Even though loving my girls is the easiest thing I've ever done and even though mothering them has never been a conscious choice I've had to make, certain facets within the scope of mothering feel unnatural and require more work to continue to do from a place of love.
One of those particular aspects I've found to be more of a struggle than others is the constant touching. For fuck's sake, I am always being touched. More specifically, I find that there is an ever-present lack of physical boundaries that exists between me and my children. Which, I acknowledge, is necessary. I know this is true because I've witnessed my own babe act out as a direct result of not getting enough physical attention. However, the constant touching against my will is relentless-- the need to touch me, to be touched, to hang onto my physical person in the face of resistence-- and those demands being made by my two tiny someones are currently getting the best of me.
Kids require physical closeness; physical affection and touch are necessities for their emotional development and mental health. Nobody needs to remind me of this which is why, I suppose, I feel like such a dick for wishing they'd just leave me the fuck alone for a goddamned minute. I don't want to do anything appallingly selfish like take a long soak in the tub or read an entire book beginning-to-end or drink wine at 2 in the afternoon... I just want to sleep without a tiny body beside me for a few nights. Hell, I'll even take one night.
One would think that after over 4.5 years of motherhood (almost 5.5 if you count the portion of time where they grew inside of me), I'd be properly acclimated to what goes along with the territory. And, yet, I still struggle with some of the most primal and innate qualities I'm expected to exude as their caretaker. In spite of knowing that my babies aren't being needy to piss me off and in spite of my awareness that their desire for affection is vital to their overall well being, the introvert in me- that innate need to be alone and have physical distance in order to recharge- doesn't stop existing because another human exited my womb once or twice. It's unfair to have only been a mother for a fraction of the amount of time I've been able to dedicate to fulfilling my own needs and expect those needs to simply disappear.
We're going through a particularly rough patch with the girls and their sleeping habits. Typically a dreamy sleeper (pun not intended), Mo has taken to crawling into our bed in the middle of the night, every single night. She is the opposite of an ideal bed companion and I have the bruises to prove it. Her little sister appears determined to kill us. As soon as one issue manages to resolve itself, another shoe immediately drops, causing another sleep disruption/regression, further annihilating any nocturnal progress we've managed to make from the last crisis. Teething, growth spurt, the plague, strep throat, stomach bug, and whateverthefuck else have taken their toll.
And I'll let you guess who she insists on needing at 12 a.m. And at 1. And at 3. And at 4. And again at 530 before the sun has even considered rising. And whose arms she refuses to let go of while awake. Joe attempts to retrieve her from her room at least once a night only for her to cower in the corner of her crib, recoiling from him as if he is Satan himself, all while screaming at the top of her lungs for yours truly.
I should feel honored to be her safe place. I should be so thankful that when she is in need, I fill that void in a way that no one else can or should be given the joy of fulfilling. The weight of her body sinking into mine as soon as her head touches my shoulder should be a constant reminder of how great a gift motherhood is.
Instead, I find myself resenting the fuck out of it.
I resent my husband for being able to escape her demands because motherhood demands things of me that fatherhood doesn't demand of him. I envy Joe for traveling to Europe (for work, mind you) because he will get a full week of uninterrupted sleep and be able to eat with both hands a meal cooked for him. I resent him for going on a well-earned and more-than-deserved trip to Vegas with his buddies at the end of his weeklong work trip while I'm deep in the valley of struggle, sleep-deprived, and without anyone to bitch to. I resent Edie for what she can't help. I resent Marlo because, clearly, Edie's sleep habits (or lack, thereof) are punishment for her being an enigma who somehow managed 12-13 uninterrupted hours a night from the age of eight weeks old without any form of sleep training whatsoever. More than anything, I resent myself for feeling as though I am suffering from familial claustrophobia and blaming the people I love the most for its' oppression because that is not the mother I promised myself I'd be.
However, it's the parent I'm proving to be.
The hour of the day or night does not make exceptions for how undeniably unfair and undoubtedly unreasonable it is for me to feel this way about my family. However, any capacity of struggle, and giving a voice to that struggle, is wholly valid- especially if merely acknowledging it is what helps me look beyond it.
Sleep deprivation may be responsible for bringing out the worst in me as a mom/wife/person in this particularly challenging season of parenthood. But who I am as a person and my inherent needs as an individual would struggle with this specific motherhood requisite with or without any extenuating circumstances; the sleep depravation is merely serving to compound my ability (read: inability) to grapple with it.
I think the root of this is the dichotomy that exists between what it means to mother and what it means to parent. Mothering is the easy part. Mothering is loving them, protecting them, and wanting what is best for them always as if their survival is vitally necessary to secure your own. Parenting is actually doing all of the hard shit that being a mother demands of you. Parenting is doing what often feels like the most unnatural thing you've ever done. Parenting involves telling my own needs to wait- that they don't matter quite as much- while I cater to those who matter far more than my own selfishness.
But it is hard and the looming consequences of me not being able to pull my shit together are so goddamned heavy. It's so much harder than people warn you about. They only cloud the reality of parenting with the goodness of mothering. Rightfully so, of course, because the goodness of mothering is overwhelmingly satisfying and taking it on is, by far, the best decision I have ever made and will ever make in my lifetime. But parenting? Parenting makes me question if I'm cut out for it. Parenting breeds an almost constant presence of self-doubt and defeat all allows it to flourish. But the truth is that parenting is no harder than mothering because, ultimately, parenting may be what is actively drowning me but what did I expect blindly swimming in the vast ocean of mothering?
I'm hoping that my experience is not a unique one and that there is an underlying universal truth to what I'm experiencing. I'm hopeful that being a good mother isn't contingent on the absence of feelings such as these.
Otherwise, I worry I'm fucked.