I’ve seriously had my buttons pressed lately, buttons I didn’t even know I had. For years I’ve thought of myself as this super centred, calm, yoga teacher chick, but in the last two months I’ve had my patience tested to the max.
One of the big challenges for me has been how to deal with a new house guest – Mr Incessant Whining. It felt like this unwelcome visitor arrived overnight. I was like, “Hello! Where did you come from? You don’t expect to stay do you?” At first it came as a real shock. I thought, “Really? My beautiful little boy is now whining like this?”
Not only did the whining arrive unexpectedly, it now feels like it’s never going to go. It happens at a pitch which goes straight through my nervous system and wears me down f a s t. I know my symptoms well now: I can feel myself becoming hot and my blood pressure increasing. My breathing becomes short and shallow. My eyes widen. My ability to think clearly or rationally go out the door, passing Miss Crazy on her way in.
I want to be a gentle mamma, I really do. I want to respond to Joshi’s needs calmly and not lose the plot, but oh my god it gets hard when the whining kicks in. Often I just don’t know what to do. I’ll ask him what’s wrong. Of course he can’t talk yet, so god knows why that’s usually my first response. I offer him water, food, boobies, cuddles, a story, a song. I pick him up. That didn’t work; I put him down. Now he’s hanging off my leg; I pick him up again, put him in the carrier. No? Ok, out the carrier. The whining continues. Sometimes at this point I start screaming inside my head.
The whining builds up when Joshi desperately wants to get out the apartment and I can’t fulfil his need immediately. Of course it’s natural – he’s a boy, full of energy and wanting to explore the world. I know it must be hard for him, but in the morning I’m just not ready to leave the apartment before the whining sets in. It’s not like I have anything major to do before heading out. I might only need to get dressed, go to the loo, tear a brush through my hair for 5 seconds and quickly eat something, but these basic and simple things become virtually impossible with him hanging off my leg.
I’ll hold Joshi and do my best to console him, hoping that if I give him my full attention for a bit he’ll calm down, at least long enough for me for me to quickly get myself ready, but it doesn’t work. What does work in the mornings is when Simon takes him out into the garden for five minutes while I get ready, but that’s often at the expense of making Simon late.
It starts again in the late afternoon. I’ll be in the middle of cooking dinner and although Joshi wants to go out I have to persevere because if I don’t, one or both of us is going to get very hungry real soon. Of course when Simon’s home everything’s a whole lot easier, but often there’s no one around and that’s when I realise how such a huge part of this problem is that we don’t live like the cavemen used to – close to each other, in community. What are we doing!
Anyway, so long as there’s no immediate community of people around us I have to deal with it on my own. I can’t just walk away. There’ve been many times where it’s almost the end of the working day and I call or text Simon, often saying no more than one word, “struggling” and then hang up. If I’m lucky he’s not stuck in meetings and I’ll get a text back with a picture of a bus – the cavalry is on its way.
Motherhood’s hard. As someone whose writing is almost entirely about the positives, it’s not easy for me to admit this. But the truth is, it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I want to be a woman who mothers my child with love and compassion, but I don’t always feel able to. Sometimes, instead of being gentle and loving and compassionate I find myself cutting off, closing down and withdrawing. I’m quick to speak up against practices like ’Cry-it-Out’, but I wonder if my inability to respond mindfully to Joshi’s needs in moments like these is just as bad.
Don’t get me wrong. I love being a mother and I wouldn’t change it for anything in the world. It’s an honour and a privilege. I really mean that. But although there are so many wonderful and indescribably beautiful things about being a mother, at the same time, motherhood has seriously pushed me to my limits. I have to remind myself that in this particular moment I am doing the best I can. Just because I’m not perfect doesn’t mean I’m a bad mum. Sometimes what I have to work on most is forgiving myself.
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