. It was not to be. Basic personal hygiene was compromised due to endless demands that required my constant assistance. I didn’t even remember the shower until I sank into bed at night, with both kids in it, craving to pick up my latest mystery, but reading instead something about backhoes and Max and Ruby. Why do my legs itch? How come my hair feels frizzy? I did have a shower today, didn’t I?
How is it that I can tend to them for 14 hours in a row while I compromise my own basic personal needs to keep myself upright, nourished and void of pee?
And why can’t they ever stop talking? Repeating their endless questions even after I acknowledge, even agree to them?
These are the days I dislike myself. Days when I look in the mirror and see a ragged, frumpy, oldish, unkempt woman with nothing but toddler snot on her clothes and a deep frown on her face. A woman I don’t recognize, and don’t like. Who would want to be my friend? Not me, that’s who.
But even these rough days end at some point. We instinctively know the kids will bring us joy and bliss again, even if it isn’t today (or tomorrow). We know that today, and tomorrow, and for the rest of their little miserable cranky lives, we must make the effort to dig out of the parenting trenches. It’s for their sake that we, unintentionally, forgo our own needs.
And they accept us, frumpy, miserable, unkempt and all.
Because toddlers and preschoolers depend on us, and love us unconditionally.
The best part is, they will not judge us. Not yet, anyway.