Mom Really is the Loneliest Number…

I was in the middle of writing a list of things that I’ve learned since becoming a mom 6 years ago. After reading it over and over, I decided that I’d heard it all before. If it was old news to me, it’s probably old news to you too. Of course I know (along with every other mom out there) about the sleep deprivation, the conversations about poop and the extreme exhaustion you will feel just in getting dressed every morning. It can be funny to read about it and relate to. List aside, there was one thing that I wanted to say, but couldn’t. It seemed to be trapped. Too shameful to say. I don’t know if it is because we aren’t supposed to talk about it, or if maybe I’m the only one in the world who feels it, but I’m just going to go ahead and say it. Being a mom is extremely isolating and lonely.

Before I had kids I had a job, and friends, and a pretty extensive social network. I had my own life, and although it was nothing like an episode of Sex and the City, it was still much more exciting than my life post-kids. When I was pregnant the first time it didn’t even occur to me that soon my social life would be non-existent. I figured that it would just change. I would do things all the other moms did. Like drink coffee while our kids played together, spend hours at the park and giggle with the other women about how sweet our kids were. Post-baby I realized that in fact, being a mom was the loneliest gig out there. My daughter didn’t like mom/baby groups, and to be honest, neither did I. She cried the whole time, grumpy that we weren’t at home in the rocking chair. I usually sat there red-faced feeling like a failure-mom for not being able to soothe her or make her sweet and smiley like the other babies. There were no great friendships started with other moms or feelings of camaraderie. It was fine and passed the time, but that was it.

Two more kids later, and not much has gotten better. Yes, there are play dates and mom friends that keep me from going completely feral (and I am grateful), but those usually consist of conversation about our kids. These events are not bad in any way, but they hardly replace true uninterrupted adult interaction. All of our mom conversations feels distracted, or rushed. Moms are busy people. Contrary to popular opinion, we aren’t just sipping lattes and doing yoga. We are usually always focused on what our kids are doing, where they are, whether or not they are about to stab another kid with a stick (maybe that’s just me). We don’t have a lot of time to get into detail about the challenges and hardships of being a mother, wife or woman. I know lots about these moms, but not about the women behind the mom-badge. Does that even make sense?

Back in the early years I would plan nights away, without kids. When I did, it always seemed like the odds were stacked against me. Someone would get sick, and then I’d feel guilty for leaving. Plans would change, babysitters would cancel. If on the off chance I actually could escape for a night with a girlfriend, I’d spend the entire time worried about what was happening at home. I knew that when I got back the work would have piled up and I’d have to spend double the amount of time trying to catch up. The dishes would be piled, the kids would be dirty, and the house a total write-off. Eventually I just gave up on going out all together. It seemed easier to just push that aside and tell myself I’d get back to normal once my kids grew up a little bit. I thought it was what I had to do to be a better mom.

I’m only thinking of this now, because I’m sitting in the house with my three kids alone. Tonight is yet another night out for my husband. He doesn’t understand how I feel about this at all. He says that he’s not stopping me from doing the same thing, and he’s right. But what he doesn’t understand is how lucky he is to live in an area where he has friends who want to go out with him. How lucky he is to have a community of people who stop in to see him, and who want to spend time with him. People who talk to him as a man, and not just a father.

I gave up my job, my friends and any resemblance of my old self because that’s what good moms do. Right? My husband is lucky because he doesn’t feel an ounce of guilt when he goes out and has fun. He doesn’t think about what will happen when he has a horrendous hangover and can’t function the next day. He doesn’t worry that he’ll come back from a night away to a pile of work to do. He doesn’t have to. And yes, I’m jealous. 

So if I were to write a list of things women need to know about having kids, I’d write this: There will be times when you feel completely isolated and lonely, and that’s normal. There are lots of us women out there who are surrounded by their kids and even other moms, and still feel all alone. 

I’m not sure I know this as fact yet, but I’m pretty sure it passes. Our kids grow up, and we start to have time for people over 4 feet tall again. Until then — I’m just hanging in there. I’m looking forward to that scene, like the end of a movie, where the wounded hero emerges from the pile of rubble to claim victory! It’s going to happen for me, for all of us. 6 years down, 16 or more to go!







Lacking Mom-Magic? Don’t Worry, Your Kids Will Be Alright!

