anger + motherhood

This moment didn’t actually make me angry. I just laughed at what they were able to do in the two minutes I had locked myself in the bathroom so I could actually talk to the bank on the phone.

“Take or leave ‘attachment parenting’ as you wish but raising human infants is not supposed to be done in isolation by a single caregiver, and yet overwhelming levels of individualism combined with conservative gender roles have positioned us in exactly that place. In our suburbs there is no-one else in the room when a mother reaches the end of her tether – there is no-one left to negotiate with – it is just an adult and a baby, crying in each other’s faces, desperate.”

I read the above quote about a year ago and felt instantly understood; instantly heard.  I have been seeing and reading a lot about anger and yelling in motherhood on Facebook and Pinterest lately.  In the world of social networking, perhaps this is our way of breaking the silence and/or asking for help…or perhaps just starting a dialogue of support.

As this third pregnancy progresses into 24 weeks, I have the distinct feeling that shit just got real.  All of this is really happening and though we know the love will be instant and true, with it being our third time around we know all the other stuff that comes along with it.  The sleepless nights, the endless worry of sickness and injury, the guilt, the baby blues, the aching bleeding boobs, the baby weight that clings, the healing c-section wound, the adjustment period of jealousy and curiousity.  Of course, in the end it will all be fine and dandy.

Earlier this week, I took the car and the kids for a full day (7:30 am until 5:00 pm) in town.  I don’t know why I do this, but I am stubborn and sometimes the need to get out of the house wins out over wisdom.  It was a gong show and as I chased a shrieking  Silas through half the mall and halfway through a department store while dragging a giggling Poppy behind me I wondered 1) how I will ever leave the house without help again after baby #3 arrives and 2)  Will we all survive this?!

I am not great at dealing with stress…or heat…or messes…or bugs…or not being listened to…or being pregnant…or lack of reason.   Waaaaah!  I know, poor muffin!  Then why on earth would you sign up for the ultra intense gig of stay at home mothering in the country, dummy?  The truth is, even after the most intense day, it still feels like the most natural and fulfilling thing I could ever want to do with my life.  Most jobs are hard and tiring, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t right for us.

I have made my decision to stay home and to homeschool and I stand by it despite it being a struggle in almost every way.  Blame it on the Ellenberger’s stubborn gene.  That being said, I am also letting go of a few things I thought I never would.  For example,

  • I love a lot of the ideas (though not all) of Waldorf, but have come to the realization that I don’t see it as a perfect fit for us.
  • I decided against buying the expensive Oak Meadow curriculum and went to Chapters where we picked up a large assortment of learning/teaching resources for the kids for much less money.
  • I realized that we can be both homeschoolers and unschoolers because the days are long and varied and that is what sits best with us.
  • I picked up some instant oatmeal for the kid’s breakfasts because they like it and because I don’t always want to make food they won’t eat or spend an hour making crepes or apple fritters each morning.
  • I let them watch tv because sometimes I need the kitchen to myself as I make the meals.
  • We have let go of the ideal vegetable garden with lovely raised beds, a solid fence and heirloom varieties this year.  Instead we will plant mainly potatoes and a few basics that always do well.  The bugs, the kids and the budget mixed with the fact that our harvests have been a bit disappointing since moving here and we are slightly disheartened all played heavily into that decision.  Instead of paying out money for plants that would likely just turn into compost, I bought a Dutch Oven for 70% off so I could make more yummy Dutch Oven Bread.

Sometimes we romanticize the olden days and try to hold ourselves to that ideal, but forget life was also structured quite differently back then.  Neighbours were your family and vise versa.  There were often more generations living under one roof and they shared the work with each other.  We are living in a very strange time in which technology and old time values are merging.   We are inundated with blog posts and photos of picture perfect parenting/crafting/cooking/home decorating/partying/traveling moments and think we have to be doing something wrong because our kids/clothes/meals/homes/parties/etc sure as shit doesn’t feel or look like that.  I am guilty of it too.  I take pictures of the scrumdiddlyumptious,  made from scratch chicken pot pie, but neglect to photograph the nights we eat Kraft Dinner or cereal and chips for supper.  As much as I want rhythm in our house, it really is just perpetual motion peppered with guilt,  frustration, giggles, apologies, tears, and heart wrenching love and affection until we all fall down again.  I am coming to terms with the fact that that, in a nutshell,  is what parenting feels like for everyone.  We’re not doing it wrong, it just is what it is.

I know it isn’t ok to yell at my children or lose my temper because my expectations are too high for a 4 and 2 year old.  It’s not them, it’s me.  They are tiny and perfect and trust me completely, and yet I still yell.  Why?  Because I am always alone when I “…reach the end of my tether…”.  And that isn’t about to change in any drastic way anytime soon.  Our small extended families are quite spread out and busy with their own lives.  All we can do is keep doing the best we can with what we’ve got while trying not to wish it was anything different (though we often do).

As I try to tame the Orange Rhino inside of me, I fully realize that anger is a part of life too.  It is important to teach our children the big emotions and how to apologize when we’ve hurt someone.  I don’t get angry when Silas tries to hit me or tells  me he doesn’t like me.  I feel nothing but empathy, I soften and tell him it is ok to be angry with me,  I let him know that sometimes people get angry with each other, but it doesn’t mean we have to stop loving them. I also let him know it is not ok to hit.  I see an instant and remarkable change in him when I say this.  His face changes from anger and he always comes in  for a hug.  When I yell, I always seek them out and apologize within minutes of it happening.  I tell them in the simplest way I can that I was frustrated or hurt or scared and that I never want to scare them.  We hug and often cry on the floor together until it feels ok to get up and move on with our day.

