Her Bad Mother

Thursday, September 28, 2006

In Which Her Bad Mother Faces Total Defeat

I haven't done the math yet, but I'm pretty certain that about one-quarter of the posts on this blog are about me being sick, WonderBaby being sick, or the both of us being sick and/or about how the Husband never seems to get sick and the cosmic injustice of the fact that he gets to avoid both being sick and doing the laundry.

So, if you are sick of reading about how much it sucks to be sick, maybe skip this particular post.

Our household seems to have become a very efficient virus transmission facility. WonderBaby acquires a nasty bug from somewhere - from, oh, say, licking another baby at the park or at playgroup - and for a very brief period of time becomes snotty and sniffly and cranky and then passes it on to me. I become snotty and sniffly and cranky and take every conceivable measure to avoid passing the virus back to WonderBaby but always manage to fail, so that at the precise moment I am starting to feel a little bit better, WonderBaby gets snotty and cranky again and so on and so forth.

This has being going on for about a week now, and I am, to say the least, sick and tired of it.

It would be easier to bear were it not for the fact that WonderBaby is not slowed down by the common cold. WonderBaby, it seems, is not slowed down by anything. A cold makes her snottier and crankier, but it does not make her more inclined to sleep during the day, nor does it impede her ability to move about at high speeds. She thrashes about the house, toddling and climbing and grabbing and pulling, with her usual force and little bit of Bad Temper thrown in for flair. And leaving a slug-like trail of snot behind her as she goes.

(I can, at least, thank the gods that I no longer face the grim task of sucking the snot out for her. She does just fine on her own now, thank you very much.)

What I had been hoping for, today, was a tranquil, if sniffly, afternoon of the kind that I used to spend as a child when confined to bed with a bad cold: snugly wrapped in blankets, warm drinks and digestive biscuits at hand, cathode rays beaming Family Feud from the television set into an otherwise darkened room. That kind of afternoon, adapted for me and WonderBaby, is what I wanted: the two of us, curled up together on the sofa, tea for me, a bottle for her, and old episodes of the Muppet Show running on DVD. Cozy and happy, our sniffles an afterthought.

What we have instead is me and WonderBaby, both in pajamas at 3 in the afternoon, neither of us cozy, only one of us happy. Me bleary-eyed and miserable and huddled on the floor in a blanket, damp tissues shoved down the front of my pajama top; WonderBaby toddling about in circles, emitting high-pitched shrieks and hoots in celebration of having sucessfully jammed a two-headed doll into the DVD carousel, slowing down only to wipe snotty nose on ultrasuede ottoman. It's just one junkie and a pool of vomit away from looking like a scene from Trainspotting.

(Oh, wait! THERE'S the pool of vomit!)

(You think I'm making that up? It's not exactly vomit - more like goopy spit-up - but still. I'd take a picture, but this blog is just not that raw.)

I'm this close to just chugging the Nyquil and spending the rest of the afternoon in a Dextromethorpan fog, just to make the picture complete...

... except that I fear that she would overpower me in my incapacitated state and take over rule of the household.

If you don't hear from me within a few days, send help.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006


Edited. Yes, already.

It's been a challenging few days. The Husband has been working non-stop, which leaves WonderBaby and I in a sort of single-parent family condition, wherein I get very, very tired and sometimes cranky. (How real single-parent families do it, I do not know, I really, really don't. I would be dead from exhaustion by now were it not for the presence, however erratic, of my husband as a parenting partner.) Also, we couldn't celebrate our anniversary, because he was working, which was sad. And, I got sick this weekend and had to spend much of Sunday afternoon laying on the floor on a sniffly haze while a hyper-mobile WonderBaby stomped on my head (which, because numb, did not suffer much damage.)

These things, however, are all manageable. What I'm really struggling with is a sort of identity crisis.

I am no longer a full-time stay-at-home-mom. Nor, however, am I full-time working mom. I am something in between. I have gone back to teaching at the university part-time, because they made me a nice offer and because they said please. And because I like teaching, and because I want to keep my foot in that particular academic door.

So, on Mondays and Wednesdays I leave the house and leave WonderBaby and head out to one of the suburban campuses of the University of Toronto and I teach political philosophy.

I like doing this. I've long been ambivalent about seriously pursuing a career in the academy, but not for lack of love for teaching. I love teaching. I love turning students on to these dusty old books, these fusty old ideas, bringing these to life in the same way that my teachers brought them to life for me. I love seeing students get excited about the puzzles of philosophy. I love it when Plato and Machiavelli and Rousseau and Nietzsche seduce them and transport them and inspire them to talk, to argue, about philosophy and politics and life.

I love this. But it's not motherhood. At the university, I am 'professor,' or even, sometimes, 'Ms.' (and, once, Mrs... which completely blew my mind.) But I am never recognized as a mother, as somebody's mom. Never.

Which, although understandable, feels strange, because I have come to so fully identify with my identity as mother that to be anywhere and to not be wearing my 'mother' hat feels awkward. Awkward, in part, because I had never, ever thought of this identity as a 'hat,' as an identity that could be removed and set aside. Nearly every breath that I have taken, nearly every word spoken, since November 14, 2005, has been as a mother. Even when I went back to teaching, briefly, one evening each week for 6 weeks in the spring, I still felt every inch a mother. I walked and talked as mother; I wore my motherhood as a badge. I announced to my class at the very first lecture, I just had a baby. I had spit-up stains on my clothes. I wore LilyPadz inside my nursing bra. My body felt WonderBaby's absence, every minute of that absence.

Once, during the break in the lecture, while standing at the lectern, fussing with my notes, I burst into song:

I love you
A bushel and a peck
You bet your pretty neck
I doooooo!!!

My head was full of motherhood. I did not, could not, leave my motherhood behind.

Now, I can, and I do. I can and do leave it behind.

And it feels strange, so strange. It feels strange because I both love it, and hate it. I love the feeling of freedom, of being unencumbered by stroller and diaper bag and the random paraphernalia that attends babycare. I love the silence of my office. I love that my head is filled with the words and ideas of dead poets and philosophers, that I can concentrate, think, that the flow of ideas between head and page or head and mouth is not interrupted by Raffi or the Johnny Cash Children's Album. It is freedom from motherhood. It is exhilarating.

But it hurts my heart. In the moments that I pause, and think of WonderBaby - and there are many such moments - my heart contracts and I very nearly gasp for my next breath. I miss her, I am missing her, I am missing seconds, minutes, hours with her. It takes all of my power to keep from running for the bus and heading for home, in those moments.

How can I choose to be apart from her, I ask myself. How can I choose this? But I do choose it. I must choose it.

I must choose to be both mother and myself, these other selves. But it feels, sometimes, like my identity has become fragmented, torn. Will it always feel this way? Or will I, gradually, knit these selves together? Come to terms with all of those missed moments of motherhood?

Or will I, one day, just run for the bus?

If you're going to make a break for it, Mommy, take a cab.


Call to Action posts are still being added to the Changing the World, One Blog at a Time list. I've gotten a bit slow on adding the links, but they are still coming, so keep checking back and keep sending them in.


Because you all keep asking: yes, the Johnny Cash Children's Album is real. How have you been living without it?

The Magi

For orchestrating, executing and participating in the too-wonderful-to-be-believed Auction (to benefit Muscular Dystrophy research, in honour of Tanner).... THANK YOU ALL.*
Internet Aunties and Uncles

*If I have forgotten or overlooked you, or anybody that you know, please drop me a comment or an e-mail. And accept my apologies - I was really overwhelmed by all this love, and had trouble keeping track. And - steal this Magi button! E-mail me for the code...