Wednesday, March 13, 2013

when the going gets tough

This week, there were moments when I felt my kids would have been better off in school.

"Mommy, every time you yell at me, I feel like a go-go (knock-over toy) that was tipped over and died."

"Just ignore me, do not talk to me."

Grabbing frantically to my leg, yelling: "Mommy, Mommy, Mommy!"

"Mommy, what's the agenda for today?"

And the baby, while still being quite easy, does not always get to nurse when he's ready because I might be in the middle of something with one of the other kids, like yelling at them to clean up this or brush their teeth or gosh darn figure out if they are done with lunch. Then he's yelling, too.

Last night, as I sat there nursing with a kvetchy baby who could not make up his mind whether to sleep or to eat or to take a pacifier, all the exhaustion of the past week kicked in. The thoughts crept in: maybe it would be better if the kids were in school. Maybe they need more structure than the free-for-all of unschooling that we are currently experiencing. Maybe I'm not letting them fully be, and instead transferring my stress onto them while in school they would have a professional teacher who would check his emotions and show pure empathy. Maybe they would have been treated better at school than the way they are getting treated at home.

I went to sleep like this, and in the morning voiced my concerns to my husband who last night was planning his flight to Chicago to take his medical boards and was trying to get tickets so that I would not have to spend a Shabbos alone. He said: "It's just one week. The rest of the weeks are fine." At first I protested internally, one week can do a lot of damage and, with Pesach and attendant stress coming, it is probably more than one bad week. But then I thought: would I really undo a lot of good work and good relationship by one bad week?

The kids are being just what they are: kids. At least they are expressing themselves, so I can know what their needs and concerns are and can meet them. They trust me enough to voice what they feel instead of keeping it bottled inside because Mommy would get upset. They are also testing the boundaries: will Mommy still love me if I cross this line? Will she pass the test or fail? And as I fail (major screaming and freak-out at both boys yesterday), today is a new day to start over, calmly.

I know that some can bristle at the honesty here. We are so enamored with the idea of motherhood as sainthood, that when the realities of life come through, we assume that it is the end of the world. It should not be talked about, only good things. The screaming, the losing it, the craziness are all swept under the rug. Only marvelous coping (which happened last week), not the yucky parts.

To all mothers out there having a bad day or a bad week or a bad spell: we all go through it. You are not a bad mother, just a bit frazzled at the time. Take a deep breath, and start all over again. Your kids will not hold it against you.


  1. mishlei 24:16
    כי שבע יפול צדיק וקם ורשעים יכשלו ברעה
    a tzadik falls 7 times, and gets up
    a rasha will stumble in evil.

  2. i'm still thinking about this post. i'm remembering a lot of times in my life when i had bad spells. times when it was weeks where i wasn't my best self, and i wasn't being the mother i wanted to be.

    there are thousands upon thousands of interactions i have with my kids. better ones, and worse ones.

    like you said, i kept trying again. and during my rough patches, i failed a lot. and i'm not saying i didn't make mistakes, and don't make mistakes, or don't do things that aren't great. but i look back, and a lot of times, those weeks where i was mired in life's difficulties and wasn't able to be as present and loving as i wanted, i think they ended up being shorter than i worried about and having less impact than i worried about. and things did get back to normal and get better. like i remember when i was on bedrest for 9 weeks and i cried every day and was short tempered and couldn't discipline effectively. but things did calm down and it ended up being a short time in overall life.

    i love what you wrote: you are not a bad mother, just a bit frazzled at the time. take a deep breath and start all over again.
    i will hold those words close to my heart!