This morning I spent an hour and a half scrubbing the yuck off of the floors while Abby played at my side. When my boys get home, they will surely stomp big, muddy footprints before I get a chance to tackle them down and yank off their shoes. There are three of them. They come in from different directions, almost as if they’ve made a pact to make it impossible to keep the floors they didn’t even know I would be cleaning, clean. For this minute though, I’m proud of my shiny floors and clean baseboards. That feeling is soon replaced with, “Yup, being an adult sucks! No one should have the best part of their day be the five minutes their floors are clean.”
And that’s why it won’t be. It’s why I don’t try to keep my floors always sparkling clean but do look forward to the need to have to tackle my kids down, to hear the squeal of their laughter as I ferociously tickle them before I yank their shoes off. “THIS HOUSE WAS CLEAN!” I will yell sarcastically as they run off in three different directions, still tripping over laundry undone and toys left out.
We’ll run. We’ll giggle. We’ll run. Eventually we’ll tire out, I’ll be left on the ground, body aching as I reach for my phone to check my email. My boys will move to the computers, Ipads or to friends’ houses.
My kids won’t remember clean floors. Mostly because they’re so rare. I hope they won’t remember my love for my iphone or the times I really did get angry with them for ruining the work I’ve done. More than anything though, I hope they’ll remember that cold chill of fear as their mother pounced on them like a rabid monkey, not really sure if this was the moment she really snapped, or just another time where tackles and tickles are just the best part of growing up.
That little bit of uncertainty goes a long way.
(that’s not my child. But I’m happy to teach you my methods for an outrageous fee)
As mothers, we all too often put ourselves in the Motherhood Box of Shame (have you seen Despicable Me?). We spend too much time stuck feeling badly about what we’re doing and not doing. Making things exponentially worse, we are bombarded with chastisement by other moms, by our friends, and the media. Sometimes it’s direct. There’s an article about how we spend too much time on our phones, or a diatribe on a blog about being a stay at home mom is the only way to have good kids. Sometimes it’s indirect. We see on Pinterest all of the crazy crap other mothers are doing. A friend makes an offhand remark about how much time she sees you online. As you read, watch, listen and internalize, you metaphorically pull out your Box of Shame, and climb in.
The worst part about the Box of Shame is that once you’ve climbed in, it takes a whole hell of a lot to get yourself out. Shame builds on shame. Guilt breeds more guilt. Cardboard turns to brick, walls are made out of our own self talk, neighborhoods out of the guilt we feel when we compare ourselves to others.
Today, I once again started myself out in that Box. I woke up, looked at the sorry state of my house and already started to feel bad. If I spend the day cleaning, Abby will spend the day watching Yo Gabba Gabba. If I spend my day playing with the girl, the house is a wreck when the boys come home…to wreck it further. I build further- if I clean, it will just be undone anyways, so what’s the point? I get too bored playing with Abby, and that makes me sad that I’m not the kind of mom that actually likes playing with her toddlers. I begin to remind myself of just how much I’m not cut out for this. Then I feel guilty for not loving being a stay at home mom because I know that I am truly fortunate to be able to do so- especially given the needs of my children. I find myself laying in the bottom of the Motherhood Box of Shame, stuck from the get go.
I’ve seen many a therapist for this very thing. I have a long history of making therapists cry. As much as I appreciate their sympathy, I need someone who is going to tell me to nut up and throw me out of my box. I get that things are hard. I get that I deserve a break from time to time. But reality is that it’s tough for every mother, no matter what the needs of her children are. I need a way out of this damn box. I need a way to take a break without giving myself a hard time. So, I’m asking you…what do you do? How do you stay out of the Motherhood Box of Shame? If you climb in, how do you get out? What works? What doesn’t?
I’m honestly asking you for help. Do you ever deal with this? Go all sorts of Dr. Phil on me. I need it. And maybe other mother’s reading will, too.