At least two years have passed since I first read Momma Zen, a book that I immediately added to my favorites list in the treasury of motherhood memoirs read over the last six years. In a moment of inspiration (and quiet! Scott took the girls out of the house which miraculously allows space that I previously thought lost to reopen in my brain!) I grabbed the book off of my bookshelf and went pecking through for a nugget of encouragement for myself and possibly to share in this blog post.
I found it...the first page of Chapter 1. I needed go no further than the title, "Other Mothers: Overwhelmed and Uncertain-- There's No Other Kind."
I think I exhaled a huge mountain of pent up anxiety that I've been carrying around with me for the last couple of weeks when I read those words this afternoon.
Other mothers are overwhelmed?! Really? They are?
Suddenly I wanted to give Karen Maezen Miller (the author) a great big hug. That was all the comfort I needed today. That was all I needed to know.
Why? Because...and this now feels like a confession at an AMA meeting (that would be Anxious Mother's Anonymous! Oh, you didn't know there was such a group? That's because we're shy about sharing our involvement in the club and our meetings happen haphazardly over coffee or busy playdates when we finally let our guards down to be honest with one another)...I have been feeling a little...ahem...overwhelmed lately.
I LOVE my girls. I LOVE my life. But, it's nutty. Especially when all three are home at the same time (which is the case in these summer months). Every time I turn around there are haircuts to be had, and baths to be given, and clothes to be folded, and school supplies or a birthday present to buy, and more grocery shopping to be done, and floors to clean, and water balloons to be picked up from the back patio and wet towels and bathing suits to be washead and a baby to be nursed and changed.
And that is just the tip of the iceberg. All of the other needs and requests lay unseen under the surface of the day waiting for us to crash into them and respond accordingly.
Maybe it's partially an adjustment to going from two children to three. It feels a little bit like running a marathon over and over and over again, while life with two felt more like running a half marathon over and over and over again in comparison (good grief to those of you with four or five or six! God bless you!!!). Both are challenging and require endurance, but the break comes much sooner when you're running 13 miles as opposed to running 26.
There aren't a whole lot of margins these days, or free time and space. When the only kid-free time you have comes at the end of a long day between the hours of 9-11 p.m. you vacillate between wanting to eat an entire bag of potato chips while watching crappy television and wanting to conquer the world...or your house...which you are entirely too tired to do.
I usually compromise by eating pretzels and watching slightly better television.
Mazer goes on to talk about another mom friend she had a friendship with over walks and playdates. She says,
"Underlying our friendship was the sense, the certain fear, that all around us were better mothers who were groomed, confident and competent. These mothers had resolved all the questions about feeding and sleeping, poop and potty training, preschool and playmates, teething and talking, paper and plastic, that kept us forever unsteady...These were mothers with a method...
They had birthed not just a child but a fully formed ideology of parenthood. It made things look easy...We imagined legions of these super mothers, and we admired them from a distance. Yet privately we despised them. We had been blindsided by how difficult motherhood was...We were the Other Mothers, whose daily blunders and emotional upheavals qualified us for the charter admission into the Other Mothers Club."
Oh, I know how she feels!! Yet I always think I'm the only one!
The only one that doesn't have it together. That isn't as organized as she'd like to be. That doesn't have the system in place for meal planning and house cleaning and entertaining young children like an event planner on a cruise ship all day long for months on end during the summer.
The kids are bored?! Oh no, it's my fault! I'm not being a good mom!
The only one who isn't writing her first book of essays on motherhood at night (like I dream about doing during the day, but find myself lured by those salty treats and television after the wee ones are in bed!), or finding a better way to organize my basement or purging that front closet full of miscellaneous game pieces and last years left over school supplies. Or, doing something else productive like reading classic literature or learning to paint or take better photographs (like I also aspire too, but can't seem to find the energy for!).
I'm thankful, in times like these, for books and essays like the one by Miller. Words by other moms to remind me that I'm not the only one.
Miller finishes Chapter 1 by saying,
"Stuck in stroller traffic, I came to suspect that we were all Other Mothers, or rather, that there was no other kind. A lifetime supply of insufficiency arrives with the stretch marks. Moments of self-assurance in motherhood do occur-- joyful, satisfying, and complete-- but they are just moments. In between are long lonely spells where you feel lost and clueless...These gulfs of incomprehension bring the opportunity for spiritual growth and self-acceptance. It is an unexpected gift and not always recognized. That you recognize your gift is my aspiration with these recollections. These words thus flow from my heart to yours, from one other mother to one other mother or mother-to-be. I know. I understand. Me too."
If Miller and I are the only ones, then I'm at least comforted to know that I'm not alone. My guess though, is that some of you out there feel the same way we do sometimes. It is why I keep finding quiet moments (which are rarer and rarer these days) to post these honest blog posts, to say, as Miller does...that I know and understand. I've been there too.
Hopefully some of you reading this are feeling relieved and glad that you're not the only ones either!
p.s. please forgive my mis-spellings and typos. This was written in a few brief moments and finished while nursing a baby (: