Army of Mom

So this is how liberty dies ... with thunderous applause.

3.30.2006

A mother's happiness

A friend of mine sent this to me the other day. I can identify. I thought I'd share it with others. I emailed the author of it, she lives about 35 miles from me, ironically enough. She said she wrote this about two or three years ago.

Happiness
by Rachel Skei Donihoo

I often daydream about being approached by a documentary filmmaker interested in doing a day-in-the-life film about my family. It's not that I think my life would make great material, it's just that I'd give anything to see it from an audience's perspective.
I'd like to see my son's face from a different angle as I pull his juice-soaked T-shirt over his head and usher him into the bathroom for a clean-up. I'd like to watch myself argue with my daughter over which shoes she'll wear for her class picture, and I'd like to see her smile when I pick her up from school. I'd like to watch myself nuzzle my children's necks, wash their sippee cups, coax them into sharing their toys, and yell when they won't.
Motherhood is dizzying. Forced into the thankless fray, I find it impossible to see the experience for what it really is. The film would help me see my life and, if set to pretty music, I think it would remind me that happiness is mine for the taking.
A 35-year-old childless friend of mine flew in to visit for the weekend not long ago. Clearly overwhelmed by the Kidville that has become my home, she confided that she and her husband were seeing a therapist to help them decide whether or not they should have children. The psychologist, my friend said, was "helping them see the benefits of parenthood. You know, weigh the pros and cons." She was proud that she was doing her homework -- confident that she would one day enter, or refuse, the job of motherhood well-informed and well-prepared. She was serious. I wanted to laugh out loud.
We are a bitter bunch, we mothers. No matter how fiercely, how completely, we love our children, we are often rather unbecomingly pissed off. It's not that we don't feel lucky, or proud or even completely enraptured by their little lives, it's just that our devotion comes at such an unspeakable price.
The swirl of hours and weeks and years that come after the birth of a child is so powerful, so transforming that to believe you could ever be prepared for it is, well, grounds for therapy. The exhaustion, the tedium, the frustration, the tenderness. It covers you like a landslide of warm sand, which you spend the rest of your life alternately sinking in to and digging out of. It's a life that is both lush and arid, but it's never the same again.
Before my daughter was born, I used to imagine what I'd look like, act like, be like as a mother. I fantasized about myself in certain situations: birthday parties, parent-teacher meetings, Christmas pageants. I was organized, well-dressed, cheerful, accessorized. It wasn't that I pictured someone other than myself. It was me. It's just that it was the was me, the former me. Not the now me with the limp ponytail and here-wipe-your-nose-on-my sleeve clothes. That's not the kind of woman I pictured. I didn't know that woman. I still don't.
And so when my visiting friend is put out that I can't shuttle her to Starbucks until 11:00 a.m. for her daily Caramel Macchiato with skim milk, I'm sad. Sad because her life is all about her, and my life is no longer about me.
Before my children were born, I spent inordinate amounts of time worrying about my looks, my ex-boyfriends, and how I would spend the jackpot if I won the lottery. These days, I worry about religion and violence and bioterrorism and permanently running out of Band-Aids. I believe all this probably makes me a better person. It does not, however, make me a happier one.
Happiness, as central to my life as it once was and as many years as I spent chasing it now seems secondary to other things. Other things like the happiness of my children, for one; and survival, for another. These days, selfish desires are simply beside the point. To a toddler, what Mommy wants to do today is a don't-care case.
An afternoon at Chucky Cheese's (and I have spent many) does not make me happy. Neither does prying a $20 toy out of a hysterical toddler's hand in Wal-Mart (and I have done it, many times), or buying it just to keep the peace (which I've done many more). A lazy Sunday lying in bed reading, popping M&M's, and watching TV alone would make me happy (but it simply doesn't happen anymore).
That's not to say that I don't find soaring, profound joy in the love of my children. I do. And I also find great pleasure in watching them find happiness. I guess therein lies the problem -- I've become a bit of a voyeur, and less of a player.
There was a frantic time when my son was an infant that I obsessed about missed opportunities, real and imagined, and dreamed desperate dreams about running endless laps while the starting gun fired again and again. I felt trapped, off-kilter and terribly alone. When I shared my desolate emotions with my husband, a man who loves me and wants me to be happy, he responded with silence. He couldn't even pretend to understand. This startling sacrifice truly is woman's work.
I have much I'd like to tell my coffee-drinking friend, but I'll spare her. She couldn't possibly grasp the incomprehensible cost of motherhood. Nor could she fathom how exquisite its rewards.
If I close my eyes, I can envision the documentary. Slow motion children, hair blowing, chasing bubbles across the yard. Smiling daddy, lifting smiling children over his head. Tired mommy, kneeling down to kiss bloody knees. Happy family, too busy to notice the camera.

___Rachel Skei Donihoo is a part-time writer and full-time mother.


Man, the PMS is kicked in full gear now. I re-read the piece and fell apart crying. I feel so bitter sometimes and I feel so guilty for resenting my life. I love my life, I really do, there are just those moment when I want someone to take care of me. I want someone to wipe my tears when I hurt. I want someone to tuck me into bed and say prayers with me and tell me how much they love me. I want to just go play and do selfish things without jumping through 15 hoops to make sure everyone else is taken care of. I just want someone to take care of me. I am not sure that I ever had that. Yeah, when I had my cancer as a 6-year-old, people had to take care of me. But, as I grew up, I took care of everyone else around me. I still do. I just want to be taken care of.

2 Comments:

  • At 3:44 PM, March 30, 2006, Anonymous Tinkerbobbi said…

    Thank you for posting that AoM. That was such a beautiful and true piece. I am so glad so many mothers are finally being truthful, as I feel exactly that way most all the time. I guess we all feel pressured to be the smiling perfect moms that willingly every day want to do nothing but what everyone else wants us to do so we shove our frustrations all down till we explode one day. I understand wanting to be taken care of. It shouldn't be mothers day but Mother's week :)

     
  • At 7:41 PM, March 30, 2006, Blogger MrsDoF said…

    You'll get through it and then look back with more pleasure than regret.
    My 'baby' will be 21 years old on Friday.
    Sitting in the empty nest brings a view like nothing I have ever experienced before.
    So that's why I went back to taking classes at the community college. There are many more years ahead and I have to get ready for them.

     

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