Sometimes, being a mother sucks.
I could list the different ways in which it sucks. I could give you bullet points which highlight varying degrees of suckiness, but one of the things that sucks the most about being a mother is that if I do that, I am bound to get passive-aggressively well-meant comments like “Well, that’s what we signed up for!” in faux, cheery solidarity. Or worse, I risk triggering the “It’ll be over before you know it,” brigade.
Fine. Yes. Ok. All those things may well be true, but motherhood is not a zero sum gum.
It still sucks sometimes.
As I had to remind my own children recently, I am not a Mom-Bot. I have actual feelings–and though my Motherhood skin is thicker and tougher and calloused from years of this job–there are times when my feelings get hurt. It might be the way someone speaks to me. It might be the endless mountain of thankless tasks which repeatedly go unnoticed and un-appreciated. Sometimes it is a deep exhaustion at feeling taken for granted, or the expectation that I have an everlasting, self-replenishing well of empathy.
Spoiler: I don’t. Those wells need to be filled too.
Sometimes I wonder if my children view me as super-human, or perhaps, more likely, sub human–above or below the messy fray of actual, real-girl feelings. It’s a good thing, we’re constantly told, that our kids are mean to us. It means they feel safe enough to unload onto us, to let their true feelings flow.
Even when those true feelings are mean. Or hurtful. Or spiteful. Or just plain exhausting.
For whatever reason, part of the motherhood code is an unspoken mandate which requires you to absorb these emotional punches–without complaint.
You know, because it’s our job and all.
When the human part of your mother persona gets the best of you and you feel bruised– if you’re anything like me, you internalize that shit. You tell yourself this is what mothers do. You tell yourself to suck it up because think of all the poor women out there who’d love to have kids but can’t and here you are complaining about hurt feelings?
It’s your job. It’s what you signed up for. Enjoy it, before you know it you’ll be looking back and missing it all.
All of that noise inside your mother head has one result: it invalidates your own–real, legitimate–feelings. But we ignore them, doubt them, bury them under the carrot peelings and the carefully wrapped gifts and the books that detail all the baby firsts, until one day, you’ve had enough and you storm out of the house, slam the door behind you, and leave the offspring to think long and hard about what they’ve done.
Mothers, we are endlessly led to believe, are there to manage and massage and support the feelings of others, not ourselves. That’s the message that comes across whenever mothers tip-toe into complaint territory. We’re supposed to remember everyone else’s feelings, file them away and collate them and pay them on time and organize them.
To the expense of our own.
The last time I checked, I was still a card-carrying member of the human race. My ability to feel didn’t cease when I had kids. If anything, it expanded. I’ve given up so much for those kids, starting with my teeth and ending with my time–and yes, sometimes I want them to acknowledge that.
Does that make me a Disney villain?
Expecting mothers never to feel, or express hurt because of the actions of their children, even their younger children, is cruel and unusual. If we only answer women who are hurting with answers like it’s good your kids shit all over you, however well-meaning we might be, it’s really telling her that what she’s feeling isn’t valid, isn’t important, or clearly not as important as the feelings of someone else.
And that, right there, is the problem. The feelings of someone else must always come first., because it’s what we signed up for.
Until one day you lose your shit and storm out of the house.
Admitting that your kids hurt your feelings–even on a semi-regular basis–does not make you a shitty mother. Nor does it mean you have hateful, horrible children. Telling your kids how they’ve hurt you doesn’t make you a selfish parent. In fact, how can we teach our children to empathize and respect others, to apologize when they’re wrong, and to make amends, if we pretend that the sucky things they sometimes do just roll off our back? If we don’t help them learn how to replenish that well of empathy?
Yes, you need thick skin for this job.
But sometimes being a mother makes me want to take this job and shove it.