Yesterday I threw together a freezer-friendly meal and hauled Molly and Emma off to visit a friend with a new baby. I'd exquisitely planned this morning, by the way: Jack would be in preschool, I'd have fifteen minutes to stop at the post office and mail some Christmas presents, I'd get to my friend's house at exactly the right time, we'd leave after an appropriate hour to run the rest of our errands. "I am KILLING the three kids lifestyle," I may have said at one point (or four).
My friend was having a hard time. This is her first baby and like so many unfortunate women, her first baby cries for hours at a time. So many hours my friend even took the baby to the pediatrician. "Nothing wrong!" they told her. "You've just got a crier!" And of course the baby calmed down as soon as the doctor picked her up.
She continued to quote the people who've been involved in her baby's first month of life: the night nurse at the hospital where she gave birth, relatives, a nurse at the pediatrician's office, people from work. So many people who've said innocuous things, unless you are a First Time Mom, in which case those "harmless" comments destroy your will, your hope, your self-confidence. I was so angry on her behalf, ready to do some serious shin kicking.
Four years and three kids later, I know a lot of those moments and comments aren't immediate Bawling Triggers. Sometimes I even say them myself, WHICH IS AWFUL, I KNOW. But there are still things that get to me and set me off. Things like:
1. I still don't like breastfeeding. In my town this is akin to saying your children live on a diet of sugar packets and McDonald's french fries, that you let them ride in the front seat while eating the aforementioned fries, and sometimes you let them sprinkle the sugar packets on a bowl of full-fat ice cream. For the third baby in a row, breastfeeding is easy(ish), free, convenenient, and Not A Bonding Experience. At this point I've decided the problem is me, but I'm not sure what to do about it and I'm not even all that willing to try. For me, breastfeeding - even breastfeeding EMMA, who takes, like, ten minutes to eat - is a Forced Sitting Down And Doing Nothing WHICH I HATE. Amongst other things, but that's the big one. The other day I was so frustrated about Being The Only One Who Has To Stop What She's Doing To Feed The Baby, I mixed a quick bottle of formula and let Molly feed the baby while EJ sat in her bouncy seat. SUE ME, INTERNET.
2. I'm a stay at home mom. I am SO HAPPY to be a stay at home mom - I cannot emphasize it enough! But as someone who tends to derive all her value from what she DOES, it is not always easy knowing that ANYONE can and does do this job. The lack of a paycheck, the lack of feedback, the lack of gold stars - these things are STILL really hard for me, and when a working mom says, "Oh, I'd just go crazy if I stayed at home all day," I feel LAME-O. Is that fair? Of course not! Not everything is about ME! And yet. It is a Trigger.
3. Cleaning and cooking. I still can't figure out how to do these things, Internet. I suspect the problem has to do with lack of proper motivation or messed up priorities, but the fact remains: the bathrooms are dirty and we're having cereal for dinner. Thankfully this seems to be a common issue for moms no matter what age their kids, but enough of my friends are Cleaning Fanatics and Excellent Cooks that I still have to feel bad about it. THANKS A LOT, MY FRIENDS.
I expect my triggers will change as Life In Parenting Goes On (well, probably not the cleaning and cooking thing). And sometimes a new one will burst in unexpectedly, torment me for a bit, then disappear. But I did leave my friend's house feeling like I had weathered a lot of the New Mom terror and guilt and came out of it more or less unscathed. It was even a comforting thing to acknowledge, that I was no longer in that particular stage. I mean, I've KNOWN that, but here was proof of a sort. I felt so bad for my friend, but I did not feel bad for me. This is called Progress! Or maybe just Moving On. (The same thing?)
Right now I'm trying to explain to myself that parenting is not a thing I'm ever going to succeed at. It's not something I will get good at simply because I've been doing it a while. Maybe if I were parenting a kid who never grew, got older, changed his mind about having macaroni and cheese for dinner. Sometimes this is good (I won't be breastfeeding forever!) But other times this is exhausting. I mean, have you heard of TEENAGERS? I think the one thing that IS true is that as soon as I feel confident about parenting a precocious four-year-old, a clingy three-year-old, and a baby who thinks she gets to snack all day long, that's the day all my kids switch personalities and start complaining that I'm not giving them enough broccoli for dinner and I'll be all, "Hey! What do I do with YOU!"
Quoth Jack, "Mommy, that's a lot of words you just writed." Translated for the internet, that means "Go fetch me my breakfast, woman."
What are the things that set YOU off?