Bad Mommy, Bad Mommy

December 22, 2006

Whew…today I finished those few last minute (which unfortunately take hours because of traffic) Christmas errands for everyone and I’m officially DONE with my list — just a wee bit of wrapping to do and this Christmas is a wrap (heavens, I’m clever).

Really, though, I’ve been simply ghastly today toward my children who have done little more than have the misfortune to be born to me. How can their little idiosyncrasies make me so so angry? So angry that I’m embarrassed to admit it to others. Must.Quote.Anne.Lamott: (fyi — this is a small tic I have because she says things so much more eloquently and precisely than I ever manage.) This is from “Heat” in her book Plan B: Further Thoughts of Faith:

“If regular people spotted your hidden angry inside self, they’d draw back when they saw you coming. They would see you for what you are — human, flawed, more nuts than had been hoped — and the they would probably not want to hire or date you. Of course, people have such bit parts in your life that they’re not around to see the erratic panoply that is you. But children, my God — attending to all their needs is so physically and mentally exhausting and unrelenting that our blow-ups may be like working out cramps in our legs.”

And later when describing conflict with kids:

“All you’re aware of is the big windy gap between you, with your lack of anything left to give, and any solution whatsoever.”

Anyone know what she means?

I wanted to be a mother for as long as I can remember. I recall a conversation back in graduate school with a professor, a woman not much older than myself. At the time I was 26 and she was just past 30. I was nearing the end of my studies (an MFA in poetry) and Tim and I were planning to have kids soon after I graduated. Note: Men plan, God laughs, because for those of you who can do the math it was several years before we were blessed with first Abby and then the boys.

“So you guys plan to have kids pretty soon?” she asked me.

“Yeah, it’s what I’ve always really wanted. I love writing, but being a mother is my major career aspiration in all honesty.” I remember her looking at me for a long moment. This was a woman for whom writing poetry was everything, and she writes exquisite, intricate, heady poems. Her gaze was not unkind or even confused, but I could tell that her choices and my own were possibly on opposite ends of the spectrum.

“How about you and H? Do you think you’ll have children?” I asked. She and I had become close enough in working on my thesis that this question didn’t seem too intrusive.

Another pause. And then she smiled and said, “I don’t know whether we’ll have children. But if we don’t, it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.”

But to me? Not having children was the worst thing in the world I could have imagined. Tim and I went through a lot to have these children — a story for another day, but let’s just say needles were involved and no, twins don’t run in our family — and I wouldn’t change one blessed thing. They represent the best of what God has given us.

That doesn’t mean, though, that I realized how very difficult it would be on some days. I wish I could say that I remain in a beatific state of thankfulness, glorying God with my every parenting decision. I wish I could say that I always always know how much I love each of them, that I’m constantly making each of them feel the love in my heart. But, oh sometimes traffic is heavy and I just…suck…I bark and I growl. I pound my fist on the steering wheel. I say dismissive and cruel things. I feel hemmed in by the responsibility of always being their mother.

Back when I had that conversation with my professor, I assumed that I would somehow seamlessly blend my maternal and writing lives — I mean, of course one can be a great mother and great writer, right? Yes, the kids would always be more important, but I would easily maintain a life outside of them that included my writing.

The truth is something closer to this: my kids require daily, sometimes minute by minute laying down of my life and my desires. I am so much less important than they are. And I’m not saying that as a martyr or a doormat or someone who believes that my own needs don’t matter. The God-given reality of the situation: the kids don’t give a rat’s ass if I ever publish a book, but they sure as heck care if I’m here, if I’m available to them physically and emotionally, if I minister Jesus’ love to them, if I put their many needs before my own. That’s what being a mother is. And it’s not to say I can’t be a writer (or a trapeze artist or a secretary or a pharmacist) too — but it’s a matter of remembering the priorities and being willing to die to my own selfish desires to make my life work the way I want all the time.

Unfortunately for my selfish side, this is an entirely Biblical concept. See Romans 6, just for openers.

Luckily, we have a very good heavenly Father who knows us so thoroughly that He often lets us have more than one gift. He is not stingy with His gifts. It seems very possible that in a heavenly box that bears my name, there is plenty of provision for me: for strength to be a better mother tomorrow — for thankfully, His mercies are new each day. And there may just be some provision for my writing as well. He’s a good Dad that way, you know?

I ran into my professor at a local mall recently. Though her eyes flicked over me with a sense of almost-recognition, it’s been twelve years since we’ve spoken and while she was my one professor, I was one of many many students. She and H are divorced and she is in another relationship — to my knowledge, she has no children. I know that she continues to write lovely poems and I wish her the very best. But I wouldn’t trade places with her for anything in the world.

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One Response to “Bad Mommy, Bad Mommy”

  1. I am having problems viewing your template on my LG netbook screen. Do you have a thiner version of the website I could use instead?

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