I have just experienced that feeling of “thank God there are two of us,” which is automatically followed by a rush of respect for all the single parents out there. I am not talking about being able to go out while your other half can stay home with the kids, or being able to share sick days, or being able to share childcare pickups and drop offs; although just writing this list gives me greater appreciation for my other half who is there to share the joyous, yet sometimes challenging role of parenting.
What I’m talking about are those moments where you just can’t take it anymore. Just writing about my experience makes me feel almost ashamed, but these real life parenting moments do happen – to all of us I’m sure.
It’s beyond any reasoning, when all the love, patience and understanding fly out the window; when all the books and all the best advice seem like insignificant nonsense and when you are beyond common sense, alone in the world, no light at the end of the tunnel.
Let me go back in time and share with you how a perfectly sane, relaxed and happy young mother transforