Thursday, September 20, 2012

Made of Mom*

*Important note for family members who still read this blog: don't freak out. Just let me write.

Pete and I are having issues. He lives a life with multiple identities; husband, father, videographer, musician, entertainer, all of which fit into "Pete" and make him a busy, interesting person. That's not to say that he is entirely fulfilled or doesn't feel lacking in some way, but he has a spectrum of identity that, from my perspective, allows for greater freedom and self-satisfaction. Heck, he even regularly receives enthusiastic praise from hundreds of people.

I am wife and mom. I don't even have my lame work identity to fall back on anymore.

I love my kid. He is smart, sweet, weird, caring, and funny. I chose to become a mother, and I would not take it back. But I am not Made of Mom. I don't find it so fulfilling that all else pales in comparison. It's not enough. In most ways, in fact, I feel motherhood has reduced me. Life has become a process of getting by, getting everyday over with, and adding twelve more items to the "Later List." When you add the guilt that comes with such feelings, you have a recipe for an existential crisis casserole complete with a crunchy topping of crushed, salty melancholy. Too bad my oven is still broken. That could be delicious served up with a side of shame and a tall, cool glass of iced rage.

We've had arguments about this before, and it seemed to come down to this for my spouse: it's either that I am not grateful that nothing terrible has happened to me and am just a purely privileged person, that I don't want to be a wife and mother, or I am so sleep deprived that I have lost all perspective.

I acknowledge that I am a privileged person and that I am sleep deprived. It is not being a wife that has made me dissatisfied. It is being a mother. Or is it? It's how motherhood has altered my life, and it has clearly altered my life in a way that has not made me happier overall. It has sucked more Me away, rather than creating more Meaning. I love my boy, and I love being with him; I would be devastated if anything ever happened to him. But his presence has created an absence, reducing me while making me something more. Motherhood is a paradox for me, and it seems like fatherhood is mainly an unrelenting joy for my husband, marked only with annoying bumps in the road.

This fact only makes my ambivalence worse and brings up a sense of inadequacy and failure. I must not have given myself over to this, my perspective must be all wrong and my expectations unrealistic. The fact that I miss my life before the boy makes me a terrible person. The fact that the thirty minutes I sometimes had before they both came home from work/daycare (when I was working) was often the best part of my day made me a selfish troll. Even if I am cooking dinner while watching Victorian melodramas and having a Guinness, I am simultaneously dreading their arrival while wishing to see them.

I am purely awful.
And daddywhumpus is a wonderful father.

Or maybe I don't want to be Just a wife and mother.

Only one of us can have a Big Fat Life, and while Pete is out and about getting approval and accolades for doing what he loves to do, I am failing and flailing, getting no accolades or approval for anything. I am keeping us going, which no one cheers about.

While society has accepted women in workplaces, much of the underlying consciousness has not changed. The idea of gender roles and expectations has not changed or is changing much more slowly. So women work out of the home as much as men and twice as much in the home. We are still the main provider of childcare and domestic chores, while men "babysit" and "help out around the house." Unemployment for me has actually improved our lives in many ways. I am on top of those domestic chores and I am significantly less stress-out and filled with twitchy self-loathing. It helps that babywhumpus is still in day care.

1 comment:

Brenda said...

Totally. Totally totally totally. I'm guessing you and I have both been adult women who made lots of choices for ourselves. And, speaking for myself, the spouse's music schedule and working 7 days a week has drastically reduced the choices I get to make about my own schedule and my own life. I'm feeling it, too. We should have our own version of playdates where the kiddos entertain each other in one house or the other and we take turns having our own time for a couple of hours. Oh, that would be glorious. How is Finn with princessy paper dolls and dress-up clothes?