Thursday, December 05, 2013

My All

Often people ask me what it's like being a mom (stay-at-home or otherwise).

I usually have about 0.56 seconds to respond before a little person starts whining or fussing so I quickly sum it up as "Exhausting!" with a sardonic smile.

But now I'm realizing that it's "exhausting" because of my own fault as much as it's because tiny people have so many incessant needs.  (That's a clunky sentence but hopefully it made sense.)  I'm realizing I'm a bit of a mommy martyr...okay, maybe more than just a bit.

It's just so hard not to give your all to your kids.  It just feels like such a natural impulse, probably cuz Nature starts you out on that path from womb day 1.

For the first 3 months of pregnancy, the little alien has invaded and is already calling all the shots.  No you may not eat, you must feel nauseous and dry heave now.  No you can't enjoy caffeine and alcohol like a normal person.  And don't even think about taking Sudafed if you have a cold.

Towards the end of pregnancy you can barely walk, barely roll over in bed, barely sit up or get up, and your internal organs are squished beyond imagination.  And that's all the easy part.

Next is labor.  Because I am a mommy martyr I tried my darndest to have a natural birth.  I can't just be a normal, reasonable mom and get a shot of that good ol' epidural.  No, I had to go and be a martyr, screaming and writhing in pain like Joan of Arc on the pyre.

And then the nursing.  A normal, reasonable mom would be fine with giving the baby a bottle after a couple days--that way mom can take a break and other people can help feed the baby every 2-3 hours, especially at night.  But nope, not martyr mom.  She has to follow the extreme advice of nursing nazis and not allow any bottle to touch her baby's lips for at least 4 weeks lest the baby experience nipple confusion and mess up the entire nursing relationship.  That's 4 weeks of sleeping in 30-45 min increments.  Yes, like what they did to detainees at Gitmo.

I don't particularly like nursing.  I find it inconvenient for many reasons--you sometimes get clogged ducts, you still can't enjoy lots of caffeine, alcohol and good cold meds, you still have to be the one waking up at night usually, you can't be away from your baby for too long, etc.  But I nursed Judah as long as possible and I'll probably nurse Noah long after his 1st birthday rolls around.  Why?  Yep, because I'm a martyr mom.  Because I read crunchy granola websites that tout the benefits of antibodies, micronutrients, pro- and prebiotics and other clinically unverified aspects of breastfeeding that supposedly continue until the child is well into toddlerhood.

And then there's the real endless crazy, the stuff that you can do indefinitely without end from age 0 to adulthood--stimulation and interaction.  When Judah was a baby, I allowed myself zero downtime when Judah was awake.  I had to stimulate my baby!  I had to read to him, label things, massage him, converse with him, interact with him, in short, develop him!  I spent hours each day 'developing' my baby.  Do you know how excruciatingly, mind-numbingly boring it is to 'talk' to a baby all day?  But of course I did it, I'm martyr mom.

How can I resist killing myself just a little more for these cute little faces?

Of course, as Judah grows up, there is no end to feeling like I could be doing more and better at developing him and helping him 'reach his full potential'.  There are hundreds of preschool classes, sports, arts, music, educational programs, as well as just good ol' reading books to the kid.

Phew, I'm feeling tired just writing about all this.  So I'll just wrap up by saying--there is never going to be a time when I feel like I've done enough.  There's always something.  Something to help your kid in some small way--to increase the chances or decrease the risks.  And that is at least half the reason why I'm exhausted.

My every instinct is to do as much as I can, endure as much as possible, find out I went past the breaking point when it's already too late and try to dial it down back to a saner level.  But unfortunately it often takes a very long time and a lot of personal wreckage to realize I've again gone too far.

It's hard to stop being a martyr mom.  And I've got the perpetual dark eyebags and flaccid muscle tone to prove it.


CP said...

Wow. This was a really good post. I am not a mommy martyr at all- not even close. I'm probably the opposite. I do whatever is easiest for me. I hated nursing. With Ryan, I only nursed for three months and then said, "Screw it, I hate this!" I give myself way too much down time. But being below-expectations is what keeps me sane!

You are amazing to have set your bar so high and to have lived up to that bar. You seriously deserve major kudos and a little break. You are such a great mommy. But seriously, if you start to come unglued, do not for an instant feel guilty for taking some you time or taking a short cut here or there. Your kids won't even know!

Alice in Wonderland said...

You go CP! I aspire to one day be a cool, chill, relaxed mom like you. Seriously, no joke.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your honesty! -Brenda