I hit an all-time low today as a mom. If there was such a thing as the "Worst Mommy Hall of Fame," I'd be a front runner for membership.
The day started out okay. We went on a walk with a friend. Madeline complained a bit about her bottom hurting. She was whiny, my little, needy "Cling-On," but I was managing. At one point, she was demanding something – what, I can’t even remember – and I told her to please be patient because there was only one of me. To which she quipped, “I need two mommies.”
“Yes, you do,” I told her, “but you’re stuck with just one, so you’ll have to wait.”
“If I had two mommies, Mommy could do it all,” she replied.
I seriously doubt it, but thanks for the vote of confidence.
All daylong Madeline begged, “Play with me.” She refused to be left alone, even if I just had to run upstairs to check a load of laundry or excuse myself to use the bathroom. She even told me she didn't want Mommy to have another baby. I felt a pang in my heart. She's always said she wants "lots of babies." What has changed? Is she realizing that I am a loser mommy who can't even manage two children? Fortunately, later she said she wanted "lots of babies" again, but I fear she is truly saddened by the lack of attention I can dole out to her these days.
But I'm only human and possibly worse as you'll soon see.
I could do nothing right today. Madeline cried when I tried to make her do anything, including eating prunes so her bum would stop being the source of so much anguish. She kept repeating in a whiny, grating voice, “Mommy, my bottom hurts. My bottom hurts.” I finally told her she could say this as much as she wanted, but she had to sit on the potty and at least try to poop every time she uttered the words.
"My bottom hurts," she said again. So I grabbed her and dragged her into the bathroom. She then proceeded to squirm on the potty in obvious discomfort and I realized she wasn’t crying wolf and that her bottom really was hurting. We’ve been having constipation issues over the past week. I want to think that this is the cause of her continual clinging, but I have no clue. She's always been a sensitive child, but lately I cannot leave her sight and she wants me to play with her constantly.
But back to her GI woes... Unfortunately, Dave and I suspect her jammed system is somewhat self-inflicted. Because her bowel movements are sometimes painful, it seems she’s developed an aversion to pooping and is especially afraid of sitting down on the potty to poop. Still, she insisted on wearing her big-girl panties. She pooped a bit in one pair and I could live with that (accidents are all a part of the joy of potty training, right?) but then after dinner she started wailing again.
“My butt…”she cried.
“Say bottom,” I snapped.
“My bottom hurts!”
“Then let’s go sit on the potty.”
I lugged a thrashing, 30-pound child to the bathroom and put her on the potty.
“Don’t have to poop!” she cried.
“Okay. Fine. Then don’t say your bottom hurts.”
Rachel Marie started crying now, so I went to soothe her. She was stranded on the carpet for the umpteenth time today. Normally she just waits patiently, making lovely, high-pitched, happy noises and just deals with her solitary existence. As soon as she saw me hovering above her, her crying was replaced with happy coos. She started smiling at me and her whole body began to wiggle with happiness.
“Mommy, pick me up.” Madeline was sniveling again.
“I can’t right now.”
I lifted Rae to the changing table while cooing back at her. Madeline started climbing on it.
“Honey, remember what I said about climbing on the changing table? Please don’t do it. It’s not strong enough to hold you.”
“Mommy, my bottom hurts.” Again, my little monkey started hanging on the changing table like it was a jungle gym.
“Madeline, please stop.”
“My butt hurts!!!”
I wrongly assumed Madeline's behavior was in response to my tête-à-tête with Rachel Marie, who, up until this point, had only gotten one-on-one attention from my breasts for pretty much the entire day. I didn't really believe her bottom hurt since I'd just tried to take her to the potty, so what did I do? What any tired, frustrated, overwhelmed and mommy washout would do. l made Madeline leave the room and told her Mommy needed a break and a time out so she wouldn't lose it. Then I closed and locked Rachel Marie’s bedroom door. Madeline cried and pounded on the door. "Mommy, let me in. Let me in!"
I took a deep breath. I tried to count to ten, but I think I only made it to three. I changed the baby’s diaper and went to check on Madeline who had suddenly become quiet. When I opened the door, I quickly discovered why.
There on our carpet was a big pile of poop and a naked, trembling little girl. A trail of poopy footprints were scattered along the hallway.
If I was still the mommy I used to be, the mommy who disappeared sometime during my third trimester of pregnancy with Rachel Marie, the mommy I miss and long to have back, I would have hugged this scared, hurting little girl and told her that everyone has accidents and next time she just needed to tell me she had to use the potty instead of only saying her bottom hurts. If I was the mommy who used to pray for God’s graces and be open to them, I would have not broken down and there would be no genesis for this blog.
If you think this story got ugly when I saw poop all over my carpet, brace yourself.
