Notes to Self

September 10, 2014

I surrender

This morning I felt so defeated. I got in the car to drive the kids to daycare and I said to myself “I fucking surrender”. A moment earlier, when my daughter whined about wanting a different book to take to school (after she whined about wanting her dolls that were left in the house and I returned to the house to fetch them, brushing my hair for the first time since showering as I walked back to the house), I took the wrong book from her hands, threw it on the car floor and plopped the book she wanted into her lap. I felt like such a winner. I am an awesome mom.

 

I am so tired; absolutely exhausted. Not just from this cold I’ve been fighting for two weeks (I don’t take medication while breastfeeding), or from still waking 3-4 times a night to nurse the baby, or from taking care of the two kids on my own, or from a full-time job, or from cooking, cleaning and all the other shit I have to do. But also from feeling so damned lonely. And from fighting with myself about everything.

 

The mornings are insane. We all wake up late and have less than an hour to when we should be heading out the door. But of course this isn’t feasible so when it’s after 8 and I know that I will be late to work and unable to find a parking spot, I get really ticked off. I am constantly forgetting things, I never have food to take (and when was the last time I ate a vegetable?)….. I seem to carry a minimum of five bags (and a kid) and I just feel like my entire life is one big chaotic mess. There are some mornings I don’t get to shower.

 

I realized that I feel like my husband doesn’t match my level of effort toward childcare, house maintenance and just overall getting stuff done. And this angers me. I feel betrayed. Unloved. Unsupported and sometimes like a sucker. But then I wonder how much of this is me being unrealistic in my expectations (both for myself and for my husband) and how much is appropriate (this is the fighting I referred to earlier). So I get even more angry from being so unsure of things. It is clear to both of us that our priorities are different. For example, I want a clean, neat house that doesn’t piss me off (operative component is that I am not pissed off by the state of my house, not necessarily that it isn’t messy). He doesn’t care that much about that facet right now. He doesn’t get annoyed like I do (although there are times it frustrates him as well). So I battle with all of these things and push him away and get angry at him at the same time. Yes, I blame him. Not sure why. I don’t know what he does with his time; I just know that isn’t what I want him to be doing with it. (you should be shaking your head or laughing at me right now).

 

The layers of guilt and pressure and fighting just go on and on. When my 3.5 yr old screams in frustration the moment something doesn’t go her way (e.g., trying to take off her shoe), I know that’s my fault. I know I have failed her. I know that if I can’t fix myself I won’t be able to undo this damage and she will have a really tough life. But this morning I felt like I just can’t keep fighting. I am spent. I don’t see a light at the end of this pitch black and seemingly never ending tunnel. I just see more and more and more that needs to be done and I feel alone in facing it. I feel defeated. Like no matter what I do, I will always lose. I will always fail and there is always a better way to do it; I just can’t.

 

Life is passing by and I am struggling with what has often been referred to as “sweating the small stuff”. My therapist commented that I was worrying about the superficial things (like a messy house) but have the big, important things covered (like feeding my kids healthy foods) – note that this morning I was also steaming and pureeing broccoli for the baby…because there just wasn’t enough to do I thought I would add one more task…………….

 

So today I haven’t done much work and don’t really care to. I find everything rather pointless. I ate a bunch of cookies (and of course feel sick to my stomach). I will become progressively more annoyed as the day goes on and I will probably go to bed thoroughly annoyed, not sleep well and then do another day of this shit. Again and again and again. I just give up. I can’t give anymore than I already am and I am running out of steam. I don’t know what to do.

July 23, 2014

Trying to cope

After nearly a year, my husband recently became employed. Hip-hip hooray, right?

No good deed goes unpunished (I really am trying to work on my optimism here)….his employment has left me alone with both kids for 4 out of 7 nights (for bed time) and one full weekend day. Not my idea of ideal.

Initially it was REALLY tough to juggle the two kids and I had a lot of self-induced pressure and I failed miserably at keeping my cool. Tears were rampant.

Then we sort of figured it out and now it’s anybody’s guess as to how the evening will go. Regardless if there are tears or smiles, I am not coping well.

