My friend Ginni shared this article with me this morning. Take a moment to read it (yes, I’m asking you to read TWO blog posts–it’s well worth it though!).
“The difficulty of motherhood, it turns out, lies not in the logistics—manageable, or at least endurable, are the sleepless nights, breast infections, teething tantrums, untreatable infant congestion, naptime blitzkrieg—neither in feminist posturing which, in the heat of maternity, strikes me as impersonal and irrelevant. No, it is Motherlove that, as my husband says, pummels me. Nothing I read or heard prepared me for what it feels like to live with love at this high a decibel. Nobody explained what it would do to me.
“Motherlove is not a series of momentary bursts of joy and it is not an abstraction. It is constant and material. It is obsession. I want my son. I want him all the time. I want to be physically with him, preferably holding, touching and/or kissing him…Ours is, by far, the most intimate relationship I have ever had. To call it codependent would be an obscene understatement.”
The experience of this author is similar to the one I undergo every day.
Recently, my husband and I have had very little couple time because of weddings, errands, and in-laws. Our relationship has felt some strain because we haven’t had time to connect with one another. In hopes of meeting needs, we deemed this past Saturday Date Day. We planned wine tasting and a meal out. However, my husband asked that we make Date Day “us” time, meaning that we leave our baby with my parents for the afternoon. I do not believe that Jesse was wrong to ask for time away from the baby; in fact, I think that he requested it for MY sake, to give me a free moment to be the center of his world again. Because intellectually I knew “us” time is important for relationships, I agreed, but I couldn’t handle actually thinking about leaving my baby behind. Saturday morning, as I rushed around to collect all of Bug’s necessary gear, Jesse grabbed me by the shoulders and reminded me, with a sweet smile, that I needed to breathe. He could tell that I was getting squirrelly and stressed, which is the perfect combination to ruin our day together.
As he ushered me out the door of my folks, insisting that we were lingering too long, my heart shed some tears. Again, intellectually, I knew Bug would be okay and that Jesse and I would have fun, but it was tough to drive away from him.
Despite a great afternoon of reconnecting and wine, I had a difficult time seeing other couples at the vineyards with their sweet ones in tow. One father toted around a sleeping toddler and the sight pulled those tears to my eyes. “See! Bug could’ve come with us!” I insisted, probably too frequently. My sweet husband agreed, conceding that he missed our baby too.
I never thought I’d be a stay-at-home mother. I go stir crazy some days and get frustrated with my child’s neediness, but I absolutely need him. I want him around me all the time.
“The trouble is Motherlove knows no moderation and there is no rehabilitation. Instead it requires deliberate, hard-won restraint. Because no person, certainly no infant, should be forced to bear the burden of obliterative love. My son didn’t create this situation, I did. He is a victim, not an accomplice. He deserves better. He deserves the fuller, happier version of his mother…
“And so I am tasked: to reclaim focus and brainpower and, somehow, forge the will to put them to work. To choose creative, intellectual engagement over my son. To opt out of a morning of play and fuss and wonky crawling…”
Up to this point, I’ve struggled on this journey to redefine myself as a mother. As much as I LOVE being a mommy, I’m starting to recognize that I have lost some of myself. Being reunited with some of my study abroad instructors and getting emails from college classmates sharing of their experiences abroad doing good works has made my heart ache. Yet, leaving my child for even an afternoon is nearly inconceivable, let alone for work or travel. I’m overwhelmed and afraid of not always being with him, but also by the thought of never leaving him is frightening to my identity. At this moment, I’m having trouble balancing my love for him and loving myself. In this moment of pure honesty, I also recognize that I may be hiding behind Motherlove. I’m afraid to venture back into the world, because I don’t know myself apart from my child. Whenever I consider taking some continuing education courses, I get the wind knocked out of me because taking a class would require me leaving my child…and what if that class isn’t worth it? if it doesn’t progress my future career? then leaving my child would be for naught! (but what if I never do anything bigger than being a mother?–but maybe that’s enough? what if the hard work I put into getting college degrees is useless?)
Friends and family, I’m asking you to hold me accountable. And for your support. To help me continue to be the best mother possible…which requires that I take care of myself. I know caring for myself is necessary for a happy child, but it typically feels overwhelmingly selfish, which makes the ultimate goal difficult to pursue.