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[Oct. 24th, 2005|05:30 pm]
Good Enough Moms


[mood |sadsad]
[music |various and erratic loud thumping, clattering, vocal improv]

I had a really painful discussion with my temporary-housemate (and very good friend) today. It turns out she is still upset about an episode last week when I spoke sharply to her. It was the first time she'd mentioned it. The conversation was in the context of having another somewhat difficult conversation, and when we hugged at the end of that, things didn't seem ok, so I asked, and yes, she was still upset with me, but about this previous thing. I apologized, and explained what had been going on with me when I spoke rudely, but things really weren't ok. She didn't seem to forgive me no matter how much I was willing to admit I was wrong. That's her perrogative. Then things got more painful. She was telling me that what was hard for her, was that I spoke to her the way her mother did/does, and she didn't like hearing that from me. Then something came up with my 5yo son, and I spoke kinda sharply to him, and then I said, to her, "just like that I guess." She assented, yes, I had spoken to her much like that. I told her I was sorry, again, and then I told my son I was sorry, and tried to help him with what he was doing...

But I feel like shit. I feel like I speak horribly to my intimates. I know my sister spiralsongkat has been upset with me when I've started speaking to her the way I speak to my husband, and another time the way I speak to my kids. I know I've noticed that sometimes I speak to my husband in tones I wouldn't use with my more recently developed sweetie (We're poly). In the past, I've been upset with myself that I holler at the kids. My husband and another good friend of mine have told me that the really think I don't. My husband also said, regarding the painful conversation I had earlier, that our temp-housemate is oversensitive; and he thinks I don't speak rudely to the children.

I don't know. I want to be patient, and wonderful, and respectful, and loving. I also want to be a clear (if not utterly unquestionable) authority, and I want us to be able to do stuff, which doesn't seem to be possible without my taking a firm tone once in a while.

I've also been down on myself for not doing enough homeschooling activities, and not providing healthy snacks in a reliable way. (I feed them when they ask for food, for the most part. Only breakfast and dinner get planned, for the most part, of late.)

I've also noticed I can't think clearly when they're around, and here they come, so I guess I'll stop there.

Except to clarify, I know I'm not a horrible bad mother, but I want to be so much better, and I was crying about that today. So I figured, good opportunity to see if we can get a little chat going on the good-enough-moms community. How are the rest of you feeling lately?

[User Picture]From: renegade_geek
2005-10-25 12:00 am (UTC)
I shout at Caitie more often than I'd prefer, but I try not to beat myself up about it. I mean, I desire to improve, but I also need to accept that i am a normal human being with perfectly normal emotions, one of which happens to be annoyance, if not downright anger. Obviously, I want to express myself in more productive ways, but I ain't perfect and cannot expect myself to be. And if the worst thing that happens to Caitie is that she learns to dislike being spoken to harshly, well, duh.

And your housemate is oversensitive. I like her a lot, but she is. And that's ok too.

Oh and I feel bad about not doing enough homeschooling activities with my munchkin, and about working nights and not being here with her. But again I remind myself: not perfect, but still better than average. And my little girl knows I love her, respect her and cherish her.

Today I told her I was proud of her, because she asked for my hand before crossing the street. She responded simply, "Thank you, Mama."

See it's all ok. (Even if she did have two bowls of ice cream at Nana's this afternoon.)
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[User Picture]From: eafm
2005-10-25 02:11 am (UTC)
I yell at Sarah much too often. I just cringe when I feel the anger I heard as a child coming out of my mouth directed at her. Honestly, though, I'm more likely to neglect her than traumatize her with my temper. I worry about that, and feel guilty about it, and most of our elaborate daytime schedule is about making sure it happens as infrequently as possible, but it still happens.

I let entire weeks go by without doing anything homeschooly (generally when we're working on other projects like getting ready for a holiday or cleaning out the house, but sometimes just because we're having an off week and we never managed to get on schedule). There are days when she's not interested in what I'm making for lunch and she just has cheese and pretzels all day long. Days when we split half a bag of NewmanOs over the course of the afternoon (those tend to be the days we're also taking turns picking what to watch on TV all afternoon, either because a planned activity didn't pan out or because I just don't have it in me to be any more "on" than making sure we both survive the afternoon). Recently she found a bag of cookies and opened it herself. It took me til midafternoon to realize how many cookies she'd eaten -- because I'd spent the day cleaning and on the computer and working in the study, and since she didn't demand more attention than that, she didn't get it. We just had a particularly bad couple of weeks -- the last two weeks of our push to declutter the apartment, I just kept sitting her in front of the TV and refilling her plate of cheese or apples or pretzels. And this past week, with birthday celebrations and recovering from the party, wasn't much better. I've been feeling pretty bad about that.