 

Here’s an example:

I am still breastfeeding and the baby nurses to sleep. He’s at the age where he’s easily distracted and his sister is the highlight of his life (ergo when she makes noise he pays attention). Last night I nursed him four times and he still didn’t fall asleep. This took 1.5+hours. I was spent. I was done. I didn’t want to nurse ANYMORE. On top of it, my 3 yr old was tired of being quiet (or relatively) and alone and it was getting way past her bedtime so I just became more and more enraged. I was fully aware that there was some vague, instinctual, negative message that I was telling myself but I couldn’t quite hear it and I couldn’t get past it. I just worked myself into tears and a fit of rage (which I could only partially hide). Finally the three of us laid in the bed and soon the baby stopped crying and fell asleep. Meanwhile I was stuck on my back with a kid laying on both arms and a full bladder. I just laid there thinking how poorly I had done that evening (let’s not even go into the park visit we did early that evening) and how I had to stop and the more I thought about it the more guilt I felt, the more I beat myself up and the more angry I became. Just beside myself with frustration and anxiety. So I decided it was time to make time for therapy.

That being said there have been a few (maybe 3?) nights where the baby falls asleep no problem and I get to read a few books to my daughter before she goes to bed at a decent time.

I am still not in contact with my family (although they still send emails every now and again, but nothing of note). I continue to uncover fundamental problems in my life that all go back to them (I am past blame, just amazed at how simple the cause and effect is when the consequences have become so difficult to tease apart). I see how my daughter is becoming as easily frustrated as I am and I cannot handle that I have taught her that. I have failed her; and that’s the truth. I don’t know if I can undo it but this will first require that I fix myself.

 

I remember having several conversations about parenting and folks saying that you just had to be good enough. I think about that and wonder if the good outweighs the bad. Does my daughter feel loved more than she feels hurt? Does she laugh more than she cries? I don’t know. I feel like she is sad and feels unloved and I hurt because of this. And I have no objective way to evaluate her emotional health.

 

I feel like I am not bonding well with either of my children. I feel sad and lonely. I feel hopeless and helpless (and did I mention that I hate my job due to recent changes in org structure, etc?). I struggle to smile and find a happy thought. I’d rather sit in silence in the car than try to make my child smile. I am worried I’ll just make her cry.

 

I feel like all I do is tell her no or not now. “Mommy do you want to paint with me?” ; “Mommy do you want to make a craft with me?”; Mommy do you want to play with me?” and all I can say is I do but right now I have to…..(pack their bottles/lunch….nurse the baby…get dinner together….play with the baby and walk him around….whatever). It really hurts me. It really makes me sad and then it makes me angry because all I can think is that this child is sad and lonely and feels unloved.

 

So I feel like a constant failure. Like nothing I do works. And I am not capable of making it work. I don’t care that taking care of two kids at once is difficult – that means nothing to each individual child who is left without quality time.

March 24, 2014

Why can’t I ever just…

This morning I finally got up (sort of) on time and hopped in the shower while my toddler was sleeping and the baby was content (enough). My husband was awake so I wasn’t worried. And then I heard the crying…

Shortly after my daughter was born I joined a gym to go swimming. I used to swim competitively and I really needed exercise and some time out of the house. After all, babies can’t always have their mommy’s, right (or so everyone continuously told me)? The last night I went swimming (which was only the first few times that I went) I recall being in the water and thinking how wonderful this was and how I felt like I had come home again. I was enjoying the feel of the water, the smell of the chlorine and the fatigue that slowly overcame my (out of shape) muscles. And then I got home.

When I walked in the door my daughter was screaming crying and my husband was sitting on the couch looking completely spent and helpless. I can still feel the shock. I thought here I was thinking all was well and enjoying my time in the water and all the while the two of them were absolutely miserable. I felt guilty and frustrated at the same time. So that was the last time I left my little girl at night, that is until I was in the hospital when my second child was born (she was 2.5 yrs old).

