Sunday, November 06, 2011

On martyrdom. Parenting. And sleep. Oh yes, always sleep.

It is rare that I am awake and fully functioning before my son is. He is after all the alarm clock that determines when we begin our days and he too determines the end of our evenings out. I used to look at mothers who rushed home at the stroke of noon to set their children down for naps as a bit much after all, a nap missed here or there, so what? Well, now I guess I'm a bit much myself it seems.

We're in San Francisco. K had a conference and I tagged along to see the sights, sip on masala chai from Samovar but mostly to see my dear friend Baraka. Her son is two months older than mine and seeing them sip 'chai' together or unravel packing paper is like watching a miracle in action. No, wait, it is exactly that- two walking breathing miracles in action and despite the rainy streets my heart is light and full of joy.


Travel to the far side of the moon results in an inevitable shift in his sleep patterns. Like waking him up 45 minutes before he was ready to head to the airport. And keeping him awake so he could sleep properly in his new time zone leading him to stare at us at 6pm as though wondering Who are you and where are my real parents who know better than to keep me up at this ungodly hour! I know its part of life. We're traveling. I know that while he's a bit confused he's going to be okay. I know all this and yet when I see his tired eyes or mews of exhaustion-- I feel like the worst. mother. ever.

On a rational level I know this is nonsense, and yet on the emotional level-- let's just say I've shed more than one tear since arriving because of the heavy burden of guilt I feel for not living up to being the mother I think my son deserves. Trips away from home help me see things I didn't before both in landscape and scenery but also with my own practices and habits that have grown so familiar it takes time away from the routine to properly see what has taken firm root-- like my maternal guilt. I expect perfection and yet I can never be perfect. So instead, I live in the land of guilt- the land of wanting to do everything right- and knowing I never can.

I saw a message in black and white lettering on Baraka's fridge which [I'm paraphrasing. I think] reads: Being a parent does not mean being a martyr. I blinked and stared at that quote. It resonates with me. This guilt. This desire to be perfect-- I am potentially martyring myself with the guilt riddled upon guilt that I am not the perfect mother that this perfect being deserves.

But what is perfect? Is it doing everything right, or doing the best that one can? I'm not sure but I do realize I need to give myself a break and accept that sometimes sleep schedules will be off, and his food won't be entirely fresh and well yes I might forget to bring the hat that he can't yank off his head resulting in the cold that seems to be overtaking him now. But that honestly? I'm doing the best I can. I really am. I'm giving this parenting thing the best shot I possibly can.

I have to believe, that when it all comes down to it, that this is enough.


awomanmyage said...

I know EXACTLY how you feel. Truly. The rare days when I get up to silence as oppose to yelling and mewling to be let out of his room. This week I set up the coffeemaker on automatic and I woke up to coffee brewing. And I actually got to finish half a cup before he got up. HEAVEN! And then it's rock and roll time.

Kids are quite resilient when you travel, though. On our last trip to Toronto, hubby was adamant about keeping the kid's nap schedule, but I reminded him repeatedly that a nap was a nap whether it was in the car or back at the hotel. Hell, when was the last time you had a 11 hour sleep and a 2 hour nap?

kmina said...

I am surprised as well at the generous amount of guilt we are ready to burden ourselves with. Why is that while we are doing our best, we feel like it is not good enough? What precisely happened to make most of us feel like that, considering we are talking about people who are fairly well off, happy and content with their lives?
We should know better, shouldn't we?
Let's claim back serenity. :-) We deserve it.

Julia Munroe Martin said...

Sorry for the guilt (and the disrupted sleep). It's hard and my heart goes out to you. Putting on my advanced parenting cap (THAT MEANS I'M OLD, okay??) I've unfortunately come to the conclusion (for me) that sometimes being a good parent means doing pretty unpopular, unexpected, or guilt-inducing (for me) things. The trip to SF and interrupted sleep guilt can be good practice for the big parenting dilemmas, peer pressure talks, etc., that are coming... it's just never simple at any age of child. Ok, end with a big mom hug for you. Hang in there! xo

Anonymous said...

That was me yesterday after dragging both kiddos out to do a 3 mile hike in the cold wind. I didn't realize how miserable V would be.


Lawyer Loves Lunch said...

So glad the rain eased up for your visit to the city! I hope you get some Blue Bottle Coffee before heading home. It's the best cure for parent guilt (I had two yesterday when I was in the city) ;)

katery said...

i guess we all feel at least a little inferior at times, but you are a GREAT mother.

Sprogblogger said...

Sounds to me like it was a successful trip--though I'm sorry it was so guilt-inducing. Honestly, I think it's possible to keep everything 'too perfect' for our kids, and that's doing them a disservice, too. Good for them to realize that sometimes things aren't exactly the way they are at home and that THAT'S ALL RIGHT, TOO.

And don't ever forget that you ARE the perfect mother for this perfect child. In 20 years, W won't care whether he once (or twice, or dozens of times!) had a cold that may or may not have been the result of a forgotten hat, but he WILL care about the fact that his mother adores him and supports him and has always made sure he knows that. As lucky as you are to have him, he's just as lucky to have you.

Anonymous said...

Of course all we can do is the best we can. But really, if you think about it, we shouldn't want to be "perfect" (assuming there is such a thing), because life certainly isn't perfect and our mission, after all, is to get them ready for this life (and the big, bad scary world).

- Rasha

mystic said...

"Being a parent does not mean being a martyr" - Classic

Anonymous said...

One wise man said, " You always feel guilty towards your parents and children".

Perfect means the best of you!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Aisha said...

A woman my age, it sounds like you have it down, you have to take it easy. If you want to stay at home for the rest of your early childhood days with children then you can but if you want to travel, you must give up the routine and roll with it. Thanks for the perspective@

Aisha said...

Kmina, i think as women we are always trying to rush up to meet standards we never can on thinness, eternal youth, etc. Why not translate it into motherhood. Amen, lets' reclaim it though!!! :)

Julia, thanks for your perspective. I love that you give me a point of view from a mother who has been there and done that and has beautiful children she's done well with!

E, I'm sorry you had to feel the same way too :(

Aisha said...

Azmina, you a fellow Bay Area chica???? What do they put in the blue bottle? People line up for miles!!!

Susan, and Rasha, thanks for that important reminder-- life is not perfect and the longer we shelter the less better of they are because of it. I appreciate it very much.

Aisha said...

Mystic, I believe it was a tag-line for a car company-- very effective and true.

Thanks for the perspective anonymous. :)

Sunny said...

A friend and I were talking about this over lunch this past weekend. I think we need to remember that no parent is perfect -- and would having a "perfect" parent even be good for a child? The world is not perfect, our children must learn to deal with the weaknesses of themselves and the people around them. Plus, as at least one commenter said, children are far more resilient than we are!

The more children I have, the less I am able to match up to the "ideal" mother goal I have for myself in my head. My goals for the day become fewer and fewer. But every day, they are loved, and I give them the best that I am capable of on that particular day. It doesn't mean I never feel guilty, but it has to be enough, because that's all there is.

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