Tuesday, April 24, 2007

missing the point

okay, that's it - I quit the supermom gig. Admittedly, parts of that gig won't quit me, but aside from that (to quote Mary Jr), I'm done.

We were driving in New York, on our way to visit one family nodule before stopping to see another, when a relative called to inquire about the menu for a birthday party I was catering. Will there be chocolate cake, he asked, because she loves chocolate cake - she should really have chocolate cake, he pursued the matter, vehemently. I fumed for days, furious that he'd missed the point, that the goal was to compromise what was desired with what was safe, how dare he dictate at that late hour...and, anyway, yes I was bringing chocolate cake.

Not the point.

Somehow, I missed the concept again this past week, when I schlepped the kids to the library. There was David Haines, a British songwriter/composer, doing a little concert. We poked our heads in and decided to risk it. The music was great (the Eldest was disappointed by a lack of songs about blood, the composer promised to rectify the situation) and the Toddles came home itchy after an encounter with a kid and his bag of Pirate's Booty - and couldn't sleep for three nights afterwards from the flaring eczema and itchiness.

I walked around the house, muttering and furious, for the next few days until Thursday, when I got up, yanked on some clothes and clomped off to the local branch of the library, Toddles in tow. I had a firm, clear conversation with the children's librarian (who herself has allergies), and we figured out a safe-ish way for the Toddles to go to his first sing-along. He loved it and he slept fine that night, which I loved.

Okay, so yes, a triumph. But missing the point.

I want to be the mother who never yells, who gives her children love and nurturing and the environment they need. I wanted to be the mother who always responds to the teachers' emails, the room mother, the one who can shoulder anything gracefully and is always, always responsible. I have a friend like that, and frankly I'm in awe. Good for her, but too bad for me - it's just not working.

Right now, I'm a pot of angry, always at a simmer. I hate that I bitch about money to anyone who will listen, that I whine about allergies, that I seem to be unable to discuss topics unrelated to my kids, and I'm bored bored bored with talking about that. When did supermom fall apart so completely in my head? I swear she was there for a while, wearing her spandex and uber-supportive bra, and I'm pretty sure she was having creative sex, too. Lots. On her spick span shiny kitchen countertops, next to her perfectly folded laundry.

I've figured it out, though: I went off the tracks this time when I stopped focussing on my family. When I was working on trying to make our normal a happy one, a functional one (loosely defining the word 'functional,' of course), things worked. Better. But when I started trying to do everything that everyone else can do (going to parties, kid-oriented events, community activities), eating what others eat (can you tell it's gluten/nut-free? vegan? No, really! it is!), then my stress levels shot sky high.

Soooo, I quit. Won't do it, can do it, just won't. I grieve for you, and the restrictions in your life, my mother told me. Thanks, Mum. But I think this is one time when fighting those restrictions will actually cost me more than I'd gain.

But we're going to that singalong next week... and I wonder how long it will be until I write another version of this post? Doing it all is seductive, a power trip that proves that you can rise above it all. For a little while, anyway.

deep inside the toddler brain, wheels are turning. In five dimensional space.

Mama: where did the day go?
Toddles, looking thoughtful, points up the stairs: go! there! day! (pause) daddy!
Toddles, looks at highchair tray: rice! bowl! muck! more muck!
translation: The day went up there. With Daddy. I have puffed rice cereal in my bowl, but I need milk. More milk.
He's a little unclear on the concept, but very definite on the idea of exclamation points.


joy said...

Your resignation has been accepted. Now bask in the f***-it-all attitude of those of us who have also recently quit and are better off juggling the consequences thereof than the attempt at perfection.

Cat-in-the-head explained it best: "I fan with my fan as I hop on my ball and that is not all oh no that is not all." That is what the cat said, then he fell on his head.

much love,
another supermom-myth-quitter who cannot manage to be an entertaining mum, understanding human, a decent housekeeper and run her own business all at once on less than five hours sleep (average, not consecutive) per night

joy said...

oops, that should be Cat in the Hat. But actually, Cat in the Head works equally well. It is all in our heads, after all.

The Blogger said...

It's always something!

Do you really think that mothering would be easier if you didn't have to deal constantly with life/death issues and emergencies, and with a world strikingly inconsiderate of your kiddies' needs?


It's the same for all of us. The stakes are higher in your case -- much, much higher -- but those of us who play parenthood for lower stakes rarely notice the difference, even though we'd sleep better if we did.