Many times over the course of the first year or so of my daughters life I would be in the shower (getting ready for work) and thinking all was well, until I turned off the water and heard the crying. Soon I would always hear crying and got in the habit of shutting of the water int he middle of my shower to figure out if it was my imagination or was she actually crying. Regardless of whether or not she was crying, I would rush out of the shower, rush to get dressed and end up being overcome by the time I actually left for work. I had spent the morning nursing and pumping, packing bottles and lunches. I was tired! But my husband was able to have over one hour of personal time in the morning. I always thought that this wasn’t fair and the less personal time I had, the more angry I became over it (and this is the point of this post…keep reading).

 

This morning while I showered (and note that I hadn’t showered since Friday morning), I was in the middle of loving the hot water when I heard the knock on the bathroom door (which I only closed to avoid waking my daughter) and then the pouting. Oh crap I thought, this is terrific. I even thought I heard the baby crying so in the middle of brushing my teeth (yes, I do this in the shower to save time) I turned off the water. Yes little girl, I will be out soon! I shouted. But still she whimpered, sitting on the floor outside of the bathroom.¬† Great I thought and I turned the water back on – back to RUSH RUSH RUSH RUSH. And then I said to myself why can’t I ever just –

 

And then it hit me.

 

All this time I have been thinking that the fact that my children cry when I am not around, or when I am trying to do something (like go to the bathroom or make some seriously needed caffeine, I mean coffee) means that I have somehow failed.

 

Ah yes, that old chant. You are a failure, everything you do you don’t do right. People are miserable because of you.

 

I never thought your babies want their mommy because you have bonded so well with them and you breastfeed so of course they want you to hold them. Of course they miss you when you are gone.

 

Nope. I just think that I am a rotten mom and an even worse wife. This morning I thought how much my husband must hate me because I left him with this mess of crying kids. I should have done better, I should have made it easier for him and there were things I could have and should have done (that is if I were capable of knowing what the right thing is) so that everyone woke up with smiles and were happy, happy, happy.

 

Seriously? Even Mary Poppins can’t do that.

 

As for my jealous (ok, anger) toward my husband who gets to spend time clipping his nails every morning (I do this only when they start to dig into adjacent toes…keeping them trimmed is just a waste of precious time I don’t have)- it’s just self-loathing turned outward. I don’t do it right and I am a failure and terrible mom, which is why I don’t get any personal time but look at him all free and clear. No stress, no worry. I hate him (I really don’t – I truly love my husband, even when we are fighting). Why doesn’t he do the same for me? Why oh why can’t I feel free from the constant stress of worrying whether or not I am screwing up my kids and making them hate me and feel as unloved and as worthless as my parents made me feel – all because I want to make some damned coffee or sit without someone or something hanging on me for 10 f’in minutes.

 

And how exactly is that his problem?

 

So the theme of my current rehabilitation has changed from figuring (identifying) all the ways my parents taught me to hate myself and how it has manifested in my life, to figuring out how all that shit has fucked up my marriage. You don’t know what you don’t know. So help me know. I don’t think I am solely to blame for all our marital issues, but I also think that I have been difficult to be with for nearly 17 years and don’t you think he has developed some defense mechanisms and ways to tune me out just so he could survive? Like the other night when the baby was up crying and I didn’t want to get back in the habit of nursing him all night (he finally sleeps and only wakes 2 times!!!!) so my husband was trying to put him back to sleep – I said do you want to try a pacifier? I had one in my hand but instead my husband got up, brought the crying baby into the room where my toddler was sleeping to fetch the pacifier from the crib. Then I went in and said forget it, I’ll just nurse him. That must have been fun for him. (and there’s another lesson in this but I don’t have time to write about it right now). I realized that I have always said “do you want to…” when I really meant “would you please…”.¬† So last night when I wanted my husband to go to the basement and get the blankets from the drying I said wanna go get the blankets and then quickly corrected myself saying would you mind getting the blankets from the dryer.

 

It’s a small step, but a step. I wonder if he recognized it.

 

As for my lack of personal time and the effect any personal time has on my children…it is temporary. It will pass. And I need to see it as them wanting to be with me and not me being punished for not doing things right. I am a good mom and I show my kids love and respect and by wanting me to be with them they are telling me they feel the love and want more.

