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Motherworkin’ Part I – Enjoy Every Single Moment or; The Rocking Chair

May 25, 2011

Here’s a moment:

I am upstairs in the nursery rocking my baby girl back into her nap while she gently tugs at my breast. She falls asleep between swallows of milk and then rouses herself to drink more. The house is quiet, it’s just us and the sunbeams. Her room — our room — is beautiful. The maple floors shine, green viney plants climb the walls and frame the artful objets I’ve lovingly placed on shelves and walls. The window beside us is large and outside it, a magpie drifts in and out of a spectacularly blue prairie sky and a bare-branched elm.
You’d think tit would be an easy moment to be present in.
But I am annoyed. My teeth are clenched, my back is all knots, and my breath is coming out my nostrils in sharp little daggers aimed at the baby. All this spring sunshine is revealing so much winter grode in so many homely locations. And I have a brand new bottle of Citrasolve, a bucket of rags, a box of swiffer dusters with a telescoping handle, and a hand-held Electrolux. I’ve chased Hubby and the kids out of the house with the dog. This is my hour to clean furiously with nobody at all to unclean, furiously, behind me. All I ask of the baby is that she stay asleep when put there. For just one hour.
But no…. the sound of silence does not sit well with her. She’d like to be held. She’d like to doze in my arms, effectively pinning me to the rocking chair. Should I try to extract my nipple from her toothy maw and to set her gently down amidst soft, huggy, minky things, she makes like a murder of crows, all aflap and asquawk.
Yup. She’s got me by the tit.
And all I can think about is this one dusty corner in the living room and how satisfying it would be to wipe it clean. Am I asking for fame and fortune? No. I am asking to clean my living room. Which is, apparently, asking too much. If I could just… agggggghbllllgh. I was just about to clean it, I was, my hand hovered above that sun-dappled ball of dog hair when that murder of crows sounded from the nursery. Now all I can think is, “I’d rather be sucking up that dust bunny with an Electrolux, but nooooooo, I have to sit here peacefully rocking a beautiful baby.”
One of these days I’ll be a little old lady in an empty house with no one to unclean things for me and all the time in the world to suck dust bunnies with a hand-held. And I know that I will not, for a second, wish to travel back in time to clean the dust-bunnies I didn’t have time for while I was raising children. I will, however, I’m sure, wish to visit that sun-drenched nursery to hold my baby in my arms while she dozes and I rock in a silent, golden torpor. And I won’t be able to remember why I didn’t long for that moment to never end.
What’s up with that?
Some endlessly repeated advice people give new moms is “Enjoy every single moment — they grow up so fast.”

It irks me ever so much.

It is well-meaning but terrible advice. What makes it particularly vile, thanks for asking, is that it often comes from people who have held a very unreasonable newborn at 2 a.m. and should know better. And it’s often directed at a mommy who is in a cloud of postnatal hormones that makes her feel… let’s just say, a little raw, and who is quite overwhelmed by the everythingness of motherhood and whose body is so bone tired and sore because she hasn’t put the baby down for hours and hours and hours and she just really needs a hot meal, a cold drink, and for someone to tell her she’s not terrible at everything.

Better advice would be this: “Do enjoy your babies as much as your are able — try to relax, try to forget about your to-do list, and never fight the sappy bliss. Give in to the sappy — when you want to drop everything to hug and kiss your babies, DO IT. They seriously grow so fast. But in those moments when you’re not enjoying yourself, in those moments that make you want to crawl out of your skin to scuttle up the wall and hide in a dark corner, in which time appears to be standing still and you fear that gritchy little infant will NEVER let go of your tit — forgive yourself. It’s okay. You’re not terrible. IT’S HARD!”

There’s something so frazzling about enforced peacefulness. It’s a special kind of awful.

Wee ones need us to be active sometimes when we’re dead tired and need us to be still at times when we want to be active. It requires a sort of submissiveness that certainly doesn’t come naturally to me — I doubt it comes naturally to anyone.

