One of the best things about Mummy Blogs or mothers blogging or whatever you want to call it is the way in which women (and men) have started sharing their darkest moments of parenting online with each other. This article by the very wonderful Anne Lamott, calling for mothers to start talking about their moments of rage was written back in 1998 and I would hazard a guess that that silence has well and truly been broken now.
I once wrote about my own parenting meltdown but eventually changed it to a ‘private post’, mostly because it was written in the heat of a lot of emotion and was badly written. I am comfortable enough to admit to the facts of the meltdown here, which are that it was a very bad time for me, and that one morning I found I just couldn’t cope any longer, I couldn’t bear one more second of sadness and anxiety and responsibility and keeping-it-together so I shouted at my child terribly and then I locked myself in the bathroom. Lauca was two years old. She was distraught. The facts sound simple enough but it was ugly. To this day there is nothing Lauca hates more than to be forced apart from you, it sends her into a complete panic, and knowing this about her made my meltdown all the more awful. I knew how terrified she would be, and was.
I don’t punish myself over that meltdown, too much. I did something very smart after I unlocked the bathroom door. I picked Lauca up into my arms and I drove us both to a mother friend who was going through even worse than I was that year. She had told me about a meltdown or two of her own before, and she was the right person for me to tell. I told her everything. And she gave me real wisdom. She said every mother loses it and locks herself in the bathroom from time to time. That it happens. That children recover. That mothers are human beings with anger and sadness and everything else. That children can’t be protected from the human-ness of their mothers even it if was the right thing to do. That I wasn’t screwing my child up.
Some of my favourite posts ever on parenting blogs have been confessions of meltdowns. (Like this and this and this and this and this). Honesty between women, about our lives, especially when our lives are at their most difficult, is a profoundly feminist act.
A few mothers seem happy with their children all the time, as if they’re sailing through motherhood, entranced. However, up close and personal, you find that these moms tend to have tiny little unresolved issues: They exercise three hours a day or check their husband’s pockets every night looking for motel receipts. Because moms get very mad; and they also get bored. This is a closely guarded secret, as if the myth of maternal bliss is so sacrosanct that we can’t even admit these feelings to ourselves. But when you mention these feelings to other mothers, they all say, “Yes, yes!” You ask, “Are you ever mean to your children?” “Yes!” “Do you ever yell so that it scares you?” “Yes, yes!” “Do you ever want to throw yourself down the back stairs because you’re so bored with your child that you can hardly see straight?” “Yes, Lord, yes, thank you, thank you …”
So, let’s talk about this.