Her Bad Mother

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Mom At Work

You're never more aware of how much drudgery is involved in the work of mothering than when you're doing that work while suffering from a bad cold or flu or some such viral misery as makes your head pound and your lungs ache and your throat burn. You lay in a fetal curl, hacking miserably, wishing for sleep, unconsciousness, a coma, anything to take you away from your discomfort, until you hear the baby stir and you must rise to nurse and soothe and nurse and soothe and nurse and soothe, which you do, of course, hoping that he'll settle enough to lay beside you and amuse himself with rattles and soothers while you rest your tired head but of course he does not do that because his diaper is full to bursting and so you must rise, again, and deal with the shit-soaked diaper and damp pajamas and that's fine because once you've done that you can lay back down unless, of course, the inevitable cry comes from the other room - Mommy I got poo I need to go to the toilet - in which case there's another cycle of shit and damp to deal with and if you're really lucky it just means wiping a bum and overseeing some toilet-flushing and hand-washing but if not - and let's be honest here, at this point your luck is about as reliable as sub-prime mortgage lending - it's going to mean tossing the three-year old in the bath and disinfecting all visible surfaces because when she says I got poo she very probably means it in the Lopburi monkey sense of I got poo in my hands and that just never ends well and certainly does not end with you tucked cozily in bed with a hot lemon drink and a Nyquil buzz. Not, at least, for some very long hours yet to come, if they ever come at all.

Under these circumstances, the work of motherhood seems like a bad scam, like some multi-level marketing scheme that someone tricked you into by promising wealth and glamor and a pink Lincoln Continental but that just ended up being a whole lot of catalogue-pushing and bad kitchen parties. (This is a bad analogy, really, because, no matter hard motherhood can be it at least offers its rewards up front - you get your Top Performer Bonus, your pink Lincoln Continental, right at the outset in the form of your beautiful children, and that gift, the gift of their loveliness, just keeps expanding regardless of how well you sell the program - Motherhood: Your Key To Bliss!™ - and so what if they crap a lot? Still, on days like these, days when you're tired/sick/desperately-in-need-of-a-day-off, it's hard to remember how or why it was that you agreed to do this work.)

I love my children. I love being a mother. I love, even, the condition of motherhood, the state of things whereby I am a mother, down to my bones, the state of things whereby my entire physical being strains to care for and love my children, whereby my very biology demands my commitment to these creatures who run and laugh and hug and kiss and shriek and hurl poo. What I do not love so much is the work. I do not love the diapers, the toilet-training, the cajoling, the cleaning, the washing, the arguing, the bargaining (okay, sometimes I like the bargaining - not even the most sophisticated trial lawyer could keep me to my wits the way my preschooler does when she wants something -"Mommy," she says, "let's make a PROBLEM", meaning a deal, and then proceeds to offer to eat her veggies in exchange for three marshmallows, which upon negotiation becomes a bargain of one carrot for one marshmallow or two broccoli for one marshmallow or maybe three marshmallows for two carrots and a firm commitment to go straight to bed after bath) the screaming, the squirming, the wiping, the endless, endless wiping... and I love them all the less when every fiber of my being is begging to curl up under the blankets with some Vicks VapoRub and retreat into mentholated silence.

I know why this is. On an ordinary day - on a well-rested day, on a day when my spirits are up and my energy is good - the drudgery of motherhood is a minor irritant, a reasonable price to pay for the deep satisfaction of being surrounded by such love, the true pleasure of being witness to such beauty. The giggles of my baby boy, the peals of laughter from my little girl - these are ample recompense for the poopy diapers and the spilled milk and the temper tantrums. But I've had, of late, little energy for such pleasures, and so although I smile through the headache and the hacking cough at the giggles and the hugs and the malapropisms, I find that I would much rather have a few hours alone with the Nyquil than wrestle the baby (however snuggly and adorable he is) or hear another disquisition on the superiority of Dora to Fifi The Flowertot.

Does disliking the work of motherhood make one a bad mother? My impulse is to say, of course not - one can love being a mother, being mother to one's children, without loving all of the tasks that usually attend that role. I loved being an academic, but I didn't enjoy everything that went with that territory. But then again, I quit the academy for precisely that reason - I didn't love everything about it, I didn't love it enough to take the bad with the good. And I figured that if I didn't love it enough, I wouldn't be good enough. So I quit. I quit, in part, because I loved motherhood and writing more, but still - the quitting was in the offing long before motherhood came along, and the quitting stemmed from the fact that I did not love the work enough.

I've already said - the diapers are more than amply made up for by the joy my children bring to me. I love my children - I adore my children - and I love mothering my children. But there are some things that I don't so much love about the work of motherhood. There are quite a few things, actually. And so when I think about, say, the prospect of having more children, I pause. (I pause, actually, and say to myself, HELL NO, but then when someone asks me seriously, really seriously, whether this is it, no more children, I pause again, because I can't quite wrap my around making that HELL NO official. Which, if that sounds confused: YES, I KNOW.)

