Taking a Parenting Break

The clock read 5:03 a.m. when I heard Charlie wake up this morning. I felt a flash of rage when I remembered it was Monday. Are you kidding me, universe?

The mental and physical exhaustion from the weekend re-settled. I felt desperation at the thought of facing my day: fixing Charlie breakfast, struggling to give him a bath, bribing him to get his shoes on for school, commuting in traffic, spending 8 hours at work, driving 90 minutes to pick up Charlie and get him back home, trying to feed him dinner without it ending up on the floor or on his head, 30 minutes of hysterics at bedtime, and the inevitable bickering between Charles and I. Oh, and I have to finish some homework before I collapse.

It was time to take a mental health day.

Parenting just feels hard lately. Charlie is at a stage in which his emotions are running high, yet he doesn’t have the cognitive ability to handle them nor the language to express what he’s feeling. So, he whines. A LOT. And throws things. And clings. And kicks. He’s also decided that he only takes one 40-minute nap a day. Dear Lord, help us.

Coupled with all this is my weakness at being “the disciplinarian” and my inability to experience his unhappiness without internalizing a lot of crap that a therapist probably needs to sort out.

I know this is a terrible cliche, but I never realized how selfish I was until I became a parent. There are times I feel resentful that Charlie is so needy right now. Or that we can’t watch TV (our parental choice), use our phones or open a computer when he’s around. I tried to read a textbook in the same room, but he flipped out that he couldn’t have my hi-lighter. CHILD, WHERE IS YOUR OFF SWITCH?!

It’s times like this when I feel I suck at being a mom. Good parents don’t feel resentment toward their children. Good parents don’t desperately yearn for a few hours of solitude – one with no baby, husband, daughter, house, work, or school responsibilities. Good parents handle the tantrums and neediness, because – duh – they signed up for this going in.

On top of all this, I feel society constantly reminding me that I must treasure these years, which go by oh so quickly. Because when they’re over, your children leave you and you die. Alone.

(See, I really did need this mental health day.)

I recall this great TED talk I once watched about taboos in parenting. In it, the speakers (founders of Babble.com) address the false “party line” that every aspect of a parent’s life gets drastically better after the arrival of a child (skip to 11:12 for this section). They share a slide (lifted below) about peaks and valleys of happiness throughout life. Your 20s, for example, are pretty stable, but it’s not until you have kids that you resubmit yourself to the extreme highs and lows you experienced in your own childhood.

This morning, I truly felt that low. And it sucked. But I also remember that incredible high yesterday when Charlie ran to me and buried himself in my arms after a long run. Or how he hummed the melody of “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” to us for the first time.

At the end of the day, I willingly trade the stability of my 20s for these few, precious, transcendent moments.

To use another parenting cliche, it’s so worth it.

GRAPH: Average Happiness Throughout Life (Courtesy YouTube)

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9 Responses to Taking a Parenting Break

  1. Ginger says:

    I feel like I suck at parenting on a regular basis. I get fed up, and exhausted, and “dear GAWD child GO TO BED so mommy can have a few minutes to herself!”. Sigh. Deep breath. Try again tomorrow.

    Sometimes you need a break. Plain and simple. Good for you for taking it.

    (by the way, did you happen to read this: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/glennon-melton/dont-carpe-diem_b_1206346.html ? It firmly sums up my thoughts on the whole “treasure this” thing.)

  2. You’re not alone. Squish gave up naps almost entirely, and it’s all I can do some days to hold on until bed time. We all need some time off every once in a while.

  3. ERic Nusbaum says:

    Although not being a parent myself, I can relate to the fact that if we were more open with each other with our problems without the fear of judgement from society (or even close friends), we’d be a lot better off as a society and be better able to help one another.

    That being said, I know I’ve voiced this in the past but again, I really do enjoy your open, honest thoughts on parenting.

  4. tina says:

    Oh Jess, believe. me, I’m right there with ya. really. really really. there are days/moments when I resent my girls (then i hear the mommy guilt). This weekend was a case and point. I’m tired, stressed, and did i mention stressed and tired? I want to sleep in, I don’t want to feel like the milk cow, I want to cook uninterrupted. I want to go shopping without worrying about feeding the little one or how the big one needs to go potty. I know, I signed up for this whole shin-dig, but some days i still look around and go “really??? wtf was I thinking?”

    I feel like a crappy mom most days too. We do what we can, and in the end, they’ll live (if they don’t ask me one more time for that piece of candy I already said no to). I think i’ve told you before, that our children do grow up despite us. Hugs and commiseration.

  5. Well, I am not a mom (unless fur kids count) but I do know that watching both you and Tina working with kids is an inspiration and even makes me feel like someday I could be a working mom too. So even when you are down remember that you are an inspiration to not just Charlie but also us other women 🙂 -Catie

  6. You could, literally, be describing my life. Thank you for being so honest about it.

  7. What? I’m pretty sure EVERY parent feels some resentment toward their children, the same way they sometimes feel resentment toward everyone when their wants are being blocked. I’d love to sit and read sometimes. I don’t always want to play mommies with the Babby. But I don’t beat myself up over those feelings. What good does that do?

    (That’s one of my favorite Ted talks!)

  8. Pingback: Letters to Charlie: Month 20 | Hour 23

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