My struggles with motherhood

A few weeks ago, I posted a 'status update' on my personal Facebook page, which seemed to strike a chord with many of my mummy friends. Here's what I wrote:

"Does anyone else struggle with being a SAHM as much as I do even after nearly four years? I love my kids but I don't love not knowing who I am apart from being a mum, or having a life that revolves around two toddlers every day. We're moving soon and I know my focus will once again be on making sure the kids are settled, and then taking German lessons. Having a career of my own, or pursuing my own dreams and desires will come last, IF I even know what career I want at this point or what dreams I still have. Nothing seems to fit anymore. I'm not the writer I once was, or the editor, or the wine consultant I once dreamed I could be. Neither am I happy being 'just' a mum, although all my mummy friends would probably agree that it is the toughest job in the world! Anyone else feeling as lost as I am?"

After posting this up, and being surprised by how many of my peers feel the same way, The Husband and I had a long chat about our future. About what we want out of life. What it'll take for us to feel contented. You know, trivial stuff. 

With our upcoming move, we have inadvertently created for ourselves an opportunity to hit the reboot button so to speak. To start anew. We're not tied down to a house, a job, or even a city. Right now, the only thing we know for certain is that we'll be staying with my in-laws until we find work in a city we'd like to live in. And by we, I've always meant The Husband, knowing that it'll be extremely difficult for me to find a writing/editing role in English, in a field that I'm interested in, with only a basic knowledge of German. There's also the question of money. The Husband is likely to bring home a higher salary than I am, having been a SAHM for the past four years, and in my specific industry. 

And so we talked. About my feelings of motherhood. What I want to do with my life. The Husband suggested that I try to look and apply for any job that sounds interesting to me too. He said that as long as I made enough for us to get by, he's happy to stay home with the kids, to get them sorted into kindergarten, arrange for appointments with doctors and therapists for Liam, and get our home into a comfortable state, wherever we move to. Once they're happy and in a routine, he can start to look for something too, either part-time or full-time, whichever fits our lifestyle then. In a way, this makes more practical sense than him having a full-time job and me trying to get the kids and our lives and home sorted, with my limited German language skills. 

On the surface it seems like a good plan. A chance for me to build a career again after four years of being in the backseat. A chance for The Husband to spend more time with the kids, perhaps re-consider what his dreams are and how he can achieve them as well. All provided, of course, that I find an English-speaking job in the first place, which is a whole other story.

But then it occurred to me that no matter what I do, there's a part of me that will always feel like I'm missing out. I love my kids to bits, but in all honesty, if I have to take care of the both of them all day on my own, it drives me up the wall. By 9am, I've probably yelled three or four times. By 10am, I'm screaming and sometimes swearing (even though I try really hard not to!) at them. By 11am, I'm counting the minutes till I can put them down for a nap. Some days it feels like I can't breathe from the minute I wake up until I put the kids to bed in the evenings, which comes with a huge sigh of relief that I've made it through another day. 

It sounds awful I know. And you're probably wondering, why is it so bad? I ask myself that too. Am I a bad mother for not loving to stay home with my kids all day? For not wanting to nurture their little minds and play their silly games and zoom cars all over the sofa with them? I carry with me a constant guilt that I'm just not doing enough, not being enough, and I'm not proud of myself for struggling to look after my own children. 

Back when they were attending their respective childcare centers, even for just a few hours, three days a week, I was certainly a better mother, to me at least. I had more patience with them when they threw their fits and had meltdowns. I was kinder. I didn't yell so much. I was able to cook more creatively for them, plan meals, with time to do grocery shopping on my own, run errands, keep the house clean, and not mind so much when they make a mess - because it wasn't all day, everyday. Heck, I missed them the minute I dropped them off at daycare sometimes, although I always relished the few hours I got to myself each time. 

Now that I'm on my own with the two of them, there is no reprieve. There is constant trying to keep them occupied and entertained without resorting to the TV too much. Feeling guilty when I do resort to the TV, because I'm trying to cook while Nolan is clinging to my legs and Liam is pulling utensils out of the kitchen drawer. Getting angry when after all that effort, they throw and smear the food around, which I then have to clean up. Cleaning, constantly. Tidying up toys, constantly. Reading the same stories over and over. Answering the same questions over and over. Breaking up fights over and over. Taking 20 minutes to get them ready (nappy change, clean clothes, shoes, sunscreen, snacks, stroller) just for a quick trip to the store to get a bottle of milk. 

