I appreciated Polly’s comment on my last post. It got me thinking: Where were these feelings coming from? Why was I jealous of my own husband?
In my response I said that it wasn’t what my husband did or didn’t do, but instead his attitude that bothered me. But as the hours marched on and I thought I about it more, I realized my husband’s attitude has been changing. He isn’t so negative these days. He recognizes and validates my efforts more than ever before. I returned to that knee-jerk response because it was true for a long time, but I don’t think it is anymore.
So I dug a little deeper.
It turns out my response to Polly’s comment is not accurate at all. The real reason I envy my husband is that I feel totally and completely overwhelmed in this role. Motherhood doesn’t play to any of my strengths. I feel like everything I’m forced to do as a mother goes against who I am. It’s exhausting, and I never feel like I’m doing a good job.
I’m not particularly patient. I’m not a good listener. I’m not good at staying present. I am not good at being, really being with my children day in and day out.
I’m scatter brained and distracted. Making–and keeping–appointments is hard for me. That is probably why I spend so much time thinking about them–I’m terrified I’m missing one at any given moment. I forget about an appointment and make other plans and then have to cancel something. On Wednesday morning I woke up to a reminder from Kaiser about my pap smear Thursday, at exactly the same time I had plans to visit the Discovery Museum with new friend. (Obviously my pap smear is going to wait.)
I hate food. I hate having to plan to make food, I hate preparing food. I hate bringing food with me and remembering to feed it to my kids. I hate trying to get my kids to eat food and I hate cleaning up after them when they don’t really eat it. Basically I hate food, and I hate that now I not only have to worry about what I eat every day, but what two other humans eat too. (Especially when there is so much out there about how what we feed our kids is the pinnacle of importance in parenting and I’m constantly being berated by messages about how I should only be offering organic, free-range, locally grown, fresh fruit and veg and protein and also dairy is the devil and gluten will f*ck your kids’ fragile gut and you are seriously ruining them if you feed them proceeded shit from a store, which is exactly what I feed them for every single meal because it’s all they’ll eat.)
It’s so much pressure. And I feel like I’m shouldering it all.
I want to feel like I have a partner in all of this. I want to feel like it’s not all falling on me. I don’t want to feel like I’m failing. At the very least I want to feel like we are failing, instead of just me.
Because he doesn’t have to feel like a failure for yelling at the kids; he’s not usually with them at the hardest time of their days (and he’s not the one telling them they can’t have gummy bunnies because they screamed through the shower). He doesn’t have to feel like an asshat for showing up at the birthday party without a gift when everyone else brought one (he wouldn’t even be at the birthday party to see he’d forgotten the gift). He doesn’t have to worry about missing the appointment because he didn’t make it and won’t be bringing the kids to it anyway.
All those things, they chip away at me, they are tiny weights that eventually bow me at my very core. I wish I could share that burden with someone else, with my husband, so that it didn’t feel so oppressive.
But there’s more. The real reason I wrote that post yesterday and not months ago, is that right now things are especially intense. I’m home all day with my kids, which I’m not used to. We are all on the cusp of major family transitions with Kindergarten starting for our daughter and daycare/preschool coming up for our son. I’m seeking professional help to better meet my daughter’s needs, sitting across from someone and assimilating words like “atypical” and “concerning.” And I’m sitting there alone, trying to keep it all straight so that later I can relate it all to my partner, even though I’m not entirely sure of any of it myself. I’m deciding if we should move forward with the sensory assessment and then if we should move forward with Occupational Therapy (or just stick with PCIT). These are big decisions, associated with significant dollar amounts, not to mention my daughter’s future contentment and well being. I don’t know what the answers are, and it feels like it’s all on me to figure it out.
It’s not that my husband isn’t there to talk about these things. He is. Kind of. But he’s removed enough that it doesn’t seem to touch him like it touches me. And it’s his habit (our habit) to default to me on this stuff because I’m the one who’s read the books and been to the appointments and talked to the therapists and witnessed my daughter’s behaviors in these myriad environments.
I can’t even get into how much of myself I see in my daughter and how that can be a gift because it helps me empathize with and understand her better but the guilt of knowing I gave all this to her is its own massive burden.
When my husband is with our kids he is 100% with them. He doesn’t do anything else, he follows their leads and plays their games and immerses himself in their very being. He is way better at being with them than I could ever be. (I like to tell myself it’s because he isn’t with them as much, but I know my distractible ADD-ridden self could never just be with them the way he is.) He is so much more attuned to their subtle cues; he can tell they are getting tired or over-stimulated way before I do. He is an amazing father, and when I think of what a great team we could make it tears at my heart.
But we’re not that team. Not yet. Maybe some day we will be, but I’m not sure how we’ll get there. Right now my husband seems to overwhelmed by the enormity of our children’s needs. He’s too tired at the end of the day to talk about simple things, let alone tackle sensitive, complicated topics. He says that these years are just going to be hard, and there is nothing we can do to make them better; we just have to wait it out and reconvene on the other side. While I agree with him that these years bring with them a certain level of unavoidable stress and exhaustion, I think a shift in our perspective could make the whole thing seem a lot more manageable. So I take on more in an attempt to alleviate his burden and then the weight of it all becomes too much and I get envious and resentful and write posts like yesterday’s.
We have our weekend together without the kids soon. I want to bring all this up, but I know I’ll botch it somehow. (I so wish I owned a copy of Crucial Conversations so I could review–there are downsides to only borrowing books from the library.) I’ll still try, and I’ll still hope for the best, even if what I’m expecting is less optimistic.