Wednesday, May 30, 2007

i hold this in my hands

I am not a good mother when I am sick. I am not as good of a mother when M is sick for an extended time. The irritability creeps up my neck and radiates out my fingernails. I feel ugly. I sometimes respond in a barely controlled voice.

And for what? I often wonder exactly what point I am trying to make. As if my irritability has any inference aside from confusion, those chocolaty brown eyes gazing up at me, wondering who this woman is, this mommy.

You are the best mommy, M says while crawling in my lap. Oh, baby, I think, I don't think so. I am really quite the bitch.

It's no one fault, sickness. It's a passing thing, a trivial mundanery, a pebble in a shoe. It's not what defines me, and yet it is. Because showing up on the hard days is sometimes when it matters the most. Anyone can be a mom on the easy days, the days of sunshine and playgrounds. But on days of wind and sorrow, gasping and sighs? It's only then that the measure is taken, the cord of wood split.

I wield the axe, heavy in my hand. I can build a fire, I think. Or I can build a fort around myself and hide under the walls. But no one will come looking, eyes turn away from dusty corners, sharp edges tend to wound.

It's the light that we cleave to, the brightness in their eyes. I am still me, underneath.

43 comments:

thailandchani said...

Wow... well stated. I get what you're saying.



~Ch

Lawyer Mama said...

Oh yes. It's damn hard to be a sick mama. I hope you don't have what Baby M had. Take care of both of you.

kristen said...

Don't I know it sister. It's the utterance of 'your the best mommy ever' that reals me back in from whatever dark sided moment I'm experiencing when the going gets tough.

Sober Briquette said...

Beautiful, so poetic. And sick mama never gets a sick day. Long days, short nights, feeling like you are never rested. Don't beat yourself up for a minute of bitchiness when it surfaces. You're making the moment longer than it was... and measure is taken every day. Er...it's like nutrition, let's say - take the total of the week and see how it balances out. To the good.

Deezee said...

"Anyone can be a mom on the easy days, the days of sunshine and playgrounds."

oh, not really. :)

I know we get down on ourselves when we dip below perfection and show ugly human qualities, but that's when I blurt out, "I'm a person, too!" And now my son helps me through the rough patches, which is a delicious bonus of revealing your humanity.

But sick days, the truly rough and tumble ones (as opposed to 'let's lie in bed and watch a movie' sick days) totally suck.

Here's to healing.

Christine said...

Oh, i so so know what you mean. Sometimes when the going gets really rough I get mean. Not understanding, not caring, not patient. Cranky. Then they say that you are "the best" and it feels like you're heart is going to cleave in two. Hang in there. At the heart of it you ARE a good mom. You reflect on this and it shows how much you really, really love her. Take care.

QT said...

I hope everyone feels better soon & I think De is right - overall is what is important, let your frustrations out so they don't build.

It's ok not to be perfect!

Beck said...

Yep, it's much easier to be the good mother when things are easy and fun. It's when I've been walking the floors with a sick baby who has thrown up on me overandoverandover again and the older kids are fighting and I'm not feeling great myself that I really have my mettle tested. Oh, and my ability for INTENSE SELF PITY.

KC said...

We've all been there. It's part of being a mother and being human too. And we will always think we could be better in one way or another. But what counts is the love. The love you bring to your child, and the love she brings to the world around her. This is the radiant example of you.

Oh, The Joys said...

There was this whole conversation on the internets awhile back about how talking about what a bad mom you were was the new black and that we should all embrace how good we were... and this pissed me off for some reason.

Your post perfectly illustrates how there is nothing trendy about the way that we sometimes (or often) feel like we are underwater with this thing, this mothering.

Bravo for telling it like it is.

mamatulip said...

This takes me back to when Julia had her tonsils out.

Hang in there, friend. Thinking of you all.

alejna said...

It's good to share when being a parent isn't all sunshine. We all have those times, and it helps to know we're not alone. I know the crankiness, and the urge to hide, and I'm new to this motherhood gig. (Nothing drove me more crazy during the exhausting newborn period than to hear about how someone "loved every minute" of having a new baby. Me? There were quite a few minutes that I did not love. Still are.)

I hope you both feel much, much better.

meno said...

It gets easier, it does.

No one is the best mom, but you are the mom she needs.

liv said...

Jess said it so well. It is hard to be Mom to a sicky. I have days when I long for some cuddle time, and then when they're sick and down and out I find myself banging my head on the wall and begging to be left alone. Oh, the guilt!

Go easy on yourself, and know that M loves you like crazy each day. Just like all of us!

slouching mom said...

i feel exactly as you when my guys are sick. after a while with no improvement i get impatient. in some subconscious way i think i'm blaming the kid for not getting better. as if it's his fault.

and you know what? this may be a reach, but i wonder whether they all say "you're the best mom" at just those times when they're feeling like you're not the best.

kids are so smart.

Julie Pippert said...

I know that feeling, unfortunately all too often. You really put it into words so well.

