I suck at being a mum..

Excuse the pity party,  but sometimes,  I do.

I have way more good parenting days than bad,  but when the bad ones come,  they seem to overshadow everything.  When I say bad,  I mean relative to me.  I know my bad days won’t ever match up to what some people have to deal with.  I know that.  But I have only one life,  and can only report on how it feels to be me.

My bad days don’t last long.  Tomorrow,  I will wake up a new person.  I am lucky that way. Nothing lingers for long. This morning didn’t start off particularly bad,  but my eldest son was having a pretty rough day,  and my reasonably good mood dissipated as his angry attitude seeped into my consciousness.  My son,  like me,  is highly sensitive.  I feel what he feels;  and I am sure it is vice versa. He is the most beautiful and difficult child all rolled up in one unique, challenging package.  I love him more than life itself;  yet his being almost over-powers me at times.

He provokes and annoys everyone in the house;  then he gets hurt when we are cross with him. He calls us mean names;  then cries if we ever dare to say something he takes personally (which is pretty much everything). This morning, he told me to “shut my big fat mouth”,   which is just appalling. I know that.  Yet, strict punishments don’t work.  What is so much more effective is talking to him,  and explaining gently where he as gone wrong.  But, you don’t need me to tell you that being spoken to like that is not exactly conducive to having a calm conversation. Especially when you,  yourself, are sensitive.

Most of the time I am able to be the adult.  I step away from an escalating situation before it worsens. But, there have been times during the last couple of days where I have caught myself talking to him in the same hysterical voice he is using towards me. It’s hard being a person with such powerful emotions, who is also a mum. There is a constant tug of war between who I am, and who I want my children to see.  I sometimes feel like an overstuffed cushion,   with all of my emotions and feelings too big for the space they are held in. A couple of hard punches, and that cushion just bursts all over the place;  leaving the skin saggy and deflated,  and the contents scattered.

I know that something has to give sometimes. I do want them to realise that we are all human; all falling foul to life,  feelings,   and moods at times. But, they need a calm mum more than anything. And when I fail at that,  even just for a second,  it scrapes at my soul,  leaving it full of tiny wounds.

It’s days like this when I want to give up.  To run far,  far away.  When I feel I am doing more damage to my kids being around them,  than if I wasn’t here.  When I feel that I am just not cut out for this;  this is not what I signed up for.  This is not where I want to be.

Mummy guilt prickles at my skin.  Why can’t I be the perfect mum?  Why can’t I stay calm? These are questions I ask myself over and over.  On days like this, I see only the black;  I am negative, useless,  worthless.  My eldest is highly sensitive;  so am I.  This makes me understand him more than he understands himself,  but it also causes him more pain when I am unable to stay 100% in control of the situation.

For the first time ever,  last week,  I found myself telling my partner that I wished we had two children like my youngest. The love I have for my kids is equal;  it is cut down the middle with immaculate precision. Yet, it is different. The love I have for each one is different.  It’s also changeable;  one day big boy is my favourite,  while little boy does my head in.  But we can’t escape the fact that our youngest is easier.  So much easier.  He brings with him a feeling of calmness,  which soothes my frazzled highly sensitive self.  My eldest invariably brings conflict and irritation, which scours my highly sensitive self until it is red raw.  Nothing is fun when it is hard work;  and being around my eldest is damn hard work at times.

Ah.  A deep sigh.

The one thing I like best about being me,  is my resilience.  I mentioned on another post once that I thought this was a mum thing;  it makes us able to continue along our motherhood journey.  I know that tomorrow everything bad about today will be forgotten;  that my son’s smile will melt away any negative feelings.  I am fond of telling my kids that “tomorrow is a new day”, so much so,  that they quote it back to me.

I know that I am feeling down now;  but I also know it won’t last.

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Mummy Guilt….

Like most mums (I am presuming), I suffer with a horrible affliction referred to as “mummy guilt”. When it comes, it settles like a heavy weight on my chest, causing my heart to ache. It makes me sit for hours contemplating where I could have done things differently; bludgeoning myself with my faults. If only I’d been a little less shouty, a little more reasonable. If only I could be a better mum. 

Today, I reacted in a way that caused my nine-year-old to be terrified of me. And yes, I mean terrified. My two boys are going through a phase where they are constantly fighting, often physical. They would argue black was white until the cows came home if we let them. The eldest tries to get the better of his six-year-old brother (which older sibling doesn’t?), and this morning, during an argument, he’d gone to get a knife and brandished it. Now, let me please stop and say that he doesn’t have any behavioural issues, is a relatively normal boy, but he is highly sensitive and sometimes finds it difficult to express irritation or anger appropriately. I know hand on heart that he would never use it, would never hurt his brother (or anyone else)and have a feeling that it involves one-up-man-ship more than anything. 

