I’m not loving being a mum right now. It’s hard to say that ‘out loud’, but there it is. Lately I feel like I’m carrying Sisyphus on my back as I go through the parenting motions. Up we push the rock, down the rock goes. Up we push the rock, down the spirits go.
I’ve been here before. We’ve all been here before. Parenting has never been and will never be all warmth and sunshine. Most days it’s just plain hard work with a light scattering of lovely moments. Many other days it’s mostly sunny with the odd late afternoon thunderstorm. Then other days it’s grey skies and drip, drip, drip of rain all day, everyday, relentlessly for weeks. Those are probably the worst kind of days because they are insidious. There’s no mad thunderclap to hang our anger on, no biting wind to make our frustration feel justified. The drippy, grey days simply remind us how relentless the tough parts of parenting can be, how miserable our kids can make us feel and how lonely it can be to be the grown up.
Ideally when the chips are down like this, we take a little extra time out for ourselves. To remind us that life goes on in other ways and we can contribute to and enjoy other things. But sometimes, when parenting is at its fiercest, we cannot settle away from our kids any better than we can manage to settle with them. Being apart feels infinitely worse than being together, even though together kind of sucks balls. This is because we know that the problem lurks within and that strong part of us that never gives up on our kids, no matter what, never ever, wants to stay and fix things. Our inner mother, the one that knows things that our outer mother can only dream about, is restless.
My inner mother is rearing today. I’ve felt beaten down by mothering for a couple of weeks now and she’s pacing like a caged lion. She wants to run, she wants to roar. I’ve been here before and I know that I need to contain that lion mother, but I also need to set her free. Here’s what she’ll do when I let her out.
She’s going to roar
I try not to be too much of an everyday yeller, but lion mum thinks that’s bullshit. Lion mum is ready to roar at the kids and say ‘enough is enough’. Pick up your shoes, put your school bag away, stop hitting your sister and for godsake stop whinging, stop whinging, stop whinging. You’ve all got enough of everything you need, we’ve all had enough of you pretending otherwise, enough it enough is enough.
She’s going to clean
Oddly, she’s going to clean the children’s bedrooms from top to bottom. It will take her half the time it will take me and a tenth of the time it takes the kids, such will be the level of anger fuelling her along. She’ll need to wait until the kids are at school because I won’t want the kids to hear the cursing and fussing and rattling and roaring that will go on in that room.
Once she’s done, I’ll feel like a lot of my frustration has been taken out on things. She’ll have thrown out a lot of my inner clutter. She’ll have given me and the kids a fresh start.
She’s going to rebuild boundaries
Next she’s going to start slapping mortar on the cracks of the boundaries I set for the kids. Lion mum is going to reclaim my space by reinforcing our rules. Bedtime will be strict, no will mean absolutely-not-on-your-life and everyone will be made to bunker down and toe the line for a while.
Reinforcing the rules will make me feel like I’m back in control again. There are boundaries in place that protect my sense of self and make my parenting days easier. Having them rebuilt stronger will remind everyone of what’s expected of them.
She’s going to talk and listen
Finally, lion mum is going to sit the kids down and have a good talk to them about why taking care of mum is so important. Lion mum is not afraid to let the kids know that their actions are damaging and hurtful. She’ll focus on the necessity of being kind, having respect, treating others the way you wish to be treated yourself and on the need to show love through action, not just words. Lion mum will remind the kids that saying ‘I’m sorry’ doesn’t mean anything if you don’t change your behaviour. She’ll talk to them about three things each of them could do differently and ask them what kinds of things they think Mum needs to do differently too.
Having this talk will re-centre our family and remind me of all the goodness in my children. A talk like this helps me remember how clever and brave and kind they are. How funny and interesting and how huge the love we feel for each other is, despite it all, because of it all. I’ll be able to say thank you and goodbye to my inner mum during this talk. She’ll head back into her spot within, quietly pacing, ready to help me the next time I forget that everything I ever need to get through this parenting gig is right inside me, waiting and ready.
What do you do when parenting gets too hard?