Thursday, July 22, 2010

unhappy moms

The New York Magazine article about Why Parents Hate Parenting that I've talked about earlier, quotes this online discussion between moms:

(Photo: Jessica Todd Harper, from the New York Magazine article)

"MOMS: Ever feel alone in how you perceive this role? I swear I feel like I’m surrounded by women who were once smart & interesting but have become zombies who only talk about soccer and coupons.
This was an opening gambit on UrbanBaby this past April. It could have devolved into a sanctimommy pile-on. It didn’t.

I totally feel this way.

I am a f/t wohm—Work Outside the Home Mom—have a career, and I don’t feel smart or interesting anymore! I don’t talk about soccer or coupons, but just feel too tired to talk about anything that interesting.

I freely admit that I have gained “more” than I have lost by becoming a parent, but I still miss aspects of my old life."

I'm beginning to feel the full effects of mommy mush brain. Maybe it's because I'm a full time mom again this summer, trying to make it about easygoing times and fun, and not just time efficiency, work and tasks. I suspect it also has something to do with the fact that she's been resisting naps since spring a year ago and now will only nap occasionally. Meaning that by dinner time, I feel fried most days. More and more, during the hours between 3 and 5 p.m., I feel "ill," to use the words of a mama friend of mine in town.

In any case, I don't feel smart or interesting anymore, and I find myself avoiding situations where my shot brain would be put on the spot.

Yet, for some confounding reason, I also still have the urge to accomplish something aside from the never-ending entertaining, playing with, nursing and caring for my toddling daughter. It can sometimes be to put a hasty blog post together on the kitchen counter while she plays around with her baby or teddy bear, books and puzzles; or at least surf the internet for something real quick. It cannot involve phone calls, but sometimes a quick text message. Some home and house stuff can be done, like laundry (more frequently now) and vacuuming (less often than before, but more needed -- but it just gets so messy right away anyway, right?). Wholesome homemade cooking, which also involves growing one's own garden (and weeding and keeping it up) and mindful shopping, is a significant task in its own right that is becoming increasingly important to me the more my daughter gets interested in solid foods, and the more I crave s o m e t h i n g to do that interests me too.

With no job income, we're clearly on a low budget, so shopping price savvy becomes part of the game. I never, I swear, was into coupons before. I remember how in Seattle, when a German grad school friend of mine went shopping with all his coupons, and I found it frankly weird. Now I think even without being on a budget, I'd be into coupons. Because savvy shopping is one of the tasks I'm in complete charge of these days, which I can plan and execute even with a toddler in tow, especially when she's cruising down the isles at Cub in her "cart  car," or chasing around at the Co-op with her own little grocery cart, or playing in the play area the Co-op has, making hamburgers, reading books, or dancing to the music with the Co-op's teddy bear in her arm.

So shopping can be a good a thing, for me and my family. However, yesterday I got so ticked off when I realized looking over the receipt after unpacking the groceries (this checking the receipt is another new thing I never committed myself to doing before) that I did not get my coupon's worth on the grapes I'd purchased, and then later in the day I had a meltdown when considering I had let something so minor get to me. What on earth am I reduced to?

It's sad. Really. For me, and it must kind of be for those around me who're used to a more competent, interesting me too.

Another mama friend of mine in town said that with a toddler, everything you get done aside from parenting is bonus. What a great attitude! It escapes me though, as much as I'd love to feel like that. I have too much ambition or something, despite all my yogi attempts to be mindfully living in the present moment, not to strive, but to accept. I have such an urge to be of some purpose, to feel like I've done something, that I've exerted myself. And yes, parenting is hard work. But on days that I do an exceptionally good job parenting, doing lots of exploring and social activities that are somewhat stimulating for her and me, or when I garden with her mindfully and pedagogically, not just scolding her when she pulls and rips plants and flowers apart, but find the patience to help her weed and harvest with me and we do it all together (though I'm really happy when she's happy just playing around me outside, on her trike or in her sandbox or pushing her baby doll around in her little stroller), or when I can cook and she pretends she's cooking with me, and/or observes and samples my cooking; on those days I do feel like something of value has been achieved.

Today was a rainy day, and the cold she's had since last weekend got worse overnight, so we'd had a rough night before us. But then we still had a friend of hers over this morning while her mom got to go to yoga and she and I got to visit a little when she came back to pick up her toddling daughter before picking up her 9-year old son from camp. We spent time together watching and singing along to the classic Dick Van Dyke film Chitty Chitty Bang Bang: The Magical Car with a script by Roald Dahl, and got pasta salad made for my friend I just referred to, who now on top of having a 2-year old around, also has a baby of 2 weeks. We had more pasta pesto for dinner with the pesto I made from fresh basil harvested from our garden yesterday with mixed greens and arugula, also from the garden, and I feel like we had a good day.

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