Friday, August 5, 2011

Houston, We Have A Problem

Before Mackenzie was born, when I worked in news full-time, I felt like I was always in control.  A major story would break and I would know just how to handle it. 
Reagan dead? Saddam captured? I remained calm.  I was able to make split-second decisions.  I didn't break a sweat. 
But now that I've been working as a stay at home mom for over a year, I seem to have lost every last shred of control.  

I used to judge mothers who voiced their frustrations with their kids.  Sneer when they would say -- through clenched teeth -- "Stopppp ittttt."  "Get offfff of meeeee."  "Would you just quit moving for fiiiiiive seconnnnnnnds!"
How could they be so impatient? How could they be so insincere? They're mothers.  They chose this life.  And their kids are SO cute.  How could anyone get annoyed with children that cute? 
When Mackenzie was very young, a friend with older kids told me, "You think I'm being mean.  But just you wait."  She was right.  I've now become one of those clenched-teeth mothers.  And you know what? It doesn't mean I don't love my child.  It doesn't mean I yearn for the past (although sometimes -- truth be told -- I really, really do).  Getting frustrated doesn't mean I wish I never a baby.  It just means I've become a mommy.  A mommy who needs to swallow her pride and face reality.  
I've lost control and there's nothing I can do about it. 
Aside from nap time, not a moment of my day is calm.  And God, how I love nap time.  Nap time is every mother's dream.  And yet I feel guilty for sometimes  often always checking the clock in anticipation of nap time.  I feel like I shouldn't need the break.  Like I should be some sort of revved-up super mommy with an arsenal of fun activities and games and outings.  But there are dishes in the sink, there's laundry that's been sitting in the dryer for two days, and I really need to tweeze my eyebrows.  Oh and yeah, I need to be able to hear myself think for five minutes without someone trying to crawl up my leg.  
So I look at nap time as an opportunity to recharge.  A chance to get through the rest of the day without having a mental breakdown.  
But nothing is as easy as 1-2-3.  Not anymore.  
Mackenzie wants "up" so I pick her up.  "Down," she says, almost as soon as she's up.  She has to touch everything.  She has to run everywhere.  She has to pick trash and say hello to sleeping babies in restaurants and drink from a big cup even though she can't.  She insists on helping me push the vacuum despite the fact that it would take us three weeks to finish one section of carpet if we continued at her pace. 
She wants to climb out of her stroller in elevators and pull things off of store shelves.  She wants to wear shoes in the house but never outside.  She tries to drink shampoo but won't let me wash her hair.  She squirms whenever I try to cut her fingernails, but will gladly shove a q-tip into her own ear.  She'll throw a fit when I put her in the crib, but has no problem lying down on the floor of a deli.  She won't eat carrots but is determined to spoon gravel into her mouth at the park.  She knows where the cookies are hidden in the pantry and will often refuse dinner until she gets one.  Her latest obsession is diapers.  She wears them as hats (clean ones, thankfully), puts them on her dolls, and tries to flush them down the toilet.  But whenever it's time for a changing she screams bloody murder and contorts herself into a human pretzel.  
For every one thing I clean up there are four more messes that Mackenzie has created.  
She's learned to say "uh oh" whenever I break, spill, or drop something, and I'm convinced that she does this to remind me that I'm not perfect either.  
She understands "no" but doesn't cooperate.  Like the other day at the pool when I told her not to climb on the chaise lounge.  She did it anyway.  I pulled her off.  She threw a hissy fit.  I told her not to do it again.  "No, Mackenzie.  DANGER!" But she climbed right on up there again.  I took her off.  Another hissy fit.  "Fiiiiine," I said through clenched teeth.  The next thing I knew that kid was tangled up so badly I couldn't help but laugh.  One leg was down, one was up.  One arm was through, the other was flailing.  She looked like she'd been caught in a fishing net.  "I tollllld you not to dooooo that." She didn't learn her lesson.  And once again, I had lost.
I try to remain in control.  I'm a firm believer in enforcing discipline at a young age.  I think mothers who threaten to punish their kids and never go through with it are setting themselves up for failure.  But Mackenzie is too young for punishment.  At this stage it's all about reinforcement.  So I try, and I try, and I try.  But she has too much energy.  She's too fast and too smart.  And she knows how to push my buttons.  
Sometimes spending the whole day with her takes such a toll on my mental being that I want to curl up into a ball and hide in the corner.  I'm convinced that the moms who say it's easy are either popping pills or have an army of nannies, babysitters, and personal assistants to help them cope with the stress.  
Do I secretly envy them? Sure I do.  I want to think that this life I've chosen is a breeze... that I'm in full control 24/7.  But the truth is that I'm not.  And sometimes it's such a weight on my shoulders that the tiniest thing will set me off and I'll break down in tears from the pressure.  
Like when I recently stubbed my toe while trying to make the bed with Mackenzie weaving in and out of my legs.  I fell to the floor, not so much because of the pain (it was only a stubbed toe, after all), but mostly because I was just tired and I felt defeated.  Mackenzie waddled over to me, gave me a pat on the back, and kissed my forehead.  And I was once again reminded that I wouldn't trade in this life for anything in the world.  

Have your children robbed you of your power? Feel free to share your comments below.  And don't forget to "Like" A Mommy Is Made on Facebook. You can also follow mademommy on Twitter.  Thanks for reading! 


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  2. Nap is definitely an opportunity to recharge. I'm just glad you considered that.
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