Hang in there and feel better, take it easy (and easy on yourself, too).

crazymumma said...

You wrote what I have felt....far too many times than I care to remember.

Bet ya, when she is better that there is going to be something older about her. A leap, physical or cognitive....

It's the reward for the irritation of the illness, the irritation of the need.

Work out the shit at boot camp.

Kyla said...

Oh jen, I hope your sweet girl feels better soon. It is draining when they aren't quite themselves.

PunditMom said...

You've tapped into one of my darkest secrets -- having a hard time being the mom when the child is not being "easy." For me, even a physical illness is easier than the daily anxieties and demons that have to be dealt with to keep the PunditGirl on an even keel. Sometimes, I hate myself for thinking this wasn't what I bargained for. And then I realize that she is more like me than I care to admit.

Pgoodness said...

I believe we were separated at birth, my friend. You put into words so often exactly how I feel. Thanks. Oh, and you are the best mommy, bitchy or not. Hang in there.

flutter said...

You are the best mommy. Want to know why?

"It's the light that we cleave to, the brightness in their eyes. I am still me, underneath."

That's all it takes, mama.

Mad Hatter said...

Ya. I can be supermom if she is sick. If I'm sick too I lose my everything. Nicely stated, Jen.

I hope you are well again soon.

urban-urchin said...

Ditto what Meno said.

Em said...

If I have one of my headaches I am an ogre. Nuff said.

carrie said...

Oh Jen, I had no idea that M was sick. When Wyatt was 3 mos. old, we spent some time in the hospital for breathing treatments, so I recognize her "mask". I do hope that she is feeling better.

And you, you rest. Even when you're down, you're still an amazing mother, and M knows that.

Thank you for the perspective. I need a little this week.

Take care,
Carrie

Bon said...

i too lose patience, with sickness, with things i don't control...and then i wonder what in god's name i'm trying to prove with that tone of voice, anyway.

thanks for saying it out loud. i think i needed to hear it.

'the brightness in their eyes'...yes. yes.

Tabba said...

Jen....I hope you and M are on the mend.

And this is such a beautiful, amazing, truthful post.

Mrs. Chicky said...

Everything is harder when you're sick. When you have to deal with a kid... Whoo boy.

Susanne said...

Losing my patience might be my biggest parenting weakness. Not only when my son is sick but at other times too. And I often reach the point where I want to yell at him, "I can't make you better so please suffer in silence so that at least one of us gets some sleep." And sometimes I do.

But like De said, the good moments count too. And both our kids know that we will be there nonetheless and love them.

Beating yourself up doesn't help at all.

NotSoSage said...

Oh, you are such a good mama, that voice and all. Because you get it and you are you.

Ruth Dynamite said...

You're a poet. Do you know that?

Momish said...

still, I can't imagine you being a bitch even sick. I am sure M understands in her own little way. They know when we are not ourselves and can handle it when it isn't often and doesn't last long.

M is right, you are the best mom to her! She didn't say perfect, she said the best.

J Fife said...

Thanks for sharing so beautifully, honestly and poetically the experience of a mom with a sick baby.

Hope a healthy M is in your world today.

Gwen said...

No, the measure is not taken on the days of wind and sorrow. It's given in balance, with the good and bad weighted appropriately. It's sometimes enough JUST to show up, not to perform.

I hope you feel better soon!

Binky said...

I always hate to hear the idea that one's true self comes out in times of hardship. Because, if that's the case, I am not a good person. In stressful situations, I am not only incompetent, but I'm also impatient and insensitive. In short, I suck. But I like to think that that side of my personality is not any more "me" than the brighter side. They both contribute to the whole.

Anjali said...

It's so hard. We're here handing you tissues.

Carrie said...

We've all been through those times and it just sucks that sickness weakens us and makes us feel miserable. I also have sad moments like that, especially if there are multiple problems.

Lawyer Mama said...

Well, I feel a bit bad about doing this to you when you're sick, but I tagged you for the BlogRhet meme. When you're better, of course.

Ally said...

Hey there, I just stopped in via Seattle Mamacita and then via a comment you left on KC's page. I enjoyed your writing, and just wanted to say, hang in there. I don't know what's worse, being sick and not getting to "call in sick" as a Mom, or taking care of a sick kid for more than 1-2 days. The picture on "Breathing Lessons" was so pitiful (your daughter's...your henna was lovely!) Hope you're all feeling better soon.

Maryam in Marrakesh said...

Yes one gets a pass definitely when sick. But what about those times when one i not a good mommy for no good reason at all:-(

Pendullum said...

So very true
Trial by fire... That is what parenting seems to be all about...
Hope everyone is on the mend soon...

ewe are here said...

I don't even have the excuse of being 'sick' when I'm short with my toddler. But sometimes, the refusal to cooperate, the whining... it can drive me insane.

and then I feel like such a crappy mom.

Danni said...

Think of it as a challenge every parent must go through. It's always a great feeling to have surpassed another problem in our life.