Everyone gets why 2 a.m. feedings are stressful. It’s the 2 p.m. feedings, drenched in sunlight in a cozy chair that inspire lookers-on to assume you must be steeping in maternal bliss and to give you a knowing nod and smile and to tell you to enjoy every little moment of it. It’s that assumption that you are and should be at all times revelling in motherhood like a relaxing bubble-bath that adds an extra level of “AAAAAggggghhhhhh” to the experience.

Bet you can’t tell that cold glass of lemonade on the table is just 15cm beyond that woman’s reach and that her throat is so very parched from keeping another human hydrated in the summer heat with nothing but fluids from her own body and that she desperately, desperately wants to reach over and grab that frosty glass but fears that if she leans over she’ll wake the baby, and if that happens, oh! It will certainly be enough to make a grown woman cry.

Enjoy every single moment of it? BAH. Terrible advice. It’s a ridiculous thing to ask of a woman. If you are one of those people who say that, please stop it right now. And if you are a mama who keeps getting told to enjoy every single moment with your babies, please ignore that advice. Never ever ever let yourself feel a creeping sense of failure for not achieving such an impossible thing.

Human babies do come, after all, from human mommies and we can’t enjoy every moment of it. We just can’t. It’s because we’re people who have been transformed into mothers and not into earthly projections of enlightened selflessness.

Sometime you are steeping in bliss. Sometimes you’re not. Every parent has visited both sides of that coin.

Excepting, perhaps, Siddhartha Gautama who did transform into an earthly projection of enlightened selflessness after, mind you, leaving his wife and baby behind at the palace to embark on his spiritual journey.

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9 Comments leave one →
  1. Laura permalink
    May 25, 2011 5:05 pm

    You did it again. Your writing moves me.

  2. Marianne Sheldon permalink
    May 28, 2011 2:53 am

    Oh my god. You’ve spoken my not-quite-voiced thoughts once again and beautifully.

  3. Cary permalink
    May 28, 2011 7:23 am

    WOW! write more. i want to read it!! And so very true.

  4. Erin permalink
    August 3, 2011 8:46 am

    Exactly!
    “There’s something so frazzling about enforced peacefulness. It’s a special kind of awful.”
    It’s a special kind of hell.
    And I am “an earthly projection of enlightened selflessness” only after having some time in my cave by MYSELF!!!
    xoxox
    Thank you for this… ❤

  5. Eryn permalink
    August 3, 2011 11:02 am

    The kids destroyed my house the other day so I shoooed them out the door to vent their energies in the wide open spaces. When I opened the door not even five minutes later I discovered that my two year old vented his energies on all my potted plants, breaking two massive tomatos, dumping a precious pot of lavender and ripping two flower vines. I was so frustrated and angry I caught myself wanting to kick him down the stairs. I actually had a mini break down and called daddy home from work, a get out of jail card I have never used before. He found me in a crumpled heap sobbing incoherently that I had actually placed a higher value on my friggin plants then my kids. But you know what? I grew all those things from seed, I’ve watered those plants every day since march, dragged them in and out of the house twice daily during frosty spring. There was too much work put into them to have them smashed in an afternoon. Buddha’s lesson on impermanence, yeah yeah. Dr. Sear’s lesson on growing kids and not gardens, yeah yeah. But a day devoted entirely to babies and toddlers is long and intense. Without clean homes, gardens, late night binges, a person could go mental! Every single day of my life these past 4 years has been a re-examination of that balance. Sure, 20 years from now I won’t remember a messy house and I will long for the days of their childhood, but right now, if I have to walk over that sticky pile of who knows what embedded with crunchy bits of you know what one more time I’m going to have another serious meltdown and I’m not sure how many more get out of jail cards I have left! Cheers to being human! Cheers to being mom!

  6. April 8, 2012 9:49 pm

    Seriously, where have you been all my child-rearing days?

    I read this book before having my son called What Mothers Do: Especially When It Looks Like Nothing by Naomi Stadlen. I just found the little write up I did on it after reading your Motherworkin’ Part II post and her book talks about the being instantly interruptible. It’s so nice to have (and hopefully now I’ll remember) a word to describe it.

  7. April 18, 2012 6:24 am

    I love, love, love this.

    So tragic about that drink just out of reach, but haven’t we all been there!

Trackbacks

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