Mothering Seems Hard Right Now

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Photo by kalavinka, via Flickr

(WARNING: This is another one of THOSE POSTS. Read at your own risk.)

Before I was a mother, going to the grocery store used to be dangerous to my emotional state. It seemed like every trip, I’d see some mother ream her kid out, hollering and scolding for no good reason. Every time, I wanted to grab those women by the arm and shriek, “How dare you speak to your child that way? She’s not doing anything wrong! Appreciate the freaking gift you’ve been given! I would give ANYTHING to have what you have!”

These days, I try not to take the kids to the grocery store. Because I turn into that mom.

Four kids later, I realize it’s not just about what happened at the store. It’s about the behaviors and attitudes that pile up through hours and days. It’s about mom being worn down by constant barrage of kids taking each other’s toys, pushing each other, disobeying, making everything a battle. All the reasons why the age 2-4 is my least favorite.

On the way home from the store Friday, following Julianna trying to appropriate half a dozen people’s carts as push toys and Nicholas opening every door in the refrigerated/frozen cases even after being told four or five times to leave them alone…following that, I let out a comment I couldn’t believe I’d voiced. For a moment I had a surreal half-out-of-body moment in which heard my own voice and thought, Did you really just say that? What if THAT is what they remember?

I apologized, but the experience shook me.

I remember this phase and the beginning of its resolution with Alex, although the catalyst moment with him was different. I can feel us hunkering down on opposite sides of the Battle Of Wills. Every day I feel more worn-out by dealing with it in duplicate. Nicholas answers every question with No! (isn’t that supposed to be a two-year-old thing?), even when he means yes, as if testing whether I’ll ask again. And Julianna lowers her head and rolls her eyes up to make sure I’m paying attention–her defiant look. She knows if I say “look at me, please,” and she does, she has no excuse to pretend she didn’t hear.

I doubt myself constantly. I say she understands everything but likes to pretend she doesn’t. But then I think, Does she, really? Am I demanding obedience when she doesn’t even understand the instruction? I remember that little smile while I’m counting down from five, the way she waits till one to comply. Yes, she gets it.

But I’d hate to be crushing her spirit by imposing demands she’s not ready for.

But I don’t want her to be a brat who thinks she can get away with anything she wants, just because she has a disability.

This is my all-day, my every-day right now. And it’s exhausting. I don’t handle it with the grace I want to. I know this is an inevitable stage of childhood, not a reflection on poor parenting. I also know the stakes are high, and I have to handle this right. I have some successes. Nicholas helped me cook all afternoon that day, and we thoroughly enjoyed it. He was a great helper. (Hint: slow, methodical, lengthy hand-stirring yields amazing pumpkin pie.) But it seems like those moments are scattered and hard to catch among the shrieking and shouting and throwing things and breaking things and disassembling things just because they’re there.

At times like these, my mother’s (and grandmother’s) worries that we had our kids too close together seem well-founded, indeed.

But other people have had kids 2 years apart through the generations. Many others. Why does it seem so much harder now?

When I confess these difficulties, I feel like I’m providing fodder to the multitudes who insist they can’t possibly have more than two kids. I want to ask my (other) grandmother, who raised ten, if she felt this way. Surely she did! But I have a feeling if I asked she’d frown and say, “I don’t remember.”

You know, maybe mommy brain is a blessing, after all.

I’d like this to be a little better organized, a little more upbeat. But darn it, we have chores to do this morning. Time to quit navel-gazing and be a mom. Prayers welcome.

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13 thoughts on “Mothering Seems Hard Right Now

  1. What I remember about being a mom to young children is always praying for patience.

    There came a time when I learned to go shopping with only one child at a time. My Mom never took us kids shopping all together. Grandpa lived close by and we stayed with him when Mom ran errands. That was smart of her! In other words, don’t be afraid to ask for help, if needed. We (women) always think we have to do it all. Sometimes we forget that we are only human. Hang in there!

  2. Mothering sounds hard right now. You most definitely have my prayers. I’ve got nothing in way of advice, or even words to make it better, other than by the way you write your love for your children shines through and I imagine that even though your darkest moments stand out to you, your brightest moments stand out to them.

  3. I visit the place where you are oh, so often! It’s crazy. I’ve been blessed that we usually have 2 kids or less home on the day Craig does the grocery shopping and they are small enough to sit in the cart. But even if it’s not grocery shopping it is something else that causes us to visit that place. Now that I have 11-year, 9-year and 6.5-year old girls…the bickering and verbal jabbing seems to be non-stop and I visit that place. and then of course, there’s the back-talking that seems to accompany a pre-pubescent girl that’s trying to spread her wings, assert herself and feel out the boundaries that takes me to that place.