Do you have to love it, all of it - or at least like it, all of it - to do it well? Or is just loving your children enough?

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77 Comments:

Anonymous Tabitha (From Single to Married) said...

You poor thing! I'm glad you can remember the good times even through your haze. At least you know it will get better once your good health returns, which I hope is very soon.

3:28 PM  
Blogger Erin, Nick and Merrick said...

I sincerly hope that loving them is enough- most of the time!
I LOVE my 2 year old......but dang if he doesn't make me want to hop on a plane to NYC and leave my married/mommy life behind me- some of the time that is!
Loving them has to be enough, because it is all we can give sometimes.
I work full time, and after putting in 40 hours at work, and the rest of my hours at home- love is all I have sometimes.
This is where all my mommy guilt resides, in that space where "enough is enough" where "I've had it up to here!" and where "Just be quite!" live.
You are doing one heck of a job- and I am more than positive you are doing well!!

3:29 PM  
Blogger LawMommy said...

I don't know that you have to love it all to be good at it. I know that there are lots of things about motherhood that I do not love. There are things about motherhood that I pretty well resent, and the lack of consistent sleep has been one of the big ones. (Knock on wood, I'm getting much more sleep now. But, those first three years...were hell on earth and frankly, even now that my kids are 8 and 6, I'm not done resenting the sleeplessness that occurred for so long.)

I love my kids, but, I can look at them and say, "hell yes I am done" without a second thought. The idea of another baby sends me running for the hills.

All that admitted, I still love them, I still think I am doing the best I can, and I don't think I'm a bad mom. And the thing of it is, you can walk away from academia because, well, you CAN. Walking away from motherhood is much more difficult. (And often illegal, except, evidently, in Nebraska where you can leave your 17 year old at the hospital and walk away). There is no one to give two weeks notice to. And, in as much as we are hardwired to not walk away, it's almost impossible to do so, so, we might as well suck it up and be the best at as we can.

I sound like a grump, I guess. Sorry.

3:36 PM  
Blogger Issas Crazy World said...

I think even on it's best days, being a mother is the dam hardest job in the world and the most rewarding, all rolled into one. That being said, no I don't believe you have to love it all the time, or really even like it all the time. Sometimes loving them is enough. Because as long as we love them, we'll dredge through the snot and poop with the knowledge that one day, they will deal with their own snot and poop. I don't remember when my mom dealt with my snot or poop, so it's been a long, long time for her. My almost seven year old, needs no help in this area anymore. Hell, she even bathes herself. And does dishes. (Am working on my ebay child selling ad. Kidding...sort-of.)

None of it, I repeat, none of this makes you a bad mother. You are definitely not a bad mother. A bad mother, a true bad mother, doesn't care if her baby is dirty or her daughter wants to argue (barter) about everything. Wondering these things, just makes you a mother. A sick one, for sure; but just a mother.

I hope you feel better soon.

3:37 PM  
Blogger KD @ A Bit Squirrelly said...

Oh I love this post. I wrote earlier this week about being a housewife and how I am not living up to my job as that. I do hope that I am living up to my job as a mother though...that can't be fixed with a washing machine and lysol.

Thank you.

3:37 PM  
Anonymous HeatherK said...

When I nannied, I always wondered what the deal was. It wasn't that hard, no matter how many kids I was minding. Um, yeah. I always went to work on a full night's sleep and got to escape at the end of the day. I love anything more after a good night's sleep. I'm home with the kids, but hell if I like to clean, yk? Wiping snot is the bane of my existence all winter. Say it loud, say it Aloud, whatever it takes. Pretending you like what you hate just doesn't work.

For now I'll just be all smug that my two girls never made those kind of messes. I'm certain Henry will probably be a poocasso and I'll be eating crow yet again!

3:43 PM  
Blogger Goldfish said...

Thank you. I'm tired. I'm just getting over mastitis, the kids have been sick, I got a total of four hours of sleep last night, my husband's gone until tomorrow morning, and I've had it this week. I don't want to do this anymore. Not today. I think I'm probably the worst mother who ever mothered. You helped me just now. So thanks.

3:48 PM  
Blogger Stefanie said...

I hear you. I wish I had the energy to comment on this and all that you've been going through lately. But know that I'm reading faithfully.

4:00 PM  
OpenID ourlittlefunnybunny said...

You've said it best. You love more than anything in the world but somedays....

Right here with you in these thoughts!

4:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for saying and feeling what many of us do but lack the courage to admit..and I DO LOVE MY KIDS...but YES..I AM DONE.

4:05 PM  
Blogger Maternal Mirth said...

As with any tough job, there are moments of dread. However, as tough as motherhood tends to be at times, I have to say that there is NO job out there with the same kind of rewards motherhood offers ... a 401K has nothing on a sloopy kiss and smile from your child :)

4:11 PM  
Blogger Marivic said...

Confession time: I travel, like, an ass-load for work.

