Why is it that motherhood can go from such heights to such depths in a matter of moments, or in my case, 24 little hours.
Yesterday I felt like the poster girl for motherhood. Despite a middle of the night wake up call from Hudson, I felt fresh as we launched into the day’s activities. The boys were not particularly angelic, fighting over toys and who got to be the rule maker of whatever game they were creating, but I had reserves of calm and I mediated disputes like a boss. All the kids fingernails and toenails were clipped, I did a load of washing, we had an outing to Grandma’s playgroup, put dinner in the slow cooker, whipped up a double batch of muesli slice and I had completed the Tribe Kids (or should I say Open House) lesson plan by early afternoon. Dave came home from work exhausted but we powered through dinner/baths and then I helped him find utopian themed videos for this week’s Open House party.
And then today happened.
It started as any other day, although Hudson had woken in the middle of the night again, so I was a little more weary as a result. Ivy is struggling with a virus and constant coughing fits and was inconsolable by the time of her morning nap. As I was attempting a quick clothes change for Ivy before sleep time, I heard telling screams and a loud thump from the kitchen. I scooped up Ivy, half dressed and was greeted by a shifty, guilty looking Hudson and a shocked and horrified Eli. Turns out Hudson had tried to join in Eli’s game, but when the answer was a resounding ‘No’, Hudson gave Eli a resounding ‘thump’… pushing his face into the kitchen bench. I tried to mediate, but with the incessant soundtrack of a baby wailing it was difficult. The order for Hudson to go straight to Time Out was met with more screaming and I became instantly overwhelmed. So I joined in the screaming, of course. I’m not even sure what I was saying, but I’m pretty sure it was something about how I couldn’t handle this and I just needed a moment and for everyone to leave me alone…. the usual.
Eli was the first to crack and he ushered Hudson out into the living room so I could put Ivy to bed. He even orchestrated it so that Hudson soon returned to apologise to me, though it wasn’t quite what I had in mind, still being in the middle of calming a screaming baby. We got through it though, Eli with a big red lump underneath one eye, and I with the hoarse lungs of one who has abused her vocal chords. There were hugs and apologies and speeches about how everyone makes mistakes and how we had a choice about how to proceed through the rest of the day. The bad news could have ended there.
But it didn’t.
The next battle came when we needed to get out of the house to go to Aldi. A usually compliant Eli refused to get dressed and spent the time raging on the toilet instead. Then he came and spread his fury amongst us, screaming in a pitch that should be reserved for a torture chamber, slamming doors and eventually throwing couch cushions in my face when I tried not to react. My patience limit was quickly exceeded, and I threw some back and ordered him to Time Out. So he trashed his room. I packed up Hudson and Ivy and told Eli to get in the car. He was horrified that I was asking him to leave the house in his undies, but I explained to him that he had turned down at least five opportunities to get dressed. I eventually revealed that I had packed his clothes in the car, but I hope the lesson will translate to future battles.
Surprisingly the kids were well behaved at the store, though the peace couldn’t last forever and Eli decided to crack it in the parking lot because he couldn’t wait the extra 20 steps to get to the car to obtain the bribe of sour straps that I had promised them, yelling at the top of his lungs and pushing the pram the wrong direction as I tried to ‘calmly’ put us back on course. The eye rolling and poorly disguised ‘tsking’ from the old lady that passed us certainly didn’t alleviate the stressful situation. We made it home without any real incident, despite the indignance over losing the promised treat, and got everyone (including me) into rest time.
The rest of the day was fairly unremarkable, except for being covered three times in Ivy’s projectile vomit, and Hudson taking a spectacular dive headfirst into the hard floor. We did manage to have a peaceful hour of playtime outside where all three went without incident or fighting for that entire period.
This morning Monica shared with me a challenging article this morning by Brene Brown tackling the challenging issue of ‘changing our narrative’. She says that “storytelling helps us all impose order on chaos—including emotional chaos. When we’re in pain, we create a narrative to help us make sense of it.” In order to get behind this emotional narrative, we have to ‘reckon’ with the source of our feelings and wrestle with that. A very similar concept to Richard Rohr’s shadow self/persona concept, come to think of it.
After Dave made it home and sent me away for some recovery time, I decided to attempt ‘the reckoning’. Maybe at the heart of it, I doubt my credentials as a mother and wonder if they are even better off for me being home full time. On days like today it sure feels like the poor modelling of controlling my emotions outweighs the personal care and attention they receive. It probably doesn’t help that there is a lot of stuff going on simultaneously this week- like Production week at Dave’s school, Open House parties over the next two weeks, an unexpected tax bill, and Hudson’s hospital appointment at which I fully expected to receive bad news (but thankfully didn’t).
The most difficult part of the daily grind is the relentless nature of being needed in so many different ways usually at the same time. The emotional and mental strain takes its toll and when everything clashes at once, I launch into ‘overwhelmed’ mode, which leads to ‘shame and regret’ mode, which leads to ‘dark and numb’ mode. Without the time and space to process the interactions it can quickly spiral to a less than ideal place. Monica, Naomi and Dave did get the unfortunate privilege of getting a snapshot of my black mood today and it sure wasn’t pretty. But knowing that someone else was aware of my struggle did help me pick myself back up a number of times, and probably avoid an even more catastrophic day.
“The reckoning can feel dangerous because you’re confronting yourself—the fear, aggression, shame and blame. Facing our stories takes courage. But owning our stories is the only way we get to write a brave new ending.” (Brene Brown)
On days like today it can feel as if I will never get to that alternative ending. That my narrative is stuck on repeat and I’m destined to make the same mistakes over and over. But I’m choosing to own my story- the stormy parts as well as the sunny ones- and to gaze into the disappointing mistakes so that I can change my narrative and look back and see progress. I’m not a calm, patient or resilient mother…. yet. And that last little word makes all the difference.