    My point is, (if I have a point!), that some of this stuff doesn’t really go away, it just changes form. But you will get through it. You have more boys than I do, so maybe it will be different for you than my experience with my girls growing up and getting older.

  4. Theresa Brooks

    I am right there with you. Nathan (will be 4 next month) is going through the “no” stage right now. And Kaitlyn (2 on Friday) is mimicking everything he does. Kevin (my wonderful 8 year old) is keeping me sane at this point. Don’t know if it helps to know you’re not alone, (I love reading your blog because it helps me know others are going through the same thing) but I’ll sure send prayers. Please feel free to do the same and hang in there! Theresa

  5. Before you compare yourself to your mother or grandmother, remember that things were different, particularly with you growing up on a farm. When I was a kid “Go outside and play” didn’t mean go out to the matchbox-sized backyard and play with mom, it meant go down the street, knock on a few doors until you find a friend to play with and then you two go run some energy off (because that kid’s mom wouldn’t let us play in the house either). My mom was in no way the main entertainment for her kids. My dad was in the Air Force and 10 was a rite of passage year–that’s when you got your ID card and could go by yourself to the pool, the library, the movies or the store. Still, the pool in our neighborhood would let your mom card you in a year or two earlier if you could swim, so my mom would send us out on our bikes and then she’d follow in the car a few minutes later, card us in and leave. I can’t imagine sending my eight year old to the pool by herself (not that I’d have a problem leaving her there; its walking those six blocks by herself). I remember walking across the street at four to play with a friend, and around the corner when I was five.

    As far as the running errands, I don’t know about you, but my mom didn’t run nearly as many as I do–and she didn’t work (at home or away) except for being a housewife. She didn’t take us to school, except in the rain, she didn’t wait for us at the bus stop, or put us on the bus except when the bus stop was across a very busy road when she would cross the street with us, and then leave us there, and the other moms were the same. She went to the grocery once a week and she said the military did not allow kids in the grocery store–they were to be left in the base nursery if necessary. We played with neighborhood kids, not “playdates” who lived outside of walking distance.

  6. Carrie Evans

    I remember when Tom was a baby grocery shopping…we could fit about $50 worth of groceries in the bottom of our double stroller. I was lucky in a way because my oldest (when he was 2) ran away, then came back and cut his head badly on the cart at the grocery store-he didn’t stray much after that and listened much better at the grocery store, but he still bears the scar.

    I learned that it was worth paying someone when they were small or going to the store at midnight when Chris was home because then I had a little bit of peace and it wasted much less of my time. I’ve found in the last month that grocery shopping is NOT easier when they are 8, 9, 10, 12, and 14. They still stick things in the grocery cart and touch everything in sight and it’s even more irritating now than it was at 3–at least then they were little and didn’t know better.

    Each stage has new challenges and joys. I find myself at each stage thinking how much I love them and how I’m sure it can’t get any better, then it does.

      • Carrie Evans

        It took me a really long time to gain peace. It’s an ongoing struggle to be a good Mom and not to lose your self or your temper. 🙂 Now I am to a point where I figure that if none dies or is permanently damaged, it’s probably going to be ok. Chris and I tag-teamed for a very long time and didn’t see much of eachother.
        This, too, shall pass.

  7. I know this is probably not what you want to hear/read… but reading this has been great birth control for me!!! In a time when I need a little nudging – when I’m feeling like everyone else is preggers and why isn’t it happening for me – I can read this and think “oh thank God I don’t have a little one to drain my energy 24/7, I can just visit little ones for a few hours a week then give them back to mom/dad.”

      • The thing that is important to keep in mind is that our own attitude has a lot to do with how well (or not) we handle the inevitable irritations of life–at whatever stage, with kids or without. The blog helps keep me honest.

      • (I can’t reply to your reply…that’s just odd.) Yes, attitude has a LOT to do with it, but I also know first-hand how time constraints and lack of “me” time can lead to a bad attitude or just drained energy. This post, for me, took the sadness I sometimes feel in not having children and turned it around to a satisfying realization that it’s not all perfect and cute. It’s a good reminder that if God wants us to have children, we will, and if not, perhaps it’s just not meant to be and that I can live with that.

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