I am so tired.
I am tired of how all-consuming motherhood turned out to be.
I am tired of not being able to talk about it in less than idyllic terms—of there being no real space in which to do this. I feel guilty and ashamed for feelings that are ambivalent and difficult.
I am tired of the confusion that the complexity of my feelings toward my own children brings out in me. I am tired of the feeling that, after loving my children so fiercely and endlessly, there is nothing left of me.
I am tired of the fact that, despite being ready to give up my life for my children, I am expected to sacrifice it on a daily basis, as if my own life is only valuable as a supporting role.
I am tired of how many years of infertility made me feel abnormal. Of how for years, I was compelled and ready to poison my body with drugs and procedures, fueling a massive industry, because my worth as a woman (both privately and publicly) was still attached to my ability to produce a child.
I am tired of hearing that giving birth is supposed to be the most beautiful moment of our lives. It was certainly a prayed-for miracle for me, but the brutality of the actual birth shocked me. I am tired of being the only one who did not find it beautiful. For me, it felt more like a murder scene: blood, gore, excrement, and torn flesh—excruciating pain and fear.
I am tired of reading yet another parenting blog by a woman who hasn’t slept in years, whose last birth nearly left her a cripple, saying how blessed she feels.
It is not that straightforward.
I am tired of feeling that with the appearance of my precious and desired children, my life stopped belonging to me. That in order to have them thrive, I had to forfeit my own dreams.
I am tired of always having to put the needs of my children and husband before mine, and, over the years, becoming resentful toward them for something that I am now told is my own fault—but I’ve simply never known how to love any other way.
I am tired of suppressing my needs and voice for so long that now it comes out as a scream every time I say:
What. About. Me?!
I am tired of women being second-class-citizens, penalized for our birth-giving capacities by more work at home and more effort at work outside of home.
I am tired of having the right to vote, but having my right to choose under continuous threat.
I am tired of having to fight for equality, when equality and freedom are our birthright, even though this was never instilled in us by our parents.
I am tired of women being taught that self-care is bubble baths, dieting, and shopping.
I am tired of seeing women choose elective surgeries because they’ve been brainwashed to believe that going under the knife for bigger boobs, lips, or asses makes them feel empowered. And I am tired of hearing that increasingly younger women—teenagers—are succumbing to this self-abuse, unable to accept their own young and able bodies, because women are never good enough just as they are.
I am tired because, despite my resistance, I have become my mother, perpetuating her overzealous mothering and generations of ancestral guilt.
I am tired of being everyone’s mother: the slave, the one who makes the household of five go ‘round, with everyone’s schedules, preferences, and well-being at my fingertips.
I am tired of being the only one who cannot watch the dishes pile up in the sink and be like every other member of my family—reclining with their feet up, because it is the weekend.
I am tired of feeling the slightest change and nuance of everyone’s moods, suffering every wound, compensating and making up for every bruise, absorbing all the frustrations and unfairness of my children’s and husband’s day, compelled to act as a protective buffer between them and the world.
I am tired of the responsibility for these human lives. Fragile, precious human lives that I had the privilege to be entrusted with, but with no particular skills outside of an instinct and my own dysfunctional childhood, despite my parents’ best attempts.
I am tired of knowing that if I stumble and stop for a minute, it may all fall apart. I have no right to stop.
I am tired of living in fear for my children’s lives. I am tired of over-caring in a world where we cannot care enough, because no matter how well we live, children seem to be taking their own lives in increasing numbers and at earlier ages.
I am tired when I hear a friend tell a story of a woman just like me who, one fine day, woke up early, as usual, got dressed, and went to throw herself under a train.
I am tired, despite giving my all, of feeling like a failure more and more often. Because the results are not perfect. And they will never be perfect. But the pressure is great.
I am tired of watching women come out of marriages and motherhood battered and depleted. Women flattened out from years of service and over-caring, empty due to forgetting their own needs and dreams in the perpetual and misguided pursuit of love and acceptance through sacrifice and co-dependency.
I am tired.
I am tired of how my own mother taught me how to be an attentive mother and wife, but not how to take care of myself. Because her mother never taught her. And we cannot teach that which we do not know or understand.
We need to take back our lives.
The inequality and unfairness do not only come from gender double standards. We need to take back our lives from over-involved parenting, too.
We people please, bend over backward to make everyone happy, manage their emotional states and reactions…all so that we feel worthy. We feel responsible for their happiness, but end up fulfilling their every whim, not realizing that we are compensating for the perceived lack during our own childhoods.
We fear when our children are not like us and we try to indulge them so they do not dislike us.
As an act of self-preservation, we need to start with learning how to like and parent ourselves.
We need to model self-compassion, self-acceptance, and self-awareness for our children, by showing them how we give to ourselves. Through understanding our own unmet needs, issues, unfinished business, and thwarted dreams we’ll avoid projecting them onto our children.
We need to stop holding ourselves to too high a standard. We need to let go of being the “perfect” parent, and embrace the reality and wisdom of the “good enough” parent. We cannot avoid moments of imperfection and failure. If we try to deny this reality, our children will never learn what it is to be human.
The fierceness of our love for our children often makes it impossible for us to allow them to experience pain, loss, and failures. But we must, so they can develop resilience and learn from life’s natural consequences in order to become stronger, realistic, and more resourceful adults.
In this study, too much parental involvement was correlated with higher levels of anxiety and depression as well as decreased satisfaction with life for the children concerned. Overprotected first-year college students saw themselves as less competent and less able to function autonomously. The lower the sense of autonomy, the more the evidence of depression.
We need to honor our children’s sovereignty.
This does not mean giving them unbridled freedom or too many choices. This means understanding that they are not extensions of ourselves, but people in their own right with their own paths to follow in this world.
Love is also about letting go.
By letting go of controlling the minutia of our children’s lives, we will free up space in our lives for ourselves. Our lives matter, too. We are here to love, create and contribute as free, fulfilled, and happy individuals.
By example, we will raise a different generation of mothers.
Author: Galina Singer
Image: Author’s own
Editor: Khara-Jade Warren
Copy Editor: Nicole Cameron