Sometimes, I don't mind. Yes I miss my kids I love them to pieces but sometimes my trips end up with me in a hotel room with the BED TO MYSELF while my 2 in college, 2 in high school and 2 year-old do fine without me for just a little bit.

You NAILED it with this post. Now go rest up!

4:13 PM  
Anonymous pkzcass said...

I've never lacked the courage to admit that I'm not a big fan of motherhood, but I adore my two boys. It's like a clean house -- you can love and adore it, but you can hate the cleaning part of it.

I really enjoy them so much more now that they're becoming more self sufficient and, well, easier (they're 12 and 9). At least for the moment. Ask me how much I enjoy them when they're snotty teenage brats...

So yes, you can be a great mother without loving poop and snot and vomit, or the cleaning up of such nastiness. As long as you love your kids and do your best for them, then you're a good mother.

And Maternal Mirth...I know that while your child is young a 401K can't compare to a sloopy kiss and smile, but when you're ready to retire and realize you have to work till you're 90, you'll be singing a different song. I'm sorry, I can't help myself, I work in the financial services industry and it really bothers me when people just think they're going to retire at 65 and live to age 95 without actually having the money to do so. But that's a discussion for another day.

4:26 PM  
Blogger ewe are here said...

I love my boys more than anything in the world. But they drive me absolutely insane, too. And I hate the constant, never ending picking up/cleaning up stuff, too, not to mention the whining, yelling, tantrums, 'nos', ... And yet I would still actually like another one... even though it would probably kill me. It's odd. And insane.

And Dora would kick Fifi's butt were they ever to go at it, for the record.

4:28 PM  
Blogger motherbumper said...

Lopburi monkey wrangling pretty much sums it up. Loving my child is not enough but sometimes it's all I can offer and it's better than smothering her in something else because I have no love to give. And why did I give up my career to start this new one? Well I figured if I was going to deal with someone else's shit, it sure as hell is better to deal with the literal versus the bs. And I'm not kidding.

4:30 PM  
OpenID aGibby said...

This is EXACTLY how I feel some days. Those days when I am not feeling good, am exhausted, and the kids aren't even being that cute...just two little girls arguing, bickering, arguing, bickering. On these days I complain to my hubby, he always asks if I want to go back to work. And I always look at him and say, what, are you nuts? No!

I am so glad I am not the only one who has days like this! Hope you are feeling better!

4:43 PM  
Blogger Jenera said...

Oh I have that same terrible sickness right now while trying to potty train my son. There have been many times this past week where I don't even want to look at him. That does not mean I don't love him any less. I just hate the world.

I'm pretty sure my mom didn't LIKE me every single second of every day but that doesn't mean she didn't love me.

4:45 PM  
OpenID verybadcat said...

"I didn't love everything about it, I didn't love it enough to take the bad with the good. And I figured that if I didn't love it enough, I wouldn't be good enough. So I quit."

OMG. This touched me. I'm not a Mama, nor an academic, but this just struck me. Deeply. Talk about food for thought.

4:45 PM  
Anonymous Karen (miscmum) said...

I've decided that when it comes to HOUSEWORK, then loving my kids is always enough (and if you saw the sate of my house you would agree).

Lately, though, when it comes to the wider picture, I've got to include MYSELF in there somewhere more.

4:46 PM  
Blogger Don Mills Diva said...

I love it. I love pretty much all of it BUT...

I have one child.

He slept through the night at six weeks, appeared to suffer no teething pain, breast fed like a champ and has had maybe two colds in three years (I know - hate me if you must, but it's true)

I have a MIL around the corner who is a wonderful, HUGE help.

I work full-time out of the home.

When Graham does scream or keep my up I almost feel I deserve it because I haven't suffered enough - if that makes sense...

What I find hard is the juggling, the constant juggling that comes with trying to balance keeping house, a very demanding job, a husband who is largely absent and the desire to make my time with my son special and meaningful.

It's completely exhausting.

4:53 PM  
Blogger Don Mills Diva said...

Oh and I forgot to say...

I really hope you feel better soon...:-)

4:54 PM  
Anonymous Vicki said...

First I will share a little bit of advice that my mom gave me when I first started talking about having kids. She said when you have your last one, you will KNOW you are done. There will not be a question in your mind. I have twin boys and am now working on a third (16.5 weeks) and I'm still not sure if this one will be the last and I know with today's economy people think I'm crazy but I really will give it serious consideration later.

As for the loving every part. I would gladly give a nanny/maid a go at cleaning, diaper changes, etc if I could be the one they come to when they need someone. The gross stuff and the just in general hard stuff I would gladly hand off to spend more time playing and snuggling and hugging and less time wiping and cleaning and fussing. But alas you must balance the wonderful burst of heart of a smile with the stomach twisting smell of vomit. It is the trade we make to be parents.

4:57 PM  
Blogger Avonlea said...

Not loving it all the time means you're human. I especially find my patience short when I'm sick or have hit the wall in needing sleep. Right now is the first time I've been away from our toddler,and I miss him. But that comfy hotel bed all to myself is soooo nice.

