Saturday, May 5, 2012

No matter what you say, it's a shitty job.

When you become a mother, there are hundreds of things that no one warned you about.  The bleeding nipples, the constant worrying, how you can both love and want to strangle your child at the same time.  For me, ALL OF MOTHERHOOD was a shock because I never really paid attention when people with kids talked before. 

But the thing that I am finding the most surprising, or perhaps the most difficult to deal with is that it has made very clear exactly what my mother did right.  Lately though, it is becoming more and more obvious what she did wrong.  Not that I didn't already go through therapy for a hundred years and deal with all my Mommy blame issues.  Up until recently, I really thought I had forgiven her.  I had decided that I was going to just use what I knew to not make the same mistakes with my child.   And I do a really good job of providing Lila with structure where I had none.

There are plenty of things that I already knew about my mother.  My mother (just like I do) suffered from a debilitating depression through most of my childhood.  Because of this, she had little patience for my greedy desire for attention and would disappear at night to see her friends to be someone else for a few hours and forget her problems.  The depression also made it hard for her to commit me to anything.  No instrument lessons or dance or extra-curricular activities because committing me meant a commitment for her. I also know that she never pushed me, never gave me chores, never taught me to sat goals, never gave me boundaries.  I always just slid by.  I was smart.  I was pretty.  I was a kid and didn't know that I was lacking life skills because I was always able to talk myself out of any setback. 

As a mother suffering from depression, I often find that I am too overwhelmed or exhausted to hear another whiny plea for a toy.  I desperately want to just give in and let Lila watch TV all day and eat whatever the hell she wants because it is REALLY FUCKING HARD to sit there any listen to her cry when I ask her to do the things she needs to do.  But I don't.  Because my job as a parent doesn't allow me to.  And as much as I want to take a handful of Xanax and walk away sometimes, I CAN'T.  I understand the avoidance and withdrawal that my mother needed in order to preserve what little energy her illness left her with each day.  I understand how much easier it would be to just decide I don't really care and just give in.  It is easier to see your child happy than unhappy.  I forgive her for feeling that way.  Because I feel that way every day.

My mother is long recovered from her depression.  She found medication that keeps the worst of it away and has worked out some of her own demons with a therapist.  But here's the thing.  As my child's daycare provider, the person who Lila spends several hours each day, my mother STILL does all these things.  And it fucking infuriates me.

All the things that I demand of my child, all the ways that I try to mould her into a well-behaved, appreciative, cooperative kid is undone every single day.  It seems that each time I pick her up, there is some argument with my mother because she has again disregarded my wishes and given something or allowed Lila to do something I have told her not to.

For example, (and believe me, this is just one) Lila was getting stomach aches.  It occurred to me that she ate grilled cheese sandwiches a lot and those give ME stomach aches.  So I told my mother not to give her any for the entire week to see if she still has stomach aches.  And what did Lila have for lunch THE DAY AFTER I told my mother this?  A MOTHERFUCKING GRILLED CHEESE SANDWICH.  And when I asked my mother why the hell she gave Lila a grilled cheese sandwich, she shrugged and said, "that's what she wanted for lunch."  I often have to remind my mother that Lila is 4.  She wants an elevator in her bedroom closet and wants to get a pet Lion.  Four year olds are not allowed to make every decision in their lives.  That's why they need babysitters.

Of course, my mother maintains that she does these kinds of things because she is a GRANDMOTHER and that grandmothers are supposed to spoil their grand kids, which would be fine if Lila went over there once a month.  But that's not even the point.  Little things like this only remind me of why as an adult, I have such a hard time with moderation and why I am  (illogically) crushed if I cannot get people to give me the things I want. 

I have posted a few blogs about my mother spoiling Lila, and you will find plenty of examples here,
here, and also here of how my mother refuses to listen to me with regard to how I choose to raise my child.  In her mind, I turned out just fine and so she must have done things right.  BUT I DID NOT TURN OUT FINE!!!  I am selfish (I was given whatever I asked for), I am lazy and unmotivated (there was never an incentive for doing anything or a punishment for not doing it) , I am very smart but cannot finish anything (no one ever made sure I did)  and I have always been an underachiever (how do you push yourself if no one every pushed you to do ANYTHING you said you didn't want to do?).  Additionally, it never clicked that other people actually SET GOALS for the things they wanted to do and worked toward them until I was 26.  I always just had things "happen" to me.  Don't even get me started about money problems (my parents' view of money and credit are seriously fucking ridiculous - my mother believes in signing up for every credit card that she possibly can, and then maxing them out and making the minimum payments because "I won't be around that long anyway.  I might as well get the things I want now before I'm dead.  NO I AM NOT JOKING). 

