Saturday, September 10, 2011

The Naked Truth

Some of my loyal blog readers have been critical of me in the past, claiming that I only present the "rosy" side of parenting, and of single motherhood.  Well, you guys will enjoy this posting.

Here is the unvarnished reality, the overwhelming experience that is the life of the JSMBC:

I cannot pee, shower, eat, read the newspaper, wash the dishes, check email or throw out the garbage without having an active, curious and at the moment, willful and slightly destructive toddler undertoe.  When Raphaela is awake, I must sacrifice all my personal needs in order to keep her happy and entertained, and to make sure that she does not get into areas of sharp objects or poisonous house cleaning products.

I am the only adult in the house saying, "The garbage pail is ichy, it is not a toy."  "Harry's litter box is special sand, not the kind of sand we play with at Gan."  "When we eat, we sit at the table, we don't carry and spill food all over the house."  "Make nice to Mommy, in our family we don't hit and we don't throw."

I am the only adult in the house telling Raphaela how much I love her, reading her stories and playing with her, bathing her and cuddling her.

Sometimes an overenthusiastic hug is accompanied by accidental hair pulling, head bashing or stepping of toes, several times per day.  I know that Raphaela does not mean to cause me physical pain, but just because I am a Mommy, "if you prick me, do I not bleed?"

I need a shot of coffee in the morning to give me a jump start, and I would enjoy a nice glass of red wine once Raphaela goes to sleep, but I cannot be sluggish the following morning, when my daughter wakes up at 5:30 am.

I have been meaning to get a haircut since Pessach. At this point I don't know when this will happen, because it must be coordinated with my work in the Chiropractic clinic, and Raphaela's time in Gan.  In the mornings I pray that Raphaela acclimate to Gan quickly, so I am not stuck there for an hour when I need to do other errands before work. I have not had a vacation in the truest sense of the word since I started fertility treatments.  I have not seen a movie in the theatre in over two years, and when I rent a video at home, I fall asleep in the middle out of sheer exhaustion.

In between patients, I prepare meals and fold laundry, wash dishes and straighten up the house and return phone calls.  As soon as I finish work, I pick up Raphaela from Gan and the rest of the evening belongs to her.  As soon as I tuck Raphaela into bed, we realize that Bunny - her most treasured and essential of transition objects- has gone missing.  By the time I find Bunny, Raphaela has regained her state of alertness and will not settle into bed.

I worried about Raphaela when I was hospitalized after the emergency appendectomy, and I put everything on hold when Raphaela had her surgery.

Now that Raphaela is walking, when she refuses to leave the elevator or starts running into the street, it is me and only me who drops whatever I am holding and protects her. When she makes a fuss about getting dressed or being fastened in the car seat, it is me and only me who must calm her down and explain rules, in the most loving and quiet voice I can muster. When she gets tired of walking, it is me and only me who picks her up and carries her, now matter how far the distance and no matter how much my back hurts.

And then the cracks in my armor break open, and I want to cry and scream and run away to a deserted island where I have no responsibilities.

You may want to argue that with minor exceptions, most of the scenario I have described applies to any mother.  But women in a couple relationship have another person in the house, even if they are a shitty partner.  There is another income coming into the house.  Someone else can go to the supermarket if necessary.  When I hit my leg on a moving box, fall on the floor and start crying, no one comes to check on me or help me stand up.  When I desperately need to take a nap to make up for lost sleep, no one says, "Let me take Raphaela to the park, so you can get the rest you so deserve."

No one hugs me, or asks me, "So, how was your day?"  No one says, "You look great in that outfit."  No one tells me, "I love you."

I am not sure that my parents would be available baby sitters, even if we lived on the same continent.  And other than a few hours of baby sitting here and there, I would not want a nanny living in my house to take care of my child;  why did I have my beautiful daughter if I planned on handing her off to someone else to raise?

If you are a first time reader of this blog, know that I love my daughter and that there is not a single moment with her that I regret.  Also know that if you are planning on bringing a child into the world, you need a reliable and available support system around you, otherwise you will lose yourself in the process.


Midlife Singlemum said...

We all have days/weeks like that and, so far, the twos have lived up to their reputation and are challenging to put it mildly. But DD is almost 3 and I can already see that things are getting easier. Hang in there :~)

p.s When you read back over this in a few weeks time you'll remember: Oh yes, that was the week after I moved house with a toddler and a pet, after a summer in which we both had operations and I was harrassed and threatened by my former landlord...

Doc said...

I know that last week was a rough week, and that these past few months would have been trying for anyone. I stand by my blog post, being a Mom is hard, any mother in any situation, and doing it by yourself adds another element of difficulty.
Mostly, I really really need a vacation, and the upcoming High Holidays DON'T count.
I also stand by my blog post, the most important sentence perhaps, that I love my daughter beyond words, that I can't imagine my life without her, and that all this struggle is worth it, for her.

SuperRaizy said...