I was reading this article on parenting earlier, and the whole time I was thinking “yes, yes, YES!” It was about how the author was sick of making her kid’s childhood magical. It struck a chord with me, particularly as I was just thinking about how much of a failure I was for not having an elaborate birthday party planned for my eldest daughter’s 6th birthday next month. Actually, let me re-phrase that. I wasn’t feeling like a failure so much as panicking over how I’d come up with something so very special for her that all her friends would think she’s the luckiest kid on earth. As I was waiting for her to finish school, I read this article and instantly felt relieved. Thank goodness there are other parents out there who are sick and tired of always trying to entertain their kids, make things over-the-moon special and picture-perfect in every way. She’s 6. She should be happy with a cake, balloons and her friends coming over to trash our house for an afternoon. That’s what I got as a kid, and I thought it was awesome.

The article mentioned the kind of feelings I can relate to. Panic over having to come up with awesome ideas that will not only entertain my kids, but make them smarter and better people. I fear that they will have a horrible childhood if I don’t scour Pinterest looking for cool Easter crafts and baking ideas. I worry that if I don’t have them signed up for every sport and extracurricular activity going, they will miss out on something. At times I have thought that it’s my job to make every moment magical and special for them.  If I can’t keep up with all the other moms, will my kids become future sociopaths and monsters who end up facing a life imprisonment? Sometimes I work myself up enough to think the answer is yes.

The article states that we spend entirely too much time planning elaborate games/crafts/parties/activities to entertain our kids. I agree, because really, my parents didn’t do half the stuff I see on Pinterest and Facebook, and I think I turned out OK. In fact, there are a whole bunch of us poor adults wandering around aimlessly with no memories of our moms creating magical boats out of juice boxes, or planning elf on the shelf hiding spots to make our eyes pop out of our heads. We didn’t have parents who played with us 24/7 and made everyday an adventure for us. We had parents who set us free instead, to find our own adventure. We were allowed to be alone, and we created our own games and sources of entertainment. This parenting style seems to have gone the wayside, and I think that’s a shame. When I think of my childhood my parents are somewhat of an afterthought. What I remember is my sisters and brother, and my cousins and our whole world that we created by ourselves, outside in the trees, or on the beach at our rickety cottage. I remember special occasions most because of the “kid table” that had it’s own pecking order. We were our own community. We were our own world. I think that was what made my childhood magical. We were left to interpret the world in the way a child naturally does-with magic. Now everything is set out with a plan and a lesson. Structure, structure, structure. Parents are defeating the purpose when they try to force a “magic” that comes naturally to their kids.

Earlier I was planning out what kind of Easter craft I would do with the kids this weekend. I think I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again, I HATE crafts. My daughter loves them. I usually find something online, and try to re-create it with the kids. When theirs (and naturally mine as well) don’t work out as planned, I get upset that I failed to create the perfect craft memory with my kids. Even writing that makes me shake my head. Yes, that’s ridiculous. I know. So this time I collected a bunch of paper, markers and some cute Easter stickers from the dollar store. I’ll drink my tea and watch them do crafts. They can do elaborate arts and crafts at school or at daycare and that doesn’t make me a bad mom at all.

All that aside, I do think it is a parent’s job to make things special for kids sometimes. I have very fond memories of some of the stupid and pointless things my parents did to make things fun for us. I remember my Dad telling us stories about a mythical magical monster named “fuck-a-loogie” who lived in the closet. I’m not even kidding. Leave it to my father to use a swear word in his magical monster’s name. He’d tell us the story and then when he left “fuck-a-loogie” would appear wearing a rope mop-head for hair with a clementine in his mouth. One time he even appeared in our window. It freaked the crap out of us, and we LOVED IT! As a side note on that: Clearly I get my twisted sense of humour and childhood memory-making skills from my dad.

When I asked Natalie what her best memory is so far, she said this: “Remember when you were driving and you ran over the 911 sign?” Yeah, so she remembers when I was sleep deprived, with three kids in the car (Millie was only 10 days old at the time), and I mowed over the 911 number sign at our house. She didn’t even mention the trips to Disney that cost us several thousands of dollars. Proof that kids don’t give a damn how much money you spend.

My kids will be OK. They have plenty of “magic” in their lives. Natalie once asked me if I’d take my hair out of the messy ponytail it was in. When I asked her why she said: “so we can see the eyes.” When I was wasn’t getting it, she said: “Mom, you said you had eyes in the back of your head. That’s where you hide them right? In your ponytail?” Clearly they aren’t lacking in the imagination department. That’s good enough for me.