(I have already posted about how shitty I am as an adult HERE)

I KNOW that she gave these things to me. I blame her because my father just went along with whatever my mother said.  And at some point in my mid-twenties, I realized that it was no longer her responsibility and it was up to me to try to change these deficiencies.  And I really thought I had forgiven her because when I became a mother (and subsequently a mother with depression), I UNDERSTOOD why she did the things she did. 

But I look at myself with Lila and I can't help but to be angry at my mother.  Because I don't want to have to instill those things in her.  I don't have any idea how to, because I suck at them myself.  In fact,  I want to be left the hell alone most of the time.  But I know what I have to do.  This isn't some transcendental knowledge or wisdom that I have.  This is what fucking parenting is.  It is all about responsibility.  It is about loving someone enough to do what they NEED even of they fucking hate you for it.  It is filled with difficulty and discomfort and headaches and insanity.  But that's all just the basic part of the job.

Why did she do what was easy with me?  And why does she refuse to listen when I try to tell her that love is not just buying Lila toys and letting her throw several blobs of raw cookie dough at the ceiling so she can laugh when it sticks (nope, not kidding about that either).  It is about setting limits so that she knows what to expect.  It is about making sure she is getting the foods she needs to grow and learn and feel good. It is about telling her that you will not tolerate bad behavior because you don't want her to grow up to be a total asshole.  She does not understand this.  She says she does, but she reverts to the things that I described the next day. 

This makes me feel disappointed in her.  I am disappointed that she didn't do better with me.  I am disappointed that she never bothered.  I am disappointed that she thinks love is about temporary happiness, even if it destroys the future potential.  I am just so fucking sad about it. 


  1. I've been reading your blog for a few months now and, even though you've made me laugh so hard my coworkers KNOW I'm not working, I've never commented. For me, it was enough to know I'm not the only one wrestling with my personal brand of I wish I had said something before so this comment didn't come across so freaking weird, but here goes...

    I'm incredibly sorry you're having a hard time. Dealing with all of this is just so rough. You will get on the other side of just doesn't feel like it right now. Keep blogging. I think writing all of this down may be more important than any of us know.

  2. Sadly I too have lived this life and to a degree still do.. You're right. It sucks. That being said, I loved the raw truth in this post, it was so refreshingly painful, if that makes sense..
    I don't know that you will ever get thru to your mother. I never did and stopped trying. To have a relationship with her was toxic. I couldn't do it anymore. She still feels she's done nothing wrong, ever and now she says she's old so she can do whatever she wants. True. She just won't be doing it with me or my kids or 4 of her 7 children.

  3. Wow. That was a really powerful post. I can tell you really mean it! I used to feel that way about my mother 'spoiling' my oldest when she was little. But My circumstances were different and I was being silly.
    I kinda feel a little bit bad after reading that though. Do you really have to forgive your mother for being irresponsible and non-committal and depressed? I am going to have two kids in therapy! Yikes! :(
    Made for good reading though and food for thought!

  4. My mother is bipolar/depressed. She often stated in her room for weeks on end. When she came out of her room, she was off with boyfriends for weeks. She left me to live alone when I was 14. Needless to say, no one helped me set goals, told me no, or signed me up for activities. I saw this because I understand your mom issues. I also thought I had let it all go. And mostly I have. But yes, when I look at my 3 year old that I love more than anything and would do anything for, I do often wonder how she could have walked away from me at that age. Having said that. I do not blame her for my own parenting issues. I am an adult, I no longer blame her for any of my flaws. No one's parent is perfect, but we grow up and move on. I was terrified to become a mom, terrified I would be like her. I'm a good mom. I sometimes make mistakes, these mistakes are no one's fault but my own.
    As for your mom watching your daughter. My mon also doesn't follow my rules well, but neither does my mother in law. Or most other grandparents from the sound of it. Maybe your mom shouldn't be your primary childcare. Can you send her somewhere else and just have grandma fill the grandma role of a couple visits a month?

  5. I think Tiffany has a point about the childcare issue - although I strongly suspect that you don't feel like you have much of a choice in the matter. Good childcare is SO expensive and it can be so tough to find. I'd say keep it in the back of your mind to look for other options. I recently heard about a grandmother who kept her twin granddaughters on bottles and in baby cribs for 3 freaking years because it was "easier" that way and she was the primary childcare provider. Geesh. So I guess you can remind yourself that it could be worse. One more idea (hope you don't mind suggestions) - have you tried telling your mom something along the lines of: Mom, when you refuse to respect my wishes about ______, it feels like a slap in the face to me. It's very important to me that you follow my rules and if you think one of my rules doesn't make sense, let me know so we can talk about it.

    Or something like that. Sounds all therapist-like, I know...but if you haven't come out and said: "Mom, this is what I need from you." then maybe she's not hearing you on the right level.

    Hang in there. I'm glad I found your blog. You're going to make the right choice, no matter what - I'm sure.

