Sunday, November 1, 2009

Mommy Stress

My meltdown on Saturday has been building for a while, I think. And it wasn't anything terribly dramatic. There was a straw, the camel's back broke, and I just had to let a bunch of crap go. Jeff was by my side, saying the right things, giving me my time. Bear with me as I babble. My words might not be as precise and clear as I'd like but I"m hoping my meaning comes through. Yesterday, after several weeks of spotty participation and declarations of no longer wanting to dance- either in class or not, Teagan decided to stop going to dance class. That was the straw. Not because she wants to stop. I support that. I see no purpose in Mom and Dad spending the money each month for an activity that my child doesn't fully want to participate in. This isn't a team sport when someone is relying on her. This isn't play practice where she has a role to be there for. This is a for-fun activity and, for whatever reason, it stopped being fun. She doesn't ever want to dance. I think it's a self-consciousness thing. She's becoming aware of people watching her when she dances. She'll get over it. She may even just take the next month off and then go back. We'll see. But here's the part that was that straw... "for whatever reason." I don't know how to make my child happy, how to meet her needs. Anymore. I used to be the master and now I flounder. Sure, I could just let her have her way constantly. I'm sure I could just let her eat candy and drink root beer and stay up all night and never touch a vegetable and never brush her hair and so on and she'd be thrilled. But obviously that isn't good mothering. Jeff and I really do allow the kids a lot of freedom but we have a lot of expectations, too, I guess. When Teagan was a baby, she was demanding. She nursed frequently and urgently. She cried a lot. She needed to be in constant contact with me. With me specifically. Daddy or Grandma would do for a few minutes but she'd be looking for mom after that. Part of it, I know, was a first time mom thing. I'm certain there was some degree of my own paranoia and concern in regards to anyone else being able to take care of her in my absence. You can imagine how hard it was for me to go back to work when I had this baby that needed me, wanted me, all the time. I had this instinct... I knew what she wanted. I could predict when she would start crying, I knew exactly how to soothe her. There was a connection that I can't quite put into words. But that is gone. I don't know when it happened. Maybe when Zach was born. Maybe when she got older and has been working to separate from me/us. But that's what hit me on Saturday after she decided she didn't want to do dance class anymore. I don't know her in that special, intimate way anymore. That special connection isn't as strong as it used to be. She can now knock me off my feet with her little independent choices. And of course, once the gates are cracked open... the flood comes forth. So I cried a little on our drive home. Jeff was very understanding and supportive and loving. He understood and he was totally there for me. We got home and I put Zach down for a nap and came out to the living room and something- I forget what now- opened that gate a little more and I excused myself to my bedroom for a good cry. And it was a good cry. A needed cry. A releasing cry. There was sadness, anger, frustration. Then I decided to do something about it. My focus immediately turned to the awful condition of my home- it's one of my many sources of frustration and overwhelm-ed-ness. I went through and cleaned out a bunch of toys the kids don't play with or have outgrown. Filled a trash bag. Jeff took Teagan out for an errand and I cleaned up her room. I straightened up toys in the living room, cleaned off a good portion of the couch. It's not much different than it was when I started. It takes mere seconds for children to destroy my work. But I felt better while doing it. So that was my meltdown. I'm still working through this shift in my relationship with my daughter. Jeff is doing really well and I feel like I am often following his lead these days. I have a lot to learn from him. He's such a good dad. Even when Teagan is in full on meltdown and he is getting more and more frustrated, he keeps his cool with her. He uses words and language that she understands and is able to really just be more in tune with her. It was my turn and now it is his.


Nancy said...

(((hugs))) being sent your way.

Teacher Tom said...

Sounds like she's really working on her independence. I'm sorry she's making it so hard, but what she's doing is real work and it's bound to get the best of both of you sometimes. There's a reason children tend to do better with two parents -- when they wear one out, there's another one to step in.

Keep crying, stay steady.

Mike Liderbach said...