I want to be a much better mother than I am. I try to remind myself that it doesn't help her for me to beat myself up. That I should take the pain and guilt I'm feeling and redirect it to stop it from happening again. I think I'm doing a pretty good job of learning from my mistakes, learning what to do to keep myself from either losing my temper or being too distracted to give her the attention she needs, next time. I hope I am.

My mom snapped at me, sometimes. She also apologized, just as often. She took a moment, collected herself, and told me she was sorry for losing her temper. I learned how to apologize from her -- I learned that it's okay to take a moment and try again, in a conversation. I think that was a good lesson, and I don't think I was traumatized by her anger. I try to remember that, and to believe that Sarah will be able to say something similar about me in 30 years.
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[User Picture]From: yolen
2005-10-25 03:07 am (UTC)
I think we all fall short of how we'd like to behave, but I think it's important to 1) realize we're not terrible for falling short of our ideals & 2) to keep on trying. I've hollered at my share of kids in my time, it's not the thing I'm proudest of, but I don't believe I've caused any irreperable harm (those kids frigging adore me :P). And, I've apologized---a lot. That's not anything I've ever gotten from my mother, ever. I believe it makes a huge difference to have a parent who has the ability to apologize, to recognize they may have hurt the child's feelings.

Your housemate is oversensitive, which is how some people are hardwired. But I know that I've had loved ones inadvertantly hurt my feelings and I've done the same (I have my sharp-tongued moments, believe me) and sincere apologies should go a long way. Of course, I know she's been having a rough time of things, and that perhaps her defenses are a little down. I hope she feels better soon. And I hope you do, too.

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[User Picture]From: spiralsongkat
2005-10-25 04:20 am (UTC)

You know...

...in a way, this reminds me of the feelings that have been building in me in recent years, that I can't seem to have an honest expression of anger without people around me getting freaked out. I mean, yes, I can understand the need to be considerate of others' feelings, and there are ways and ways of communicating anger ("I get so angry when you do that!" being preferable to "You freaking idiot!") -- but for heaven's sake, aren't we ever allowed to get angry?

I think it may be one of the downsides of having a generally soothing, loving and caring persona: everyone (yourself included) gets so attached to your being that way that any emotional expression outside of that ideal runs the risk of being seen as threatening, maybe even as betrayal.

I also think that many, if not most, people have major issues around anger. Myself included, of course.

Do we really want to pass on those issues to our children?

My own opinion is that it's better to express anger to our kids when it's warranted, as long as we focus our anger more on their actions than their beings, than to be continually biting our tongues and trying to somehow convey that "Mommy never gets angry." In other words, I think it's healthy for us and our kids if we teach them ways to express anger that are appropriate and authentic.
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[User Picture]From: eafm
2005-10-25 03:09 pm (UTC)

Re: You know...

You make an excellent point. I'm very judgemental of myself when I lose my temper at Sarah, because of my own experience with others' poorly-communicated anger when I was a child. But, really, of course I get angry sometimes. There's nothing wrong with that. It's okay, appropriate even, to get angry when someone, say, kicks you in the nose while trying to climb over your head. And I'm teaching her, through my example, how to be a person, a woman. Women already have enough trouble, in general, expressing anger in our society -- instead of focusing on not losing my temper, maybe the thing to focus on is giving her a model of how to express anger in a productive manner. Maybe.

I've been working on avoiding the "what's wrong with you?!" outburst when I get angry, because, geez, talk about inappropriate messages. But even when I just say something like "Sarah, that's not okay! I'm very angry with you!" without really raising my voice, she bursts into tears, so it's hard to tell whether my attempts are helping.
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[User Picture]From: onecrazymother
2005-10-25 09:48 pm (UTC)

Re: You know...

today I very calmly and quietly explained to Horseboy, that there will be no more warnings. Stepping on his brother's head will earn him a time out from now until his brother is old enough to press charges. Yes, those are more or less my exact words. I think he got the message. (He uses his brother's head as a step stool, this is really not ok.)
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[User Picture]From: elfling519
2005-10-25 10:54 am (UTC)
I have such a hard time expressing anger, I usually just get angry by myself and work it out, but i rarely let it out, which I really should do sometimes.

I guess that I pretty lucky right now, that with Colin's temperment and attitude towards things, that when i do yell at him, he usually laughs at me, like mommy you don't mean that, and I usually don't. There has only been one time that my anger and shouting actually stopped the bad behavior he was doing at the time, and it startled him and seemed to scare him so much that I refuse to ever take that tone of voice with him again(I really did sound like some possessed with a demon person). Seeing the pain on his face was just too much. I'm sure that it will change one day, but right now I am very thankful that I have a kid that sees right through me sometimes.
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[User Picture]From: onecrazymother
2005-10-25 11:26 am (UTC)

Thanks for the round of sympathy, folks

That was exactly the kind of thing I needed to hear -- that we've all been there. And yes, we all try to do our best.

A bit of sleep, and I'm a bit better. I think we're going to stay home today, and avoid the nasty weather.
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