After my divorce, I became a single mother to a 5 year old, a 3 year old, and an infant. Their father abandoned them long ago. I have gone through everything that you describe, times 3, plus so much more. I know many single women who also do it all alone, some with with 2 or 3 children, some with 5 or 6. It is not an easy burden for anyone to carry.
BUT- it seems to me that you are doing yourself and your daughter a disservice by complaining so much about the sacrifices that you make for her. As she grows up, she will pick up on the "poor martyr" vibe that you are giving off, and she may resent you for it, and it could potentially harm your relationship. Children want to feel cherished, they do not want to feel that they are a burden on their parents. You made a conscious, deliberate decision to have a child alone, despite the obvious difficulties. Viewing parenthood as a blessing instead of a burden would serve you both well.
I do not mean to attack you, please don't think that I am trying to make you feel bad. I am speaking purely from experience. I have 3 happy well adjusted teenagers now because I have strived to see us as a regular happy family, NOT as a suffering "single parent" family. Attitude is everything.

Sarah said...


This post doesn't say or imply that she complains in front of her daughter. Her daughter can't read yet. Maybe this blog is where JSMBC complains.

It also doesn't escape me that if JSMBC writes only the good things, people complain that she's presenting an overly optimistic view of what it's like to be a single mother. And if she writes about the negative things, she's accused of having a bad attitude! Give her a break!

Commenter Abbi said...

Two letters for you: TV. Seriously, for heaven's sake, just turn on the TV and get a few minutes to yourself. Or an hour or two for that matter. Nothing will happen to her. I watched a ton of TV as a kid and I barely turn it on for myself now. She will most probably turn out intelligent.

koshergourmetmart said...

i agree with abby. If you really feel you have no time to "pee, shower, eat, read the newspaper, wash the dishes, check email or throw out the garbage" a little tv won't hurt. It may help matters by giving you the personal time you need and also give you the chance to find "bunny" and put "bunny" in RR's bed. Using tv as a babysitter for your sanity is perfectly acceptable especially since there is no one to hand her off to

Doc said...

@SuperRaizy: I don't feel like a victim or a martyr, and I don't give that vibe to my daughter. What I do feel like is a tired woman who needs some time to do something for me. And I never make Raphaela feel like a burden to me, though I do make my displeasure known when she does something that is not great behaviour.
I cherish Raphaela and show her love every day, but my "attidude" as you put it suffers when I am sleep deprived and overly stressed.
At the end of the day, I am human and I have my limits.

Amy Charles said...

Abbi, RR is two. She can't be counted on to sit there placidly and nondestructively watching tv, multiple minutes alone, let alone an hour.

SuperRaizy, you are indeed super, but trust me, your kids saw you struggle and will remember it all their lives. I don't read resentment anywhere in Doc's post. I do read honesty. My guess also -- my experience -- is that most of the single mothers you mention have family and/or boyfriends helping out; it's a different story when that doesn't happen. What I find in this house is that when a child is old enough to understand that there's only one of you, and that you're not so magic that you can do everything, she wants to help. And is grateful. Mostly.

Doing it all know, there are upsides to it: I see so many married women lying to themselves for years because they need to believe that the shlubs they're married to are wonderful guys, great fathers, means well, yada, when mostly what they do is make more work and aggravation. Or it's worse: they drink, they're mentally ill, they're mean, they're bums. On the other hand, to be the only adult in the house, and not to have help or affection or even a simple, "You look so tired, please go lie down," makes things much harder. Which is why I say, Doc, we love you, no matter how meshugge you may be :) , and we are rooting for you, and that's why we keep reading.

That said, the sense of losing yourself -- I really do see it all over in mothers of young children. I've seen it break up marriages, too, when the men have been unable to cope with the demands of childrearing far enough to let their wives get their heads above water, or have turned into big babies themselves. But it's normal when you're doing an insane job that requires your attention, literally, every few minutes around the clock, except when you have paid childcare (meaning usually that you're working another job to pay for the childcare).

Will it get easier? Yes, in the sense that someday you'll have hours and hours to yourself, and recover yourself. (Vacation?...Well, it could happen. Be glad you live near the beach.) In other senses, though, I think it gets harder. At least that's been my experience.

I think the hardest thing is that you really cannot expect other people to understand. Most people don't have great powers of imagination, and they believe your life is like theirs. So they don't see that you're exhausted and need help; they only see that you don't show up for the social or kid thing. Or they just don't want to get involved. What really is important, I think, is not to transmit a sense of disappointment or bitterness about this to your child, but instead to be philosophical and positive while showing her how to navigate, while praising to the skies the mensches who come your way. She will ask the questions on her own, and they'll help her decide what kind of person to be.

Midlife Singlemum said...

Sometimes I just have to come back and say more... I am a single mother to a 2yo and have no boyfriend or family in the country. My daughter sits and watches a dvd while I shower - I leave the door open and she may come to see what I'm doing but then she goes back to the tv. I don't use this babysitting Godsend for hours on end but it works very well for a good half hour when I want to pluck my eyebrows, check my emails, cook, do dishes, or anything else close enough to keep an ear out or an eye on her.
Also - as a blogger, don't feel you need to defend every comment. You made your point very well in the original post. Hugs xxx

Commenter Abbi said...

amy, all my kids were champion tv watchers by age two (they got the hang of it by 18 months). few children can resist the siren song of the teletubbies. and doc has already said she guiltily turns it on for her to make dinner. my point was to get over the guilt and use it whenever she needs a break.