It is an undeniable fact that you are a GREAT mom. I think that as any child grows, they connect with one parent more than another parent for any possible reason. You must know that your kids love you dearly, but some days it can be hard to remember that fact. Be good to yourself and hang in there. Moms tend to carry alot of "stuff" and deal with everyone's baggage. Sometimes we just need to have a good cry and then we can be that place of comfort for everyone again.
Wishing you a great week! PS Props to Jeff for being a good support for you when times got rough!
Betsy L.:)

Jason, as himself said...

This is all to gradually ease you to the biggest shift of all--adolescence. ARGH.

Amy said...

You know, I had a similar sense as I walked Annie through her first high school open house today. I looked around at all the extra curriculars and the activity tables and thought "What is my kid passionate about?" and "Have we given her enough support/prodding/expectation/leeway" to find out who she is?" and "Who is she anyway?"

What people don't tell us about parenting is that it's not just about our kids growing up; there's so much growing to be done within ourselves as well.

Hugs to you in this growth spurt.

Anonymous said...

My dear girl, parents are people too and sometimes things get to us, its ok! No one needs to be strong and right on the money for every aspect of every day.

From the looks of her photo, Teagan looks to be around 4. As a Grandmother let me tell you that your child will go through many, many phases and changes in the next 15 or 16 years. Some you will understand, some you won't. It takes all of childhood for each of us to explore our own likes and dislikes and come to sort of consistent adult behavior. At 4, she may very well feel like dropping dance today, but by tomorrow everything could change again. That's ok too. And I'll tell you too, that no matter how often you feel out of the loop, or don't understand your child as well as you thought, or she does something that completely floors you, kids do grow up and more often than not, her parents' love is what will form her character...even if it is just a little bit at a time. When she hits "adulthood" it will all seem to have passed by in an instant, so try to enjoy everything about her and her life and trust that she will learn all the important lessons and so will you!

hoteltuesday said...

While I am obviously not the most qualified to talk about this subject, I this this fluctuation you're experiencing is normal. And Teagan is pretty young! My mother and my sister didn't have the super-personal connection when my sister was young (we lived with my father) or as a teen (standard angst I guess), but now they are extremely close and call each other several times a day. They are definitely best friends, but that wasn't always how it was. All you can do is be the best mother YOU can be. Most children throw tantrums or act rebellious in some way; it's just a part of growing up. And I'm glad you have a strong father to help you out! Hope you're feeling better after getting that cry out.

Lori said...

I think all of us parents, especially us mom's go through things like this, at different stages of our childrens lives. Your going through some growing pains right now. Your daughter is learning to be more independant from you and in doing so may at times seem to push you away or react towards you. It's hard on us mom's when they do this. I think it's good that you had a good cry. And that your talking about it. I really do think things will come around. Until then just remember the are a good mom that loves her children get older they don't always like us because we make them do things they don't want to do or enforce limits or whatever it is us moms But, that's okay, you aren't suppose to be her friend right now. In her life time she will have lots and lots of friends but only one mom. You. Some day when she is grown, your relationship can change into more of a friendship. Hope you are feeling better! XXOO Lori

Jackie E. said...

Even though I am not a mother so you might find my words, both late in coming and not as insightful, but I just wanted to say that I could FEEL your anguish and frustration!

So, I just wanted to reach out and speak from the child's perspective, albeit a grown child:-) and say that I think we all go through different phases with out parents. I remember when I NEEDED my mother as a young girl up until the age of about 9 and then I really just wanted her to just be there but stand far away from about 10 till about 13. Then I NEEDED her again until I went away to college because I was so extremely shy and soft spoken and she was my voice.

Then I had no choice but to grow up and separate and wean myself off her throughout my college years and since.

I still NEED her but in a different way. I need to bounce ideas off her, I need her for consolation, I need her comfort and support, I need her advice, I need her unconditional love. I also need her to air out my frustrations and to bear the brunt of my own anguish sometimes. But I still NEED her.

And the older I get, and as our relationship continues to evolve, I'm realizing more and more....that she NEEDS me too!