5:02 PM  
Blogger Marit said...

I sincerely hope, plead even, that just loving them is enough. Because... the other stuff?? I hate it with a passion.

5:06 PM  
Blogger O'Neal (The woman in charge around here) said...

Once again you have floored me by making up & putting together the words I can't get together long enough to even make sense, much less put down on paper or this alien keyboard.

Motherhood is the ONLY thing I can love & hate so much all at one time, and be reduced to a pile of bewildered blubbering awe stricken tears like I was today, again, just like yesterday. I *thought* I had it down pat and was actually smiling again anxiously anticipating the baby monitor to wake me so I could greet their happy "Hi Mama!"'s with a smile!

That lasted until yesterday morning, when I woke up freezing with a high fever, unable to even swallow my own spit, and SO desperate to take that big red bottle of NyQuil and hibernate under my cozy safe covers! Cause after all, they WERE the living breathing pint sized Petri dishes that GAVE me the cooties!

Don't get me wrong, I LOVE my kids no matter HOW much or HOW hard the work load may be, but SOME DAYS - I just want my Mommy! Not BE the Mommy!

PS - And where in the HELL is my husband? In my "first time in over 5 years" time of need? "Oh good, you'll be home tonight, I'll schedule work till 11pm!" PLEASE dear sweet Jesus let HIM catch this junk and right the world again! I may or may not be licking someone's toothbrush in the very near future. Shhhhh....

PPS - Do you have Delsym there in Canada? For the congestion it is by FAR the best thing in the world! If you don't, I'll ship you some! Feel better soon!

5:08 PM  
Blogger Maggie said...

Oh god yes! I have yet to meet the person who loves it all!

Staying home with children is the hardest job in the world - indeed the only one I can think of for which there is NEVER a break. We take our work home with us, it wakes us up at night and in the morning, it goes on vacations with us. I would argue that even if you loved ALL of the work, it is still work, and work from which there is no break. Did I mention, NO BREAKS :)

I keep threatening to leave the kiddos with the hubs and go stay in a hotel for a day and a night. Just so I can watch three movies back to back, taking naps in between, ordering room service and feeding myself only, and sleeping. Blissfully sleeping all night, uninterrupted, all by myself. And I just might do it too. I think we all need breaks and that they make us happier and better mommies when we do manage to get them.

5:15 PM  
Blogger Em is for Mommy said...

This has been one of those weeks when the weight of the drudgery has been more and more oppressive with each passing day. I love my children fiercely, but I. hate. being. at. home. ... Sometimes.

Sometimes it feels like the only place in the world I want to be, with the only two (or three, if my husband's home) people I want to be with.

But that's life, isn't it? And one day, my daughter might have a child, and she might go through this same valley, and when that happens, I can say, "I know" and really mean it, and she will know that I mean it and that I do know. That kind of authenticity has to count for something.

Or at least that's what I tell myself on days like these.

5:46 PM  
Blogger tallulah said...

The thing I hate most. The very thing that chaps my ass about being a parent is that when YOU are sick....you still have to take care of everyone else. When your husband is sick, he takes a day off of work and stays in bed and watches television. Where is the fairness in that?

6:51 PM  
Blogger Jaywalker said...

Oh, so very much. The absolute worst, I think, is when you have some gastric bug or food poisoning and they are repeatedly elbowing you away from your comfy position curled around the toilet bowl because they need to pee and then they need you to feed them, ideally something wet and smelly that makes you want to curl up and die. And then they jump on your cramping gut and cry and look wounded when you shriek with pain.

You know the answer to your question don't you. Of course it's enough. I love that you say it though and give us a chance to say it back. Being in the trenches of parenting builds something special though. The way I felt about my mother was a world away from what I felt about my loving, but essentially absent father.

7:36 PM  
Blogger Pamela said...

It sounds like we're on the same page with the Things We Love About Mothering. But the poo hurling and monkey wrangling? While sick? Is not.cool.at.all.

Feel better soon.

8:03 PM  
Blogger Hannah said...

Good lord, you must be sick to ask such a question. No mother, NO MOTHER, does everything exactly right and perfectly every time. For example, I detest playing trains with my son. I will read to him, do crafts, play cars, pretend the couch is a ship and we are pirates - but I will not play trains. I just can't. Do I feel guilty about it? Sure. Do I think he'll be on a therapist's couch someday complaining that I never played trains with him? No. He knows I love him, he is safe, he is happy, his messes are wiped and his boo-boos kissed.

I hope you get over your cold soon. Head colds make everything seem worse.

8:14 PM  
Blogger April said...

If love isn't enough, then we're all in a boatload of trouble ;-)

And, really, I don't want to meet the person who LOVES dirty diapers, spit-up and incessant shrieking.

8:58 PM  
Blogger Kimberly said...

I seem to feel like your entire post, every day. (I am seven months pregnant and have a 26 month old toddler, and so I am bone tired, even on my best day!)