- T

mama o' the matrices said...

Hey, joy, thunk! I always found the cat in the hat a little unnerving. Maybe it was the ring around the bathtub bit, maybe the looming maternal specter, the fish in the fishbowl juggling...the bit where things go splat (shudder).

Blogger-T, of course it would be this hard with ordinary kids! In fact, the hardest part is the ordinary stuff - the sibling bits especially. This one throws, so that one throws a toy, too. Then the first throws something at the second, and on and on until something is broken and someone wailing. Sigh.

Oh yes, and I'm shrieking and hating myself for it. Entirely normal. Sigh 2.0

Anonymous said...

Scared to ask what the bag of Pirate's Booty was...YIKES!

Muck! More muck!
Gotta love their brains...

dykewife said...

to be honest, supermoms are scary to me. having spent boy's entire life dealing with various heavy emotional issues (my own) i've been as far from supermom as is possible without actually leaving the planet.

you have a huge amount on your plate on an everyday basis. the fact that a) you're not bald and b) your kids are so well adjusted and c) your husband hasn't had a home-made vasectomy, speaks volumes of your ability to cope.

you may not see it, but you're actually doing an excellent job. who but you would understand that muck means milk :)

mama o' the matrices said...

hunh? Bald?

And just to complicate things, 'muck' actually means 'milk/water/desirable liquid.' Complicated kid, that one.

love the home-made vasectomy! I have to remember that one. (Ferrets and home made vasectomies. Must remember, must remember.)

mother in israel said...

I have so, so been there. I hardly talk to my kids' teachers at all. And the yelling, and the wanting to retire, and the kvetching.

Anonymous said...

((((((mama o'the matrices)))))

Auntie A said...

As a long-time observer and friend of many moms, I can tell you that I have yet to meet this mythical supermom creature. (to paraphrase Wesley: "Supermoms? I don't believe they exist.")

Honestly, the fact that all my friends are raising kids who are turning out be good human beings, while at the same time functioning on insanely low levels of sleep, is mind-boggling and awe-inspiring. Are their houses always clean? Not likely. Are they having creative sex? Sex, yes. Creative? dunno. Do they whine/moan/grouse occasionally? Of course they do.

Who needs supermom when you have real people? Go MOM!

(Although I suppose it's possible that supermom's powers might be up to resolving the vegemite crisis...) :)

Jill said...

Oh, I know how "they" do it. They have cleaning ladies and nannies, horrible marriages, self-centered kids and doctors who hand out Xanax like Pez. My 11 year old told me the other day that he felt sorry for everyone else because they didn't have families as great as ours. What's better than that??

I guess I only really care what three people in my life think...my husband, boy #1 and boy #2. To heck with the rest. I'm fed up with the uber moms who give my nose ring disapproving looks and who ask boy #1 why he has long hair. Then there's the school principal who worried that boy #2 only does "solo" activities...maybe he should play soccer instead of guitar lessons. He's 8...he plays the electric guitar...I'm pretty sure the principal's kid still picks his nose and eats it. Grrr....

mama o' the matrices said...

lois, dear, thanks for the hug. I needed that! And pirate's booty is cheddar cheese covered corn puffs. It is, by the way, delicious - and the same company makes something called Veggie Booty, a kale and spinach flavored corn puff that the Eldest adored.

Auntie A, do you remember what happened to Westley after he said that? (shudder) attack of the cranky supermoms...watch out, someone cut off their ritalin supply, and their nails are chipping! (eep)

Jill, seriously, a nose ring? I got a lousy second ear piercing and my parents stared at it all weekend. We really *must* meet someday!

but only if you'll still respect me if I admit that I have a cleaning lady in from time to time. I'm a neat freak, and she helps keep me sane, bless 'er. The Man wanted to stop the cleanings when we were cost-cutting, pre-Toddles' arrival, and a coworker took him aside.
'Don't touch the cleaning lady,' the coworker said, ominiously, 'trust me.'

So, she stayed. And she uses eco-friendly stuff, too. Gotta love my crazy town, where even the cleaning ladies have read Al Gore...

Auntie A said...

Ok, ok, so it wasn't the best example. But I have complete faith in your ability to beat them off with a stick, or failing that, stick their fancy hairdos in a flaming geyser.

mama o' the matrices said...

Hye, auntie - point taken. And I do like the flaming geyser idea...