Friday, June 11, 2010
So I'm not alone then ...
I've been thinking a lot about the 'oh it's not just me' phrase, especially after writing this blog and having women repeatedly say they feel less alone when they read my struggles. I'm glad that my hopelessness provides that service for you all! :)
It's the aloneness that it is hard. It's the feeling that I must be the only one who is stressed out by my kids trying to get out of the house in the mornings. My child must be the only one who throws a tantrum at age 11, because they didn't get to have a friend over. I must be the only one who feels lonely being at home all day with a small baby. I must be the only who battles to get their kids to brush their teeth (every, single, DAY). I must be the only one who has children that fight. I must be the only one who has a five year old who won't eat breakfast. I must be the only mum with a toddler who doesn't eat fruit. I must be the only one with a eight year old who wets the bed every night.
The list is endless. And when you find someone who admits to you, 'Oh, my kids do that all that time', you just feel a little bit of that aloneness lift.
Being a mum in our nuclear family era can be lonely. And you feel that a lot when you have a baby. You come home from hospital, a few days later your husband returns to work and there you are. All day with this very small, confusing person.
And it's not just about babies. Even as my kids have got older and I've developed a community for myself, I still find that we operate very separately from one another. We don't share much of our struggles, and we look at one another from the outside. 'Oh, she must be such a good mum, her kids all wear clean clothes' or 'O, she seems so patient, I never see her yelling at her kids at school pick-up' or 'why can't I be more like Ms X, she does so much ... '.
What we don't see is the rest of life. The mother crying in her bedroom, trying to regroup so she can face the next onslaught of tantrums, negotiations, sibling fighting. The mother yelling at her kids because she can't regroup, she can't see a way forward, she has no energy left. And she's on her own.
I don't think we were really meant to bring up children in isolation. As much as the idea of living in an extended family does fill my heart with a level of dread (and I like my family!), I can see that parenting in a tight community would mean you would see the good, bad and ugly. And while there would be lots of hard times, you could learn from each other - you could truly learn that we all struggle in parenting, through all stages and ages. You could share the burden with others, you could share the isolation.
So what's the solution? I don't know - it can be a challenge (especially in cities) to develop those kinds of communities. But one small step might be trying to be honest with other women about your parenting struggles. Not to be scared of judgement from others. And to work hard at not judging others when they are honest.
Plus I can pretty much guarantee that once you start sharing the hard stuff, there will always be another woman who is quietly thinking, 'So I'm not alone then'. And that will enable her to get up and keep going for another day.