Tuesday, August 19, 2008

How Much Guilt Can a Mother Take?

I've been having one of those soul-destroying days that makes you want to crawl into bed with a cup of tea and an escapist novel. Or else throw things. Neither of which I can do because in the other room is my lovely boy who's been crying and fussy all day long, and he's been like that for several days running. It's the teeth, I know it's the teeth and they hurt and it's awful but I've just had enough of it. He's in his crib right now, crying and whimpering intermittently, and I feel guilty and horrible for just letting him be there--an evil, rotten mother who cares nothing for children at all, who's waspish and mean and selfish, the mother of nightmares.

How come nobody ever talks about these days? How come nobody ever warns you of them?

I'm not the mother of nightmares. I'm a good mother so far, loving and giving and conscientious most of the time. But I am also so tired. Bone tired. Today is one of those days when motherhood feels like living with an abuser, being buffeted by violence so often that you can only, finally, be still inside and take what comes and look forward to escaping into sleep.

Days like this I just want to run away. I want to be free--to be a person, my own human being, again. Why aren't mothers allowed to admit that more often? That we're tired of our own personhood being taken from us, or taken for granted? I am. This isn't a job you can quit or take a vacation from and it sucks up every particle of energy, every moment of the day.

It feels damned unfair that we're not revered and worshipped and paid zillions of dollars (or euros or pounds) for what we do, like movie stars and professional athletes.

How long can I let him cry before psychological damage sets in? How much guilt can I take?

Not enough. It's been about twenty minutes with little abatement. I know he's exhausted, but his teeth hurt and he will neither eat nor sleep. I don't know what to do except either hold him, rock him for ages and ages, or drop him off at a friend's house and run away forever. I know what sounds more appealing right now.

How can infinite love and something akin to hatred exist so seamlessly, side by side in one person so that you can shift from one to the other in the time it takes to blink?

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