I’m not a single mother. I’m not waiting in line for food stamps or living in a housing project like my mom did at times, which I was oblivious to back then. She always made sure we had what we needed and then some. Her love for us was never in question and it went far in the way of trying to mask what were no doubt a series of heavy burdens, stress, and the everyday strive to overcome generational cycles of violence, poverty, and mental illness.
I’ve learned that there are many families who face this sort of challenging adversity everyday — it’s human nature and we should all be talking about these realities more than we do without such awkward silences or demands to be silent. It’s not about judgment or airing dirty laundry. It’s about being happy — even when. It’s about being proud — even when. It’s about not being embarrassed or ashamed or feeling like an outcast or a freak — even when. There is no timeline when such hugely defining life experiences such as to what I speak to should be quieted. If a person who experiences sadness or trauma in life wants to talk, they should talk. Loud and proud. Such storytelling may be intricately weaved into the make-up of their survival and healing. It may be they key to their ability to live the good life.
I speak to my own personal history because it’s an important precursor to understanding how each of our own pasts (the good, the bad, and the ugly) defines how we (most) women dream about motherhood. (Those of us who do.) All of my life I dreamed about becoming a mother. I imagined how grand it would be, how life affirming and blissful and rewarding, how it would provide me with everything I never had. Motherhood was to be my opportunity to show myself, to prove to myself that I could change the status quo. I wanted to defy the stereotypes and truths of my checkered past and BE HAPPY. I imagined being a soccer mom with a home and a loving husband. I imagined baking cookies, telling bedtime stories, singing songs, frolicking at the beach, going on camping trips, and taking in tea parties.
And you know what? For the most part I have that. Yet even on my best days — or their best days — that groove along without too many toddler tears and demands, that melt into the evening stamping a sweet memory into my brain (reminding me that all of the sacrifice is worth it), even on those days — motherhood has not measured up to my fantasies.
I had no idea.
I had not an inkling that as hard as I’ve worked to keep my head above water and swim in the opposite direction of my own childhood, that I would end up as privileged as I now stand. I’m reminded to check in with that history before I examine how hard I think my life is right now. I am reminded that as exhausted as I may be, worn down and tired of the laundry, the meal-prep, the swimming, and soccer lessons, the constant physical demands, the lack of sleep … that I asked for all of this. I wanted it. I dreamed it.
Recently, a dense fog of denial has lifted its hold from my voice. I’m talking about PPD (Postpartum Depression). Did I have it? Do I have it? I’m not exactly sure. I’ve been lucky in that with my line of work as a parenting blogger, I’ve learned more than perhaps the average person does about PPD. I know people and have friends who have suffered through it. And I denied all similarities and pushed those feelings way, way down. What ended up happening was something close to survival that I’m no stranger to. My love for my children has always been fierce, and laughter is something that has always gotten me through. In fact I laugh at things which I probably shouldn’t.
While I’m not exactly sure just what I’ve been going through the 4+ years or so since I became a mother, I do know that more mothers experience this intense arousal of feelings and hormones gone wild. My brain often feels like it’s at a rave populated with LSD-laden little people, and I’ve likened my own periods of rage and discontent to that of a monster. That’s some truth right there. A truth that I think more mothers can relate to and identify with than they may care to admit.
We’re all supposed to be talking about the BLISS of motherhood and lifting each other up by sharing our stories of raw beauty and shining maternal instinct and mad home-making, multi-tasking skills. Admittedly, I myself am a fan of nesting and growing things and making things and dunking my head into the kitchen, never to come out again. If those sorts of things weren’t a form of release for me and at times escapism and a chance to be creative still — then I wouldn’t do them.
It’s just that there are also days when one could wade (and most definitely trip) over the debris strewn across our home’s floors and I look around and can give not one single f*ck.
There are days when I open the fridge and stare blankly in, with no desire to nurture my family. Heck, there are days when I don’t even want to get out of bed, and I don’t.
I pull the covers up a little bit more.
It’s under those covers that I give myself a shake and a pep talk and ask myself just what in the hell my problem is. Sometimes I just go back to sleep. Lately, instead of raking myself over the coals for being such a spoiled, privileged brat, I’ve allowed myself to acknowledge the science of motherhood. The part that not many are talking about that perhaps might help us all feel a little bit better about ourselves in the sharing of our dark bits. The science that I speak about starts during that life-altering moment wherein a seed is first planted in the womb — the moment that our hormones wax and wane and go berserk with the incredible task of creating life. And birthing it. Our hormones? We don’t give them nearly enough credence for just how much of a tsunami they embark upon as we journey into motherhood, year after year, and affect us emotionally, mentally, and physically.
According to the Harvard Gazzette, “some women’s vulnerability to anxiety and mood disorders may be explained by their estrogen levels, according to new research by Harvard and Emory University neuroscientists presented in this month’s issue of Biological Psychiatry.” It’s not just pregnancy’s hormonal flood that we are affected by. It’s nearly every moment thereafter that I wish we were talking about more too. I’ve come to the realization that in birthing my own children I’ve had to re-birth myself in many ways too. I’ve had to completely re-define what it is to be a woman, a lover, a friend, a professional — all of the parts of a woman we’ve historically been expected to give up in order to be good mothers.
We reinvent ourselves and we’re supposed to do it all with a smile and bubbling grace.
So we question and judge ourselves. We question and judge other mothers. We spend so much time examining what we should and shouldn’t be doing instead of LIVING, and I want to get back to the living. I’m all for some healthy self-analyzation and introspect. (Clearly.) I just want to hear more stories of the darkness and light of motherhood. That’s real. That’s something tangible that I can hold onto, identify with, and feel less monster-like in. I would even go so far as to say that all of this online dialogue sharing in the bliss of motherhood can be damaging to the rest of us who ride many a wave, and become engulfed under more than a few. We champion in spite of ourselves. In spite of (some of our) traumatic experiences. I want more of that, in fact — I’m thirsty for it.
I now dream of a day where we talk about the rage, stress, anxiety, and depression during motherhood like they were these normal, expected experiences and behaviors. Because I really believe they are. Just as the kisses, love, gentle guidance, and tender loving care that we administer daily upon our children are too. Behavior research shows that there is a difference between between major chronic (clinical) depression or PPD and situational depression. So to be clear, I’m not trying to say that all mothers experience PPD. But I’m pretty sure there are more of us who experience situational depression during motherhood than we are discussing on the street, in our homes, or online.
So please. If you are a mom who from time to time rages silently on the inside, who has days where you feel sad, fed-up and day-dream of your days before motherhood … know you’re more than normal. You’re not even a part of a growing percent. We’ve always been here, keeping quiet for fear of being branded “bad mothers.” I think you are lovely. I think you are amazing and wonderful. Your kids do too. Let go of the fantasy of motherhood and live the dream instead. The key to happiness, perhaps, is to accept the notion of human fragility.
More Babbles From Selena…
- New Survey Shows That 40percent of Mothers Claim Alcohol Helps Them Parent
- Toy Stories: Children From Around The World Pose With Their Favourite Toys
- 5 Ways My Parenting Has Changed Over The Years
- The Affliction of Raising a Gifted Child