At this moment, exhaustion, frustration, anger…all these negative emotions took over. Before I knew it I’d transformed into a horrible mommy monster. So much for a mommy time out. I was yelling, throwing a fit worse than any toddler tantrum. I was crying, screaming. I roughly scooped Madeline into my arms and screamed at her frightened face while looking her straight in the eyes. Then I pretty much tossed her into the bathroom. She was on the floor, sobbing hysterically. Rachel Marie was also wailing by now. She'd resumed her position alone on the carpet. Without thinking, I ran to her rescue.
"It's okay, Baby Rae," I said softly. I comforted the baby and then screamed again at Madeline. Was it any wonder she said she didn't want me to have another baby? A baby who can do no wrong? A baby I immediately comfort when she's crying? A baby who takes Mommy's arms away from her?
I turned from Rachel Marie, who had stopped crying for a moment and noticed Madeline’s soiled legs. I saw her tears. I saw my own child cower from me. Even now as I think back on the way she looked at me I can’t stop my own tears from coming. I am her mommy. I’m supposed to be the one who loves her unconditionally, who believes in her when others don’t, who lifts her up when she’s fallen, who has the patience to endure even her most trying moments. But today I was none of that. I was a horrible, horrible mom and person and she looked at me like she was crushed...like she'd never be whole again.
Later, when I was washing her up in the bathtub and we'd both settled down, I wondered out loud if she’d be better off going to school or daycare away from me. She looked at me with her big, brown eyes and said, "But Mommy, I don't have a car."
"I can drive you," I said, not even thinking how this conversation would affect her.
She started to cry again. “No, Mommy. I want to stay with you.”
But later I heard her playing with her toys, saying, “Mommy’s a horrible mommy sometimes. She's grumpy and frustrated.”
When I apologized to her, I said all of these things. “Mommy was horrible to you. I am grumpy because I don’t always get enough sleep. I wish you would have gone poop on the potty instead of on the carpet, but I should never, never, ever yell at you. I was very, very wrong. I love you so much and I am so sorry.”
I couldn't help but wonder if she was just repeating what I'd said or if she really believed it...that her mommy was horrible.
Just minutes ago I went into her bedroom and kissed her while she was sleeping. She smelled of soap and fruity toothpaste. Blond wisps of hair framed her face. She was perfectly still and in her peaceful form, there was no indication that an hour earlier she had broken apart into wracking sobs because of me. Me, the person she's supposed to trust the most.
"I am so sorry," I whispered.
And I still am… I am also ashamed and even disturbed that I could lose it like that, especially with such a sweet-natured child. The suddenness of my rage scares me. How could I so quickly lose it? I am trying so hard to be a good, patient and loving mom. I belong to the no spanking camp. I never let my babies "cry it out." I nurse on demand. I stay at home. I homeschool. I read to my children every day. I sing silly songs and color Care Bears, Elmo and other characters in countless coloring books. I realize that young children are takers and good parents are givers. Yet, in that moment, none of my good mommy efforts mattered. I completely lost it and I keep asking myself: What does that say about me? This - mothering - is my life. My only real job is being a mom. How can I be failing so miserably at it? How could I snap like that? How could I lose control? How could I be the one to lash out, frustrated, unable to express what I was feeling without regressing into a bratty, hateful child?
Then I have to ask myself: Do other moms - moms like me, not the moms you hear about on the nightly news who burrow lit cigarettes into their children's skin - lose their tempers? Do moms like me who get way too self-righteous thinking they're great moms and taking far too much credit for their children's good behavior sometimes let a demon loose? Do other moms grab their children's arms just a little too tightly? Do other moms set their expectations far too high only to be disappointed and frustrated by age-appropriate behavior? Do other moms act like complete monsters?
Then I wonder how I can possibly be open to life, to welcome more innocent children into my arms, when I can’t even be a good mom to two beautiful, little souls.
When I was holding Rachel Marie and rocking her after Madeline had fallen asleep beside me, I got down on my knees and prayed. I prayed for forgiveness. I prayed for strength. I prayed for patience. I prayed for the old mommy I used to be – the one who rarely lost her cool, who got down on her hands and knees and played with her little girl instead of always saying, “Not now,” the one who applied attachment parenting principles to her mothering style in hopes that she would form a secure, happy bond with her child, the one who would never scream at her child, the one who prayed more and asked for God’s help instead of being too lazy to talk to him – to come back.
I'm still hating myself. I hate myself for being mean. I hate myself for acting like a child. I hate myself for not being able to control my emotions. I hate myself for not being the kind of mom I want to be. More than anything, I hate myself for thinking that unleashing my rage and frustrations on a child who's really still just a baby would make me feel better when instead I feel a whole lot worse.