I cannot imagine having another baby (well, I cannot imagine being pregnant for a third time), and I tell people that God is going to have to speak OUT LOUD to me to tell me to have another one. However, I also cannot imagine foreclosing the possibility of a third baby. Eeek. I hate it when I am illogical with myself.

I chalk it up to hormones. I think we all can.

9:10 PM  
OpenID katesaid said...

I have a parenting rule, to which I ascribe fanatically:

You always have to love your children. But you do not always have to like them.

Love is. It happens, it envelopes, it remains. Like is earned and lost on a daily basis, depending on circumstances.

The same rule applies to parenthood. You always have to love it, on that elemental level, but you do not always have to like it.

9:14 PM  
Blogger Crazed Mom said...

Loving them is enough. One day, much sooner than you anticipate, those children will make it to the bathroom to throwup, have diarrhea, etc. They will still need your loving care, just with a smidge less intensity.

I wish you health and sleep soon!

You're a terrific mother.

10:00 PM  
Blogger Trenches of Mommyhood said...

Yes. To exactly what you said. Times 3 little boyz. (With the younger two being only 12-1/2 months apart, so I know intimately the endless wiping and the poo of which you speak.) Although now they're ages 7,4 and 3, so lemme tell you this, Catherine: There is light at the end of the tunnel. You will see it. I promise.

10:11 PM  
Blogger Ms. Moon said...

How could anyone love all of it? All you have to do is love the children enough to do what you have to do. And sometimes, you do it joyfully and sometimes you do it because you have to.
But you do it.
Because you love them.

10:14 PM  
Anonymous V-Grrrl said...

I don't understand why anyone expects us to love the drudgery of parenting and treat it like a sacred rite, as if admitting we're sick to death of playing a game with our kids or doing laundry or sitting through a painful playdate is somehow a moral failure on our part. Since when did parenting have to consume someone's life and soul to be "right"?

Love them. Care for them. Nurture them. But never be ashamed of loving yourself or being passionate about things that are not about them.

10:16 PM  
Anonymous Expat Mom said...

Love is enough. You don`t have to like your kids all the time, but love is something that just keeps growing when you`re a mother. Thank goodness, because there are days like this when you just want to run away from home for a few days!

I always thought it was terribly unfair that Mom has to keep working and feeding people when she`s sick, but Dad gets to rest. Hmph.

10:31 PM  
Blogger worldmomma said...

Sorry to hear you are sick. I hope you feel better soon. I'm only just now learning that moms don't get sick days!

I love being a mother, more than I expected to. But I don't love all the work. I learned very quickly that I'd be a much better mother if I didn't have to do all the work. My husband takes over childcare duties from the time he gets home until bedtime and we split the day on Saturday. We also make it a priority to get childcare in the afternoons. As a result, I'm in charge for about half the day, every day. For me, that's the perfect balance between meeting my baby's needs and my own. I'm a happier and better mother during the time I do spend with him.

I think everyone finds the balance that will work best for them. But I don't think there is anything to be ashamed of in not wanting to be on mommy duty all the time.

11:05 PM  
Blogger kittenpie said...

Of course it's enough!

If you had to love every aspect to have children, people would have died after one generation. It is ludicrous to expect that anyone loves everything of something so difficult and demanding.

Even with my paying job, I would never leave it, because I love it - about 75% of the time. That's pretty damn good for ANY job.

11:12 PM  
Blogger No Mother Earth said...

You know what I don't love? The 24/7 nature of the job. Every job should should have built-in mandated breaks. And, as much as I do love mothering - and I do - it is a job. It's work.

Anyways, just wanted to comment because I totally get the end of your post. I would freak out if someone suggested a third baby, and yet I can't bring myself to do something permanent. What's with that?

11:17 PM  
Anonymous mothergoosemouse said...

Like it? No. Love it? Hell, no.

But accept it? Yes.

You've hit upon the crux of why I maintain that my parents should not have become parents. They continually struggled against the inherent challenges, trying vainly to change them (and by extension, us), that they let them get the best of them.

If you can accept it and roll with it, there is fun in even the most mundane and unpleasant tasks, as you've demonstrated in so many of your posts here. Mainly the ones about poop.

12:02 AM  
Blogger Mimi said...

No, you don't have to like it all. I was going to say that as long as, on balance, you are glad to have your kids, it's enough. But that's not right: it's not about you at this point, it's about them. It's not like "I'm okay with eating ramen noodles for two weeks, because, on balance, this gorgeous new purse makes me happy." That's not, obviously, how parenthood works.

You do what needs to be done, you do it well, and even if you don't adore the many of the aspects of the job you have to do (and why should you love poop in order to love your kids?), your kids feel your joy as much as your competence. You help them become who they need to be, and some days you muster more grace about it than other days, but always, at bottom, the love.

'at bottom' -- heh-heh.

7:08 AM  
Blogger TeacherMommy said...