It isn’t a perfect system by any means, but it is what we have right now.  I hope that through it all, they feel the immense love, devotion, and respect I carry for each of them.  I hope that they learn how to be gentle with others and themselves.


go gently + be wonderful


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  1. Posted June 13, 2013 at 11:09 am by Stephanie K. | Permalink

    I smiled at your list. You are becoming a mother of three! I let SO much go after Margot was born, and became a better mother because I had less to stress about. We eat at the chip wagon for Sunday dinner because after years of trying to do a proper Sunday dinner, I wised up. Civilized things can wait till they’re older. At the same time, the rage I felt so often when the three were little still frightens me when I think of it, and makes me feel very, very ashamed. It was appalling. The hard thing is is that you may not recognize a need for help when you’re most in need. And it’s mostly because you’re exhausted, alone, dirty, have stepped in human poo, and have barf in your hair and you just start feeling like you’re losing not only your self, but your humanity! Four years later, they’re delightful but I’ll be honest, I wouldn’t go back there again.
    So you’re wise to recognize intellectually that this will be hard in many ways, to find ways to let yourself off the hook, and to realise that all those things we modern homesteaders try to do (sewing and gardening and preserving and on and on) were done with many layers of hands helping. My mom’s grandpa was a quiet alcoholic who would hold the baby on his lap so my nanny could get stuff done. Families were big enough to do stuff. You’re entering the hardest part, where none of your kids is anywhere near the age of reason and can’t be held responsible for the messes and chaos they create. Knowing that it will pass doesn’t help in the moment, so be ready to reach out to a neighbour if you can’t rein in the rage. You’re so beautiful and radiant!! Your children really are blessed, instant oatmeal and all! :)

    • Posted June 13, 2013 at 11:16 am by erin | Permalink

      I always appreciate your words more than you can possibly know.
      I feel a bit bad that we aren’t more “excited” for the new arrival…not that we aren’t happy or thrilled, but it just isn’t the right word 😉
      Thanks for this.

    • Posted June 27, 2013 at 11:01 pm by Kim | Permalink

      Let me just wipe the tears away and thank you for writing this. It could not have been more timely for me. Letting go has been a powerful tool in enjoying motherhood for me, but it isn’t always easy. Neither is controlling my emotions, and the guilt is sometimes overwhelming.

      I appreciate your blog. I am living my dream in the mountains on the other side of the country, and even though it is a much scaled back dream than it was in it’s inception, it’s still ours. You’ve reminded me of that today, so thank you again.

  2. Posted June 13, 2013 at 1:53 pm by Ana | Permalink

    That quote is very apt and exactly what I always try and tell frazzled parents. <3

  3. Posted June 13, 2013 at 3:04 pm by Sarah | Permalink

    Thank you. I am a stay-at-home-mom who tries her best, but isn’t always able to achieve what she thinks her best should be. Thank you for showing me that I’m not alone and that what I am doing is “good enough”. It’s okay to be tired and “give in”, and it’s okay to lose my temper and use it as a teaching experience.

  4. Posted June 13, 2013 at 5:39 pm by Arianne | Permalink

    I love your honesty. And I”m right there with you. Only we’re in postpartum with child number five. But I remember being pregnant with number three and wondering how it was going to work. It was hard. It did get better. It was worth it. You’re going to be fine. With the honesty you already have. With the reasonable expectations you already have. With the love you already fill your days with. You’ll be fine. Hugs.

  5. Posted June 14, 2013 at 2:45 am by Rose | Permalink

    damn I needed to read this! I could have written it myself! It brings so much comfort to find other mama’s out there feeling the same, in isolation it is easy to feel you are the only one, I regularly feel a failure and that it is only me with these complex feelings. Thank you for sharing x x x

  6. Posted June 14, 2013 at 7:10 am by Emma | Permalink

    Yet again I read one of your posts and it seems like it was written just for me. How do you do it!
    I had a huge melt down at 7.50 am this morning, and yelled at my kids when I found one of them, naked, coloring in mandalas and the other taking apart a cupboard with a screw driver – and we needed to be out the door in 10 mins crono! I forget that they can’t tell the time.
    Can’t wait until I pick them up from school to say ‘I’m sorry!’
    Thanks for your wise words, just what I needed.

  7. Posted June 17, 2013 at 12:13 pm by Kate | Permalink

    Your post is spot on and although many of us feel alone in mothering, it is posts like these that remind us there are parents all over who are dealing with the exact same issues and that in fact we are not alone in our experiences. I have a 2 & 4 year old and am having my 3rd at the end of August. I spent my 1st trimester scared of what we had done – a 3rd child – what! We must be crazy. But now I am moving into acceptance (not that I don’t still get scared or nervous about how all of this will work!). I had some major anger issues my 1st & 2nd trimester but I am coming out of it now. It is no small feat growing a baby and it takes more out of us than I think we realize. Hang in there – you are obviously a great mama who struggle with the same issues that all mamas have struggled with. Peace.

  8. Posted June 26, 2013 at 4:17 am by sarah | Permalink

    what a wonderful post :-)

  9. Posted September 10, 2013 at 1:00 pm by Heidi | Permalink

    Wow – I literally could have wrote this.

    From” I am not great at dealing with stress…or heat…or messes…or bugs…or not being listened to…or being pregnant…or lack of reason.” to your points about homeschooling/waldorf/oak meadow/instant oatmeal, etc…

    We may just be twins. ha!

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