On being smothered10/16/2012 at 3:17 pm | Posted in Motherhood | 41 Comments
One day last week when Marc came home from work, I snuck upstairs to grab a quick shower and steal some precious time to myself. You know, to sit on the toilet without an infant crawling into my lap or a four-year-old telling me I really need to buy some new underwear.
When I walked back downstairs EXACTLY 19 MINUTES LATER, Lily barked at me “Mommy, what took you so long?”
I almost kept walking straight out the front door.
I know I’m not the only mother in the world who longs for her freedom, and I know I made a choice to hand it over in exchange for the biggest blessings of my life. I made a choice — with my partner — to bring children into this world and raise them to be the best possible people they can be. I made a choice to embrace motherhood and all that it brings, good and bad. To have little human beings on or near me almost every hour of the day.
We are blessed with health, a home, loving families, wonderful friends and neighbors, fulfilling jobs. A happy life.
But as glorious and gratifying as motherhood can be, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t long for more. For space. For room to breathe. For time to just be me.
In those moments when Sophie is shrieking at me to move faster, to bring her something right this minute, to pick her up, I feel smothered. When she tries to cram herself between me and a hot stove at dinner time, clinging to my legs and bellowing at me, despite her dad’s best efforts to retain her attention in the playroom, I want to cry. And it’s exasperating when Lily makes yet another demand of me at the exact moment that I’m finishing doing something else for her. Will I ever be enough? Will I ever not feel suffocated?
Those moments layer on top of one another until my head and heart are begging for mercy.
And sometimes I snap.
On Sunday evening, Lily had just shoved her sister yet again, and Sophie was grabbing at every single toy Lily wanted to play with, and both of them were crying. I took a step toward them, realized I was about to yell, turned on my heel and walked out the door.
In that moment, I knew I couldn’t take another single piece of shit flying in my face. I knew my husband was right there and my girls were safe.
I just walked to the end of the street and back. And in those six minutes, I gained perspective. Nothing earth-shattering. Just listening to the bugs and the sound of my feet on the pavement and breathing fresh dusky air. I felt like the star of a bad Lifetime movie huffing down the street, but man did it help.
Was that weakness? Or self-preservation? Or just plain selfishness? I don’t know.
I walked back into the house and everyone was playing happily like Mommy hadn’t just lost her cool. Marc didn’t mention it later that night, in a nod to the beautiful unspoken code of co-parenting.
And the next day was easier. Because that’s how the universe seems to work when you’re a mom. It throws us those few glorious days that make up for the eighty bajillion bad ones.
I just wish I could figure out how to make peace with the loss of freedom that comes with motherhood. Four and a half years after the birth of my first child, I’m still grieving. And this makes me feel terribly guilty and unworthy.
But I need freedom. Or at least some semblance of it.
During the depth of my postpartum depression one of my doctors told me “you have to put the oxygen mask on yourself before you can put it on your children.” I’ll never forget that advice. Because without air to breathe, how can we help our kids? How can we be the best possible mothers for them if we can’t help ourselves?
That makes perfect sense, right? So why does it feel so horrible to want a little more oxygen?