I certainly hope not. If loving all of it is required, I'm a horrible mother. I work full time and have two very young children, and there are times when I'm just glad I managed to feed them with something semi-nutritious and clothe them with something clean and weather-appropriate. There are times when the fatigue and frustration and fed-up-with-it-all-ness makes it damn hard to remember that they are the only beings on earth that I fell in love with before I ever even saw them.

I, too, have had fantasies of emptying the bank account (ha! like there's much there) and hopping the earliest flight to Jamaica and live the rest of my life near the white sand beach. There have been times when the only thing that holds me back is the thought that Jamaica has hurricanes, and I don't have much besides my body that I could make a living with, and that's pretty much been shot to hell by the kids anyhow, so I'd probably end up starving before a hurricane had a chance to kill me anyways.

And I also figure I'd feel a little guilty leaving the kids and hubby on their own, and then I remember that, hey, I kinda love them all and might miss them after a while, and so maybe it's worth sticking around.

Yeah. That.

8:34 AM  
Blogger Karen MEG said...

Love is enough. It better be, becomes sometimes I'm so exhausted, cranky, frustrated, with all the work that comes with motherhood (and you've hit it, bang on), it feels like that's all I've got to give.

It's impossible to love/like ALL of it. I think that's only in fairytales (please tell me it's only in fairytales!)

You're a great mom.

8:59 AM  
Blogger SciFi Dad said...

I cannot speak for motherhood since I cannot be a mother.

However, parenting is hard work. (Sorry, I couldn't resist.)

It's hard to wipe bums and avoid the firehose that is an infant's undiapered penis. It's hard to entertain a toddler without resorting to Treehouse every.single.time. It's hard for dads as well as moms.

I am living proof that you can loathe your job as well as your area of employment with the power of a thousand suns and still be considered one of the best in your field. I say this not to be arrogant but to prove a point. I hate what I do.

I hate Hate HATE it. But I am good enough at it that I can get away with saying, to people far more "powerful" than myself, "Stay out of my way," when they ask what they can do to help me.

But I don't do it because I want to like it. I do it for what it offers me: the financial security to allow my wife to stay home, to afford clothes and food and whatever my kids need.

Parenting is the same way: you don't have to love the job, you just have to love what it offers you. (I shouldn't have to tell you what it offers you.)

9:16 AM  
Blogger Motherhood Uncensored said...

My question is who wants to be good at all the crappy parts of motherhood. I'd rather not have "expert diaper changer" on my epitaph.

Love is most certainly enough. And xanax, alcohol, and a maid.

9:31 AM  
Blogger sheSaid.purplehouseonpearl.com said...

parenting and childcare are different. Childcare is all of those tasks related to caring for a child, parenting is about raising (and loving) a child.

I LOVE being a parent. But much of the childcare that I do as a WAHM I despise.

So, perhaps you don't love every aspect of the JOB of motherhood, but you love the STATE of being a mom. And that is perfectly acceptable :)

10:01 AM  
Blogger Angela said...

Sweetie, I love being a mother.

AND I LOVE leaving for work everyday and letting my wonderful husband be the SAHD and take care of the majority of the WORK part of parenting.

AND on top of that, I don't even love my job! But it's still better than cleaning up poop.

Being a full time parent has to be the hardest job. And I know for a fact I can't do it. (I get depressed staying at home, even when I'm sick. I am too much of an extrovert- I need people!) That's why I'm so thankful to have my husband take up those tasks. I don't think that makes me less of a mother though.

10:53 AM  
Blogger Parent Club said...

I'm at the Hell-Maybe stage. LOVE my two kids. Awesome being a Mom.

But I HATED the high-maintenance stages of motherhood; the crappy toilet training, breastfeeding hurt, labour wasn't an organic experience.

Do I want to do THAT all again. Hell-maybe.

How's that for fence-sitting?!

11:15 AM  
Anonymous LAVANDULA said...

oh catherine you are a wonderful kind loving mum.or you wouldn't be worried about this.and yes love is enough.i love my children but the constant mess and cleaning and fighting etc. can be so exhausting...but there is nothing more wonderful than my 4 year old trying to get her tiny arms around me and hug me tight or my 8 year old laughing and asking me how come i can't find fairies in our yard mum? or my teenage daughter sharing secrets with me or laughing at something stupid with my teenage adult son....those little things make it all worthwhile so even though i have to clean up and don't always joyfully do it its so worth it...and catherine when you have enough children you will know it.there will be no question that you are done...hugs to you get better soon

11:54 AM  
Blogger Steph said...

NO ONE expects you to like or ENJOY crappy diapers and damp PJs. No one. We all stick through if for the love of them. The smiles and the giggles. The hugs and cries for mommie when there's an ouchie. The discipline they need more and more as they approach the teenage years. All the bittersweet moments. The good and the bad.

12:19 PM  
Blogger Steph said...

