“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