I'm not a crafty person and I don't enjoy making play-doh for instance, or building things, or creating things for my kids to play with. Any creativity I have tend to come out through writing, which is a solitary act, and from playing the piano, which I hope to share with them one day; but for now, it's hard for me to think of things to do with them on a daily basis that'll keep them stimulated and entertained. If I leave them to their own devices, chances are they start fighting within 15 minutes, and a lot of it has to do with Liam's behavioral issues and developmental delays, which is definitely an added stress. Thankfully they do like being outdoors, but there I'm faced with another challenge, and I'm not talking about the weather. Unless it's a fully enclosed area, which is really hard to find, I'm not comfortable taking both Liam and Nolan to a park or playground on my own. If I do, I tend to spend the entire time in a state of stress, trying to keep them near me and not wandering too far, yelling for one child and then the other, before typically giving up after 30 minutes and dragging them both back to the car kicking and screaming. 

Of course, on the flip side, I also know how lucky I am. I get to be there. I get to be there for hugs and kisses, to feel pleasure when I watch them playing well together and learning from each other. I've always been the one taking Liam for his therapy sessions and watching how much he learns and benefits from them. I get the satisfaction of preparing them a healthy meal that they enjoy (when that happens). I get to be the one they turn to all the time for cuddles, or when something hurts. I get to read them books. I get to see their sleepy faces light up every morning when I walk into their bedroom. I get to laugh at their silly antics and witness every moment of their day. I understand their babbles more than anyone because I know every part of their lives. I'm their person. I am a witness to every moment of their lives, and I know that if that's ever gone, I will miss it with a breaking heart. 

I already felt a glimpse of it when I started working full-time for a short while back in July last year, and when they attended daycare full time. Suddenly, Liam was singing songs I'd never heard before. Suddenly, I had no idea what my kids were seeing, hearing, learning, without me. And it didn't feel good. I felt like I was missing out. 

I'd like to say that I know where I'm going now, that I have words of wisdom for any of you who are in the same shoes. I'd like to say that I've since had a 'lightbulb' moment of how to live my life so I get to be the mother I want to be, the mother my kids want me to be, while being able to live my dreams and do something meaningful, stimulating and inspiring in my life apart from being mum. But the truth is, I don't. And I don't think I ever will. 

Once you become a mother, a part of you is suddenly carved out, which belongs to this tiny person or persons, that you can never have back. Your happiness will always be secondary, even though you still have selfish wants and needs. There will be a constant struggle between how much you give and how much you keep of yourself. And of course, once you think you've got it all figured out, the dynamics change and continue to change as the kids grow up, and start to grow away from you. 

At the moment, I have decided that I will look for jobs in Germany. I will see if it leads me anywhere. If it does, I may be brave enough to take it. To reverse the roles with my husband for awhile and see if that's a better solution for our family. If it doesn't, I'll have to be content with my role as a SAHM, and I know it'll be easier because the kids will be in kindergarten for at least half the day, and it won't be like the past few months have been. I will have other things to focus on, like learning German, finding my way around a new city, building a home, and hopefully meeting some like-minded people and making some new friends along the way. I'll have my writing. Perhaps one day in the future I'll have my music again too. 

So really this post is simply for all the mothers out there. We truly do have the hardest, and sometimes most rewarding job in the world. And we can only do our best, which has to be enough. 

Whatever my faults are, whenever I get angry or impatient and yell at the kids, whatever activities I don't do with them or places I don't take them to because I can't cope beyond the walls of our house, the constant guilt I feel about needing more to my life - it washes away when they curl up on my lap every evening. When they ask 'mummy, where are you?' the minute I'm out of their sight. With every giggle and every hug and when I see their beautiful faces deep in peaceful sleep each night, I know that they feel loved, they feel safe, they're contented, they're happy. And so, despite my own struggles, I must have done something right. For now, that's enough.




Comments

  1. Oh I hope you guys end up somewhere really nice like Munich or Hamburg. I think you'd have no trouble finding work in Hamburg. There is tons of work for English speakers and the market isn't as flooded with Expats like it is in Berlin.

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    1. Thanks Sara. I'm looking all over at the moment, and have just applied for a job in Dusseldorf that I really want. It's also quite close to my in-laws (well a couple of hours drive away) which could be quite nice. At least we'll see each other more than four times a year! I don't think Berlin's on our list. ;)

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  2. I think it is a good plan to have a role swap with your husband. All the best in your job search in Germany!

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