NO ONE expects you to like or ENJOY crappy diapers and damp PJs. No one. We all stick through if for the love of them. The smiles and the giggles. The hugs and cries for mommie when there's an ouchie. The discipline they need more and more as they approach the teenage years. All the bittersweet moments. The good and the bad.

12:20 PM  
Blogger Mac and Cheese said...

I dislike all the things about motherhood that you dislike, but I love the job overall. It's all good. Even when it's bad.

12:24 PM  
Anonymous erica said...

I've just got to delurk to comment on this one. I'm a new mom to an 8 month old. And I DEFINITELY don't like all the parts all the time, or even some of the parts any of the time. In what other job are you on call 24/7? In what other job can't you call in sick or have time off? Even if you go away by yourself, you're pumping or worrying or feeling guilty or only a phone call away. Quite honestly, I wonder more about the people who say they love every facet of motherhood all the time than those who are honest about not loving it all the time.

Don't get me wrong. I'm so in love with my little boy it's not funny. I'd do anything for him. But when I'm fighting a cold and he's practicing crawling in bed next to me at 2 o'clock in the morning.....

12:54 PM  
Blogger Cat said...

Good questions. I wonder if there truly are any mothers who love all of it, all of the time. I don't see how that's possible.

1:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hope just loving my children is enough because I certainly don't love all of it, and right now I don't like most of it. May it get better for all of us having these feelings soon......

1:20 PM  
Anonymous Kira said...

You damn well better NOT have to like all of it. You'd have to be on serious drugs to like ALL of it.
There is no worthwhile task, though, that doesn't require some measure of sacrifice. Doesn't even marriage require those moments when you grit your teeth, pull on your big-girl panties, and be a better person? And that's a relationship with a grown up human who can handle their own toilet issues (one hopes).
I think love means you're eventually going to bump up against those moments when you just do your best, despite how you feel.
Speaking of which, hope you feel better soon.

1:25 PM  
Blogger litanyofbritt said...

i feel your pain. i'm sick too. and still the kids need their holes filled and wiped respectively.
i was too miserable to post, so i let you speak for me too. (here's a nyquil/ativan cocktail to us!)

2:07 PM  
Anonymous Shawna said...

Without having read the other comments yet... I would say NO, you certainly don't have to like all the work associated with motherhood in order to be a good mother. But I would say that you have to be willing to do it and competent at it. There are some lacks that all the love in the world won't make up for.

I'm thinking, for example, of my grandfather, who often spent every dime that came into the household on living it up at the bar with his friends. Did he love my grandmother and their kids? I'm sure he did. Was my mother better off when my grandfather was kicked to the curb by my grandmother? Absolutely. So no, in that case, loving his children was not enough.

You obviously touched a nerve of mine with your question. Clearly, this is an extreme case and 99% of the time a person's "best" will, in fact, be good enough. I'm sure you, for instance, are a fantastic mother.

3:25 PM  
Blogger Tracey said...

Just remember that having 2 LITTLE children isn't the same as having 2 older children. This stage you are in is so so temporary. Though it feels endless, you can surely remember how quickly Wonderbaby's babyhood flew by? My kids are 3 and 3 1/2 years apart (3 children in all. Was that clear?) Anyway. There was a bit of a break in the diapering schedules. I never had 2 tiny kids at once and just as one child was entering toddlerhood full-force, another was heading off to school. It made the changes a bit more bearable...

3:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I dunno about HBM but all the comments on here are making me feel better! I had PND after having my son and I HATED being a mother, I wasn't even sure I loved him. I just did all the work, methodically, like a nanny.

Now, 3 years later> I do love him, but I hate the work, the screeching, the tapping on the keyboard when I'm trying to type up coursework for my degree, the screaming and back chatting. OH GOD I HATE IT! Will I have more. NEVER. Never ever ever. I love my son but God no, I feel like I'm just surviving til he's old enough to spend less than 24/7 stuck to me. Trying to get inside me skin.

He goes to his dad's once a month and people always say "awww you must miss him!" God no. I savour it. I love it. I adore it. If I didn't have that one weekend? I'd go nuts. I sometimes feel guilty for not missing him, but what's the point of screwing myself up missing him, then complaining that I never get a minute?

One day, one day they will be old enough to wipe their own butts and I pray for that day!!

4:32 PM  
Anonymous Rebecca. said...

I don't know if anyone really loves cleaning up shit but the so-called drudgery of motherhood is so much better, so much purer, than dealing with the shit that life gives you... family members dying of cancer, children with fatal diseases...

That baby shit? This is the good stuff, people.

7:03 PM  
Blogger Danielle said...

I love being a mother. It really is the core of who I am. So much so that I am also a Kindergarten teacher and most of my day is being a mother to other people's children.

I also love my sleep and coffee.

Motherhood throws so many things at you. You do not have to love them all to be a good mother.

Today (I totally ditched school today) I was at lunch with my husband the the twins. I was on my third or fourth trip to the bathroom and it was right when my food showed up and I was trying so hard to not be mean.

