Originally published January 8th, 2019.
Motherhood is exhausting. It is a never-ending cycle of caring for other humans. Humans who go from helpless animals to smartass animals to adult animals that need to borrow $20 you know damn well you’ll never see again. Motherhood is even more exhausting when you’re doing it solo, even if you have what you thought would be a partner in the parenthood struggle.
For 13 years I cleaned butts, scrubbed vomit out of couches, answered the rapid-fire questions of growing inquisitive minds while trying not to completely lose my cool because “mom, why” must be some form of psychological torture; all with little to no assistance from The Ex. There were moments of helpfulness that usually came on the heels of hours of nagging, threats of divorce, or us having an audience he wanted to impress.
Even though there was more joy in my mothering when I finally decided to officially do it all on my own, instead of spending another decade begging for help, I still found I had moments of wanting to resign from motherhood. Moments where I wanted to hear “why not one more slice of cheesecake and a double shot of that tequila” instead of “mom, why can’t I poop out of my mouth”. Moments where I was sick of cleaning something or explaining something for the 20th time that day.
Moments where you long to resign are scary because they can breed resentment. We all struggle with those moments. I struggled with one of those moments this morning.
After the Monday that began too damn early and seemed to never end, I settled in for a night cap and proceeded to binge watch The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel because I needed the laughs and the solitude. After four episodes of relating to Midge way more than I thought I would, I dragged myself to bed.
A few hours later, there stood before me Stormageddon. His stomach hurt.
I had two thoughts as he stood there. The first was, “well that’s what fucking happens when we’re picky at the dinner table” and the second was, “I don’t get paid enough for this shit”. I rolled out of bed and got him sorted while the feelings of resentment and exhaustion began to simmer under the surface. I wanted to cry. And I wanted to scream at my hormonally unbalanced self for wanting to cry. Seriously though, who else in their 30s is fucking confused about what their body is doing?! None of this shit was covered in health class, which would have been helpful! Instead, I lay in my bed fighting tears, anger, and crafting my “I quit” letter when a little voice comes from across the hall and another voice comes from across the bed “I got him, you sleep”.
I will admit I suck at remarriage. I’m bitter, demanding, and have zero idea how to let someone help me raise a family because, I have zero experience with someone genuinely wanting to help me raise a family. I laid there unsure of what was happening and running through my head all the times The Ex had said he would help and then held it over my head. Then I heard vomiting and the mom guilt replaced all the “I quit” feelings.
We must be there for our kids at every single moment, right? If we’re not we’re failing them, we’re abandoning them.
That little voice in my head that tells me I’m not doing enough is partly thanks to society and partly thanks to The Ex. And as the urge to run into the bathroom and do the mom thing kicked in, the words “It’s OK buddy, I got you” poured from the bathroom. So, I laid there and listened as The Bearded One reassured him that it was OK, explained why our throats hurt after we throw up, and even taught proper vomiting techniques to minimize mess.
Who does that at 5:30 in the morning? Morning people who are fathers do that, apparently.
I continued to listen as The Bearded One tucked Stormageddon back into bed and found that when you carry the load of parenting with someone who wants to carry it with you, the desire to quit diminishes. Will I still have days where I tell myself it’s five fucking o’clock somewhere as I uncork the wine? Absolutely. But the more this guy who looked at me and my brood and said “I volunteer as tribute” continues to show up for us the smaller my fantasy wine cellar gets.
So, to all the moms who have a partner occupying the space next to them every night I challenge you to put down your resignation letters, cork your mom guilt, and let him take over sometimes. And if you find that he won’t, then I encourage you to consider letting that dead weight go.
Because at 5:30 this morning my son learned that men can, and should, be there for their kids too. That men clean up vomit without bitching about it, that they can show compassion, and concern, and help you feel safe. That men support their partners and recognize when they’ve reached their breaking point and don’t guilt them for being human and needing rest. My son saw an example of healthy involved fatherhood that comes from a place of enthusiastic choice instead of resentful obligation. And at the end of the day I think the best gift we can ever give our children is the example of healthy relationships and the courage it takes to move forward when those relationships aren’t present.
Copyright(c) 2019 Rayven Holmes