March 7, 2014

Deliver me from evil

Deliver me from the communication evil that befalls my marriage. Help me chose the right words and impart the appropriate inflection and intonation.

As the adage says – it’s not what you say but how you say it. It’s evidently all in the delivery.

 

I had a phone session with my therapist the other day. I simply do not feel like I can take off of work – feel like I have too much to do, too much responsibility and lose too much time pumping.

He had the following things to say:

  • My marriage is laden with communication issues and they need to be resolved.
  • What me and my husband say, and what is heard, are very different things.
  • Both of our feelings are hurt and he’s not informing me when his feelings are hurt so we can’t discuss it and pain just festers.
  • I assume I understand his thought process. I most likely do not.
  • Furthermore, we do not understand each others intentions, motivations or understanding of situations, events, etc. But we think we do.
  • We need to develop new ways of communicating. We most likely need couples therapy.

 

I don’t disagree with any of that. Relationships are a two-way street and problems can never be one person’s fault. I also think that we hold our own life frustrations so close to the surface that it’s hard not to hold the other person somewhat accountable for our emotions (i.e., our response/reaction must filter through these frustrations and thus carry a part of the anger).

Here are some examples:

My husband commented that I have criticized him for cooking. I do not recall doing this, although I do recall being annoyed that it seemed he waited until we got home to begin cooking. From my perspective, when I get home I am hungry. My daughter is also very hungry. He is unemployed and I don’t see why he couldn’t start cooking earlier. So we either wait for dinner, and get more and more annoyed, hungry and cranky, or we eat snacks to hold us over…but then aren’t terribly hungry for dinner. We also then go to bed shortly after eating. But I have no idea of what he did that day such that he couldn’t start cooking earlier. I never asked. I never wanted to ask. How on earth would I phrase that conversation so that I didn’t hurt his feelings and simultaneously start an argument? So I say nothing, but get annoyed. This happened last night. And I didn’t handle my anger very well. I am sick (head and chest cold) and extremely tired. I just wanted some dinner. I am also annoyed that I am overweight, can never seem to eat well balanced meals and the summer is coming so I will again have to suffer through the heat and humidity in jeans (no, I would NEVER show my legs!) and constantly be reminded of the fact that I am fat and disgusting. So the fact that he didn’t have dinner ready reminded me of all of these other negative things and that’s really why I was angry.

On top of that are my feelings of jealousy¬† and “it’s not fair” and, more importantly, self-blame of what am I doing wrong?, all of which get intertwined with my frustration about the state of my house, my lack of personal time and the constant drain on my body and mind. I have said many times that on the occasion where I actually get some time to myself, the cat is then all over me. It never ends. So when I start thinking about the things that need to be done, I start feeling like my husband doesn’t do enough – e.g., housework. I feel like he gets to do whatever he wants during the day without any demands on him or his time and I don’t ever get that. So I get angry about the clothes still in baskets, the overflowing garbage cans, the cutting boards that haven’t been washed for weeks (over a month?) and the mess everywhere. And I think he should take care of it – it’s only fair. But I am also struggling with feelings of inadequacy as a woman, wife and mother. Don’t all other mom’s have immaculately clean houses, never a mess anywhere, dinner always prepared ahead of time? Aren’t they all a healthy weight and not a complete embarrassment to their daughter (forget that she’s only three)? I am clearly doing something wrong if this is the state of my house and my life. I am clearly not adequate and clearly failing miserably. All of this anger and frustration (ok, let’s face it, it’s anxiety) get turned to jealousy and anger towards my husband.

On top of all of that, I then struggle with how much of my feelings are “acceptable”…am I asking/demanding/expecting too much? Shouldn’t he be doing this stuff (note the extreme use of “this” as all encompassing!) or am I being unreasonable? What the hell is normal? I just assume that everything I think and feel is irrational and extreme. So now I don’t trust anything I think or feel and get even more angry and anxious that I can’t figure that out. Another layer to work through – more emotion to coat my words.

So when I open my mouth I have already assumed the response based on this crazy thing that I do. It will always be my fault. I am always to blame. I become more and more defensive, anxious and angry. I don’t know which way to turn or what to do.

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