I looked down at the very little person on the toilet, taking a very adult size poo and having a horse size smell of it and I just thought how happy I was to be done with diapers.

It's the little things. Especially when you are sick.

9:46 PM  
Blogger Danielle said...

I love being a mother. It really is the core of who I am. So much so that I am also a Kindergarten teacher and most of my day is being a mother to other people's children.

I also love my sleep and coffee.

Motherhood throws so many things at you. You do not have to love them all to be a good mother.

Today (I totally ditched school today) I was at lunch with my husband the the twins. I was on my third or fourth trip to the bathroom and it was right when my food showed up and I was trying so hard to not be mean.

I looked down at the very little person on the toilet, taking a very adult size poo and having a horse size smell of it and I just thought how happy I was to be done with diapers.

It's the little things. Especially when you are sick.

9:46 PM  
Blogger Haley-O said...

You know, I don't know ANYBODY who LOVES it -- maybe when they have ONE child they might. It's HARD WORK. The hardest work of your life. But, it's the children we love (even though they can drive us crazy). And THAT is all that matters. THAT is what makes you a good mother.

Motherhood would be easy and FUN if we just didn't care.... We hate it because WE CARE and we want to be the best we can be. Which takes so much out of us....

11:12 PM  
Anonymous Renee said...

Catherine - Delurking here for a quick comment. I don't want to start up a whole debate on working at home vs. working outside the home, but have you ever considered getting an outside job, at least when Jasper is a bit older? Honestly, I was having some similar feelings to you, but now that I'm back at work, I am 100 times happier. I have a nanny who takes care of a lot of the motherhood drudgery (though, to be fair, she gets some of the motherhood joy as well) while I get to come home to two kids who leap with joy when they see me walk in the door. I find that I have a lot more patience for the trying times because I'm not always with them.

11:21 PM  
Blogger Her Bad Mother said...

Renee - I think the thing would be for us to consider some in-home help so that I can pursue my at-home work (writing) with less distraction. Even just a few more hours a week - beyond the time that I steal during naps and after they're in bed - would probably be an immense help.

11:41 PM  
Blogger Her Bad Mother said...

Rebecca - I know a little bit about the harder stuff, having a nephew with a terminal illness, and I do know that it's all relative... but it's also all context, you know? In the moment, when my head is pounding and I'm feeling nauseated from sleep deprivation and my child is smearing poo on the bathroom floor, it feels, in that moment, like the worst of all possible worlds. Obviously, I know that it's not, and obviously, I cherish every minute that I have with my children, but also? Sometimes? Those minutes, especially the shitty ones, can suck a little bit, in a manner that does not detract in any way from the weight of SERIOUS suckage.

But yeah, it's helpful to keep that in perspective.

11:45 PM  
Blogger Mom101 said...

It's so funny I've heard the very same question you pose at the end here asked of "regular" jobs too. I think we all grapple with degrees of passion and even like for our day to day responsibilities, even as we love the greater picture. Give yourself a break.

11:59 PM  
Blogger Amanda said...

I said on another blog in reference to something the author had done and was now questioning, it isn't always the act, I choose to place far more weight in the spirit or sentiment behind the act.

Of course we have bad days, or prefer one thing over another, we don't have to love all of it, but I think the asking of the question points to a very deep affinity for the role, no?

And, I do not think it is ever easy to lock the door on the more children piece.

9:22 AM  
Anonymous wyliekat said...

You cannot possibly love it all. Or most of us can't. Me, I don't love all of it - the endless rounds of simple play, the never-having-a-moment-to-myself.

But I love them. With all my heart and soul. So it works out, in the end.

9:32 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Love your blog. The constant bottle washing gets on my nerves since I had to quit breastfeeding. It's the main constant. I get up-- bottles to wash--- every meal-- bottles to wash--- before bed--- bottles to wash. Yeah and the poo is getting a little out of hand here too. Love the boy but it is hard. Have also been quite sick recently and as a single mom, it can be pretty rough.

Hang in there!
Sarah

2:15 PM  
Blogger R said...

as I'm not quite a mom yet, I can't actually answer the question... but in my head I'm thinking that just loving your children is enough... because other than food & shelter - what else do they NEED other than love?

That's just what I think though...

2:37 PM  
Anonymous courtney said...

I think that love and the basics are enough. Make sure they're clean and fed and loved and you're good. It sounds like you're doing it just fine, sick and all. Hang in there. I hope you feel better soon!

3:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I do hope that loving them and trying to do best by them is good enough. Because hot damn, there are days I am tempted, OK, more than tempted to stick a sign on them that says, "Free to a good home" and leave them on the porch. Days when the morning starts with whining, bickering, defiance, that leads to failed meals, naps, errands to run. Then there are days when someone, babysitter/husband/friend/neighbor/nap occupies one child and you have the other and you read books and you chat and you don't need to break up a million fights over crap by 10 am and you realize that these little talking people belong to you, and your heart fills your chest cavity and you tuck away your "free to a good home " sign.

11:19 AM  

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