So, the day progresses with very little let-up in the bickering, and while upstairs, I hear them starting to fight physically. My youngest runs up screaming, saying his brother has a knife, that’s scared. I kind of lost it. I flew down the stairs and got hold of him so he couldn’t run away, took a knife from the shelf, and told him (okay….shouted) in no uncertain terms that YOU…DO…NOT….MESS….WITH….KNIVES…EVER! He started to cry, and I have never seen him look so scared. And it’s the look in his eyes that, nearly ten hours later, I can’t shake from my mind. 

Now, don’t get me wrong; I did not brandish the knife. I did not stick it near his face, and neither did I make any hint that I would use it on him (of course I didn’t). I just held it, and him (so he couldn’t escape). I am not justifying my actions, just explaining. I wanted him to know how scary it is when someone pulls a knife. I wanted him to know how much he was frightening his brother. And it worked.

During the first five minutes after, I felt almost victorious; thoughts of “he won’t do that again in a hurry” reverberated around my head. Then the pain that is mummy guilt kicked in. I think my problem is that I believe as parents, we should do everything in our power to protect our children. I feel very little guilt when they are punished fairly for any inappropriate actions. But when it goes as far as to literally terrify them, what then? Where do we draw the line at teaching our children a lesson? Is it okay to scare the life out of them so that they won’t repeat it? Or, as parents, should we behave like adults and calmly explain why it is not okay to get a knife? Well, a bit of both, I guess. And I suppose we can’t also discount the fact that I was trying to protect one of my children.

As I write this, I contemplate whether it will ever get a public viewing. This is really close to home for me, and very private. Telling the world of my failings (especially as a sensitive person), is hard. I don’t want to be judged. I don’t want people to think I am a horrible mum. Because, I tell you, you couldn’t say any worse than what I am already feeling.  I am sorry for getting cross (because had I stayed calm; I would have been able to deal with it more effectively, and consequently, wouldn’t feel like this), and I am sorry that I frightened my little boy. And although I don’t know you, I worry that you will think badly of me. But I find writing a release, and if one person can read this and identify, then hopefully, they won’t feel so alone (because that’s just how I am feeling right now).

In more lucid moments, I am able to acknowledge that I am a good mum; although, only in my own brain. Never out loud, or in public. Ever. I comfort my kids when they are sad or hurt; I stand up for them, and fight their corner; I don’t smack them or use any physical punishment; I try to guide them through life’s difficulties; and I would fall under a bus for them. I love them more than life itself. They ARE my life. But sometimes; I wonder if that is enough.

Since it happened, I have sat with him and talked it through calmly, explaining why I reacted the way I did. He gets it. I think. I told him that I was so sorry for scaring him, but that I was frightened he was going to do something silly; that I wanted him to realise how dangerous it was to hold a knife. I get how hypocritical my actions might seem, that I did the wrong thing, for the right reasons. He told me that he thought I was going to kill him. I can’t tell you how that makes me feel. I am not sure if he really did think that, but whatever, the pain is indescribable, and it torments me. I abhor violence. I try to teach my kids that it is not acceptable to hurt anyone else; yet he thought I was going to hurt him. Oh, man.

As mums, are we supposed to feel this bad? I am pretty sure my mum never felt any guilt. Or maybe she did, but just hid it well. It seems a fairly new phenomenon. Is it because we are more aware of how we can influence our children with our own behaviour? I don’t know. Are we supposed to second guess every decision or action we make? Are we supposed to become suffocated by the weight of guilt, crushed by insecurity over our actions? Sometimes I can’t breathe with the heaviness of all this. I worry about how my kids will turn out: will they be angry and bitter, or will they be happy and content? And more selfishly: will they still love me as much as they do now? I am so, so aware of the power we have over our children. How we can mould and manipulate them without even realising; how our actions can have deep-reaching, devastating consequences for them. Motherhood is a very hard burden to bear at times.

When I’ve got my rational head on, I am able to see that all of this is part and parcel of being a parent. It comes with the territory, and is to be expected. I once read an article that said that parents who second-guess themselves were usually doing much better than those that were  blasé, or confident in their abilities. Who knows? I do know that even women who have raised great kids had doubts when their children were small. My partner’s mum told me once that she never knew if she was doing the right thing, she just tried to do the best she could. She did very well with her two. Another mum once told me that she used to cry most nights when her kids had gone to bed, feeling guilty and wondering if she had been too harsh. Her adult son tells a completely different version of his childhood: he says he always felt loved and protected. He shares a deep, powerful love for his mum, and this is obvious to anyone who knows them. This is what gives me a glimmer of hope. This is what gives me inspiration when I am feeling demoralised and useless. You can feel like you are messing it up, but in reality, you are actually doing a fairly reasonable job. 

I just wish I could take that moment back; the moment that has replayed in my mind over, and over, and over again today. That moment when I utterly terrified my own child. If only I could do that.

But, I can’t. So, I need to do the next-best thing, and drag myself out of this guilt stupor; moving forward in the best way I can. Tomorrow is another day…..