  6. Ugh, and just to prove my point that most grandmas are ridiculous: my MIL (the normal mother, as opposed to my own BSC mom) had my son this weekend. She let him eat only milk and cookies, because he didn't want pasta or chicken. Even worse, she didn't give him his medicine, because "he doesn't like it and he's acting fine". No. Ugh.

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  8. I am not a mum so but somehow I ended up here, just browsing. I identify ENTIRELY with the way you've described how your mother raised you. My mother wasn't depressed, and I have forgiven her and we have discussed all of this so many times. Took me so long too. But still, I see how she acts with my little cousin, to which we are all very closely attached, and it is THE SAME. I think in some ways it might be uncontrollable. Because she suffered so much from my rebellion, it was so intense and I spent so much time in a mix of deep depression, numbness, alcohol, drugs and hatred, that I can't really understand HOW she still does the same things to another child. And the thing is, the child itself behaves A LOT like me as a child. It's like "isn't it obvious if you act the same, the results are going to be the same?". I don't think it's a rational thing. My mum is extremely responsible and pushing and loving, she's never been depressed, she's INCREDIBLE with money, her strength is absolutely unbelievable. And her capacity of understanding and sympathising amazes every day. Nowadays she has changed her behaviour towards me a lot, but with the kid... She still goes and spoils the kid. It's an unexplainable thing.

  9. I think on some level we are living parallel lives and I need a blog...

  10. Also- I hear u on the childcare issues although for me it's a toss up between my mom and my MIL. MIL GIVES HER YERBA MATE TEA!! seriously. And I've told her absolutely do not give it to her and she either acts like she didn't hear me, says "but we give it to babies in's only a little..but she cries if I don't let her have it", or she outright lies and then posts pics of her drinking it on Facebook. Fuck. Then there is my mom who is on her way to shitfaced when I come home and says "I only had one beer because I knew u were on your way". Double fuck.

  11. Let her pick a lunchbox and fill it with things she loves and you want her to have. Tell her she needs to do as you say even if Grandma says otherwise. She'll listen even if Grandma doesn't. Mothering with depression takes a lot of strength and energy. Give yourself some credit, you deserve it.

  12. Hi Salena,

    I've been reading your blog here and there for a while now. I find your honesty about motherhood extremely refreshing and liberating. Thank you so much for writing like you do, being open and honest about issues in life that are not the most pleasant to talk about, but that are there and need to be recognised.

    I have two sons, and I have days of joy and calm and days of absolute madness and despair. I do agree with what you say about your mum. My mum was quite similar. Never pushed me in a big way, never set goals for me, never showed me a clear path in life. The only thing that was clear is that she wanted me to go to university, which I did.

    In spite of my qualifications, I do feel also like an underachiever myself. My confidence was never very high but took a plunge when I emigrated (I live in the UK now), which is what my mother always wanted me to do: To emigrate without a sense of direction, and that's what I did. I was always very responsible and consciencious so I couldn't afford the luxury to disappoint.

    I suffer from mild depression, had an episode of severe depression before I had my children. I have terrible problems sleeping at night as I'm deeply upset about so many things. But I try my best, as a mum, as a worker, as a friend. I'm not sure I'm great at any of those, but I try.

    And you seem to be trying to do your best too with your child. That's a good sign. You're aware of what went wrong with your upbringing and try to not make the same mistakes. There's a courage and great wisdom in that. Don't give up and thanks for posting. Paula

  13. If you don't like the way your mother is treating your child, find an alternate care provider. It's not your mother's job to act the way you want or expect her to (and she's obviously not capable of doing so) - but it is your job to find appropriate childcare.


  15. Love your blog... and your honesty. I have to share one thing though that I heard somewhere and has always comforted me when I want to blame my parents for my upbringing:

    We get two shots are dealing with parenthood - one as the child..and one as the parent... lessons learned and applied as the parent give us the ability to heal and pass on our lessons learned :)

  16. Please don't stop blogging! I just discovered your site. I am that depressed mother, and I had that bipolar mother. I could have written this post, and it made me cry. I don't want to be "that mother". I want to be better than that! How do we get past the suckage that we've inherited from our parents?

  17. Okay... crazy idea, and you're welcome to tell me to f-off if you think that I'm wrong. After reading your posts, I have an idea of why your mom is being the way that she is. She wants to be the mother/grandmother that other people see as a good person. She has this idea of what a mother/grandmother is supposed to be, but she hates the job description(s). With your daughter, I don't think that she really wants to be the "daycare" provider because she raised her kid(s), and she knows that she didn't do a good job, because she didn't like the job to begin with. But she doesn't want to leave you in a bind because it would look bad, and she knows that she might feel guilty, so she's being passive aggressive. She's doing stuff, maybe subconsciously, that she knows that you don't like, so that you would possibly get the hint to take your daughter out of daycare, so she doesn't have to feel bad, because if you decide to take your daughter out of her "daycare" then it's your fault, not hers (even though it is).


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