I am a horrible mother, a wonderful mother. I am a screaming nightmare, a doting saint. I hate mothering, I love being a mother, and trust me, they are very different; the first a verb, the second a state of being.
This morning my boys brought me breakfast in bed and I ate it while the youngest played me a song on the fart piano. That’s being a mother: enjoying the love and funny moments they give.
But the last few days I’ve been frantically googling emetophobia, which is the fear of vomiting, as one child is now so terrified of it he refuses to eat, and I’m terrified of what this means for him, for his future, and how I should react, if I’ll make everything worse by ignoring it or worse by paying too much attention to it. And the older child is obsessed with YouTube and Playstation and Nintendo and I have no idea if it’s normal or if he’s just weird, let alone how much screen time is really okay without rotting his brain.
I know. I sound like I’m going bonkers. It’s almost normal to me now, this dichotomous state of worry/love I exist in.
Motherhood changes everything: our body, our emotions, the hierarchical order of our future selves. The internal contract by which we have always considered ourselves and our indivisible fails. It is hard 99% of the time.
It is constant questioning and worrying if we’re doing things right, or if we’re a complete and utter failure. My oldest son is that kid who questions everything. Why do I have to go to bed early tonight? Why do I have to eat my peas? Why can’t I play the Nintendo DS? I’m already questioning whether I’ve made the right rule, so his questions only make my doubt worse.
At times being a mother is lonely – like, crushingly lonely. Because we worry it’s just us, we’re the only ones with this problem, and because if we admit we’re having a hard time with something it’s like admitting we suck at mothering. So we isolate, we hide at the edge of the school yard and duck out early from coffee mornings just so the words boiling under the surface don’t vomit out of us: Am I a good enough mother?
I don’t know about you, but half the time I feel like I’m barely qualified to be a grown up, let alone raise children. Yes, I have a Master’s degree, I built a successful copywriting company, I wrote a book and bought a house, but sometimes I still feel like that shy little girl and can barely believe I did these things, let alone be allowed to have children.
How can mothering be so full of seemingly mundane tasks, yet somehow be so, so hard? Consciously I know it’s the lack of physical and mental headspace, the constant exhaustion, the self-doubt, the seriously steep learning curve that somehow, impossibly, only goes uphill both ways, much like our parents walked to school back in their day. I look at my boys and that strange dichotomous state tugs at me again: a bloom of love and awe and gratitude chipping away at the doubt.
This morning, as I listened to my littlest bash out “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” on the fart piano and my oldest gave me a drawing of me wearing a crown, I felt my heart swell in my chest, and I realized mothering is hard because I care. And that makes me a great mother, even if I’m a horrible one.
The dichotomy of motherhood – the state between loving your child and maybe not liking them all the time – is fine. In fact, it’s more than fine. It means you care. And you’re not alone. Lots of other mothers feel it, too.
So I’ll just sit here and enjoy my 1% of the time when it isn’t hard, because that recharges me for the other 99%. And I’ll keep on caring. Because it’s the best I have to give these little people I love so much.