Of all the “mommy guilt” spewed about in the media, I think the worst kind of mommy guilt is the kind we put on ourselves.
Maya is a great kid most of the time. But she IS two and it doesn’t take a genius to know that two-year-olds are challenging little people — fun, to be sure … but challenging.
I don’t know if it’s the fact that I was playing Mommy and Daddy all week (and she sensed my stress and was extra-disobedient as a result), the fact that I’m 17.5 weeks pregnant and am, therefore, moody/impatient/exhausted/bloated … or if it’s a combination of the above … but I had a short fuse all weekend with Maya — and felt positively awful about it.
In fact, last night, I made her cry at bed-time when she wasn’t listening to me as I tried to help her into her jammies and finally, in a moment of sheer frustration, raised my voice (which I try not to do often). She didn’t even want me to read her a story and tuck her in … which broke my heart. We trade off tucking her in all the time, but last night, she actually didn’t want me to do it.
Of course, this probably sounds melodramatic, and maybe it is … but it really bothered me. I don’t like to know that I’ve upset anyone, let alone my own child. Worse, I rationally *know* she is just being two — testing her limits, pushing my buttons … it’s part of the “game,” yet knowing that doesn’t make the guilt feel any less strong.
When I think back to my pregnancy with Maya, I rarely napped and generally felt good most of the time. Sure, I was tired … but not like this! Now I’m nearly three years older than last time, and though I’m more active than before, feel absolutely wiped out at the end of the day. My head hits the pillow and — though I used to be a light sleeper who would lay in bed thinking nonstop — these days, I am out cold within seconds.
[Of course, then the insomnia kicks in after I wake up for the first bathroom break and continues on and off til the gym-time alarm clock goes off … but the actual act of going to sleep is virtually instantaneous].
Point is, it’s a lot different being pregnant the first time and the second time. Before, if I was moody, I probably (unfairly!) took it out on Luis — who is a grown-up and understood hormones and all the joys that come with pregnancy and was supportive. But Maya can’t understand any of that; she just reads facial expressions and tone … and if Mommy is mad, she knows it.
I’ve had to learn a lot of jobs on the spot, but motherhood is the one thing with literally no road map or handbook. Friends, family, strangers, expert authors of books … they can all tell you how to handle certain situations but ultimately, it’s up to each of us to decide how to handle them — but, most importantly, our reactions. I’m not proud of my reactions this weekend (the impatience and visible frustration) and I tried extra-hard today to be cognizant of my emotions so we wouldn’t have a repeat of yesterday.
Today was a long (but fun) day. She woke as if nothing had happened, singing to her animals and asking for me. We were up and at ’em early because Luis ran a local race (and did awesome — 24:15 for a 5K with zero training!). Then we had to clean the house for an(other) open house before Zumba (both exhausting). During the open house, we took Rocco to the dog park so he could run wild and then when we got home — after a full day in the sun, fighting a headache and allergies — I started feeling stress coming on and recognized that I needed a little down-time. So Luis took Maya outside to play and I laid down for 10 minutes. I didn’t sleep, but it was what I needed to recharge before dinner.
I was eternally grateful for those 10 minutes, and didn’t feel an ounce of guilt for needing it — for raising my hand. Because me on a short fuse isn’t good for anyone: me, the baby wiggling in my belly, my husband or my child. This weekend was a good reminder that it’s OK to ask for help: from a partner, a family member, a friend … it doesn’t make you a bad mom.
How about you? What coping mechanisms do you employ to avoid snapping at your kids?