Yom Kippur Reflections: Motherhood and Myself
I've been feeling disappointed in myself lately. I'm naturally very hard on myself, so my current state of self-disappointment should come as no surprise to my mother, friends, readers, people I pass by on the street, and even people on airplanes looking way down at the speck of me from the clouds. Alas!
Sigh, it's not that bad. But, still, I've been hard on myself since I was an average-sized kid struggling to lose 30 pounds because my dance teacher told me to, and even earlier than that, like, since I was born and cried for 10 straight months presumably because I thought I sucked -- until that fateful day when it snowed in July and I stood on broken legs (another story) gazing out the windows in awe.
I tend to go from there to there when it comes to motherhood. I'm either exploding in frustration or gazing in awe at the two little wonders pulling each other's hair out before me. My daughter, 4, and my son, 2 -- half her age, as I like to remind her, not that she quite understands that yet. And they're getting past the stage where people take pity on me for being, say, tired or frazzled or at wit's end. My kids aren't "babies" any more. I can't go around telling people how exhausted I am anymore, and I can't complain about how challenged I feel all the time -- "because this is motherhood," they tell me, shrugging their shoulders, "and it ain't gonna get any easier."
But couldn't I just feel a little more balanced? A little more sane? A little more used to this? Because it isn't getting any easier. It's getting way harder. The kids are fighting all the time, and my little one clings to me constantly to the point where I feel like I need to put him in a baby sling so I can cook a meal. And, speaking of which, neither of them eat anything.
I wonder if it's my fault that I have such a hard time. Am I not cut out for this? When will it click? Will it ever click? Or am I just spoiled and selfish and too immature for this parenting gig? People tell me I need to be consistent with my children, but I'm the most indecisive person I know. I'll say yes to one thing and no to the very same thing the very next minute. I'm completely impulsive. Neither "reason" nor "rationality" are part of my vocabulary. I've always been this way. I've always been the artist, the creative one, the black sheep. How can I be expected to go "linear" all of a sudden? From what I can tell, though, it seems to take a really with-it, organized, patient, rational person to make this thing work.
I suppose I have to accept that being "that" kind of mother may not be possible for me. I may have to aim low, or at least at a different angle, and not expect so much from myself, not expect the bliss that I perceive goes on in other families. Maybe I have to start from scratch and carve out completely new expectations for myself and my family.
I think it's Yom Kippur that's gotten me thinking about all of this. I didn't go to synagogue today because I knew my 2-year-old would climb on my starving self and that I'd fall over and possibly knock all the chairs down like dominoes. And I didn't want to see anyone, any of the old friends from high school or sleepover camp whom I see once a year on Yom Kippur, because I wanted to be alone to reflect (which is the purpose of Yom Kippur). And this is what I reflected on. Nothing but images of my children surfaced as I lay in bed reflecting and starving, with drooling son snoring on top of me.
"I have got to stop being so anxious and worried and disappointed in myself as a mother," I reflected over and over again. Things have got to change. Because I'm doing none of us any good when I'm feeling this way.
I just need to feel better. Me. Maybe a mini vacation's in order. Not to escape the kids or my responsibilities, as heavy as they weigh on me minute by minute, but just to escape these oppressive feelings of self-disappointment and thwarted expectations -- so I can maybe think straight (but not impossibly linear) and figure out what I want and what I need, to figure out how to struggle less and enjoy life more.
They're both asleep. It's actually quiet in my house. My stomach's full after a massive breaking-of-the-fast dinner (in which my salad dressing was a hit, I'll have you know). Tomorrow we start fresh. A fresh new year. Starting with a deep breath, a rolling-back of the shoulders, warm cuddles, and breakfast together -- whether they eat it or not. Baby steps.