Emotional work

At the risk of stating the obvious, parenting is hard. So hard. And apparently it gets harder with each child. For us, having two kids isn’t like 2x the work, more like x2 the work. There is so much more to do, and seemingly fewer hours and hands with which to do it all. Every once in a while I start to feel like I have it all together, like I’m finally doing more than just treading water in this new chapter. These moments are fleeting, and are generally proceeded by destruction and chaos to rival the apocalypse. Hell hath no fury like a preschooler told “no”.

The physical caring for and carrying of everything and everyone is certainly exhausting, but thankfully for Canada’s maternity leave policy and stable employment I have the luxury to adjust while not being at work. The hardest part though, is trying to hold it together emotionally on a daily basis. First off, the fatigue and hormones throw almost all sense of stability and balance out the window. Any shreds of emotional fortitude remaining are quickly consumed by constant worry about my childrens’ wellbeing, needing to hold fast during tantrums and meltdowns, and trying to be a pillar of support and perseverance while my heart breaks for my child. The hardest part is trying to ensure that I’m not just going through the day, but that I’m taking advantage of the moments to teach lessons and instill values. I love this idea in theory, but in practice it is the most taxing task I’ve undertaken in life. In those moments, to find the wherewithal to find the right thing to say, or to stick with a decision or consequence previously stated, or sometimes to not say anything will run the well dry. And then, 30 seconds later, I have to do it again. And again.

So often I feel like I (have tried not to) fight so many battles and reinforce so many lessons that I don’t even really know what I’m saying anymore, and I highly doubt anything has been effective. At least it feels like what I’m doing is ineffective, considering the number of times I repeat myself. When you only have a few tools and you’ve used them all, or worse, when you feel you have no options to deal with what is going on, it can be so lonely, so helpless, like watching the tsunami roll in. Of course, it isn’t always like that, but those are the moments that stick out; those are the moments I dread in the future. Then there is the issue of modelling the life, actions, behaviours I want my children to have. Because this entails facing my own fears, beliefs, biases, all those things I had ignored or neatly tucked away instead of resolving. I am reminded of this daily as I see in my daughter the things about myself I would rather remain hidden.

Putting pen to paper, so to speak, about these feelings brings it’s own anxiety and fear of judgement. As for so many, I’ve been trained to expect critique – not praise or encouragement – for all my parenting choices and to believe that my inefficacies as a parent, however small, make me a failure overall. Mommy guilt is a club you join the moment the child enters your life, whether you want to participate or not. It insidiously forces itself upon you and much like those product subscription clubs, it keeps sending you overpriced, unwanted packages that are nearly impossible to return. Of course I know there is no validity to these societal norms and my loved ones will not be the ones pointing any fingers. I know that it’s okay to feel how I feel and I know that my feelings are pretty normal and rational. I know that I’m not alone. That guilt, though, does certainly make it hard to keep pumping at the emotional well.

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