Wednesday, May 2, 2012

It's Hard Out There For a Mom

Today was one of those days where things just didn't click, and I was feeling pretty down about myself and motherhood in general.  One of those days where the boys fought too much, there were too many tears, not enough toys, and I turned the television on just to pacify everyone for a bit.  I was feeling down.  And then I read a particular blog post from a well-known mommy/crafter, and it made me feel terrible.  I'm sure that was not the intent at all, but man, if it didn't sting.  And it doesn't matter what the post was or where it came from, because I'm sure we've all read something like that before, that really got under our skin and stayed with us, long after it was supposed to.

As Mother's Day approaches, I've been thinking a lot about motherhood, and what it truly means to be a mom these days.  This isn't so much about having and raising children, but about assuming the role of mother and what that looks like in 2012.  And the truth is, it's really hard.  And long.  And, dare I say it, boring.

And before anyone doubts my love for my children, let me just say that I love them with all my heart and would gladly give up my life for them in an instant.  But that does not make me perfect or lessen the tedium that comes with rearing young children.  I'm at the point now where our family is complete, and I know without a doubt that I do not want more children.  For me, one child was easy and I joyfully jumped into becoming a full-time, stay-at-home, cloth-diapering, breastfeeding mom with both feet.  But two, well, to be perfectly honest, having two children is kicking my butt more than just a little, and I think it's okay for me to admit that.

As if juggling two little boys and their separate demands isn't enough, I've also had a taste of the infamous Mommy Wars, which is not a game I like to play.  Not long ago, I attempted to join a local Mom's group, and as I filled out the questionnaire, I was asked if I had a college degree, if so in what, and from what school.  Seriously, what does this have to do with getting our children together for a playdate?  And I know someone who was warned, when she moved to a new neighborhood, to avoid her park at a specific time and day, because that's when a certain parenting group had their playtime, and they had a reputation for being, umm, difficult.

I've also sat and listened as mothers were slammed for returning to work, for hiring a sitter two days in one week, for having a second baby too close to the first, for deciding not to have a second baby, Et cetera, Et cetera, Et cetera.  What this tells me is that, first, we can't win for losing, and second, we should all just give up and stop judging one another for doing what works for us.  As cliche as it sounds, parenthood really is about doing what's best for you and your child, and nobody else gets to have an opinion, period.

In the era of Facebook, blogs, and Pinterest, it's easy to fall into the trap of oversharing, and with that comes the need to always put your best foot forward.  I know I do it, and it's so tempting to paint a perfect picture while you're the one crafting the details of your life, when, in reality, nothing is perfect.  We all know this, but sometimes it's nice to get a reminder.

Like I said, I love my boys with every fiber of my being, but sometimes, or often these days, they get on my last nerve.  It's hard to constantly put your needs behind those of others, especially when doing so involves things you don't normally like to do.  I'm the first to admit that I'm a homebody, and my idea of a perfect day involves lots of lying on the couch reading, watching movies, and taking a nap.  There's not much time for that with two active boys, and they spend much of their day outside, playing at the park, riding bikes up and down the sidewalk, running around the yard, digging in dirt, swimming in their pool, taking nature walks, and just milling around in the grass.  It doesn't come easy for me to even be outside, especially as the temperature is rising, so it takes everything I have to do this, knowing that it's best for them.  Come naptime, I am so mentally exhausted that I normally crash upon the couch while they sleep in their rooms, and their calls upon waking act as my alarm clock.

Sometimes, I'm so brain-dead by 5:00 pm that dinner consists of popcorn while the boys watch a kid-friendly show or takeout from a fast food restaurant.  To stay sane, I often employ a sitter to watch Rhys while James is at school, and this is when I do one of three things: go to the doctor, get a massage, or get my hair done.  I used to feel guilty about the massage and the hair, but they make me feel so good that, now, I don't even think twice, and schedule my massages once a month and my hair appointment every six weeks (boy, do my roots need it!).  And this summer, when James is out of school and we've got hours and hours of unstructured playtime looming before us, I'm hiring my sitter twice a week for a few hours, just to give us all a change of pace.  I'm also putting Rhys in school two days a week next fall, if he will agree to it, and I'm planning to make the most of those quiet hours.  It's what works for me, and I refuse to feel guilty for that. I realize that I'm incredibly blessed to have the financial stability to stay home with my boys, and I'm grateful for this opportunity, but I have to take care of myself, too.

There's a famous saying that is often used when a new mother gives birth, "A happy mom equals a happy baby," and I believe that little piece of wisdom most definitely applies as your children grow older.  If working, whether full or part-time, gives you a sense of worth, then go for it.  If crafting gets you excited, so you can face the day in a better mood, then that's awesome, too.  I say, find what works for you and do it.  You will be happy and so will your children, and that's what mothering is really about.

And besides, who cares what Miss Hotsy Totsy did on her blog?  You are doing what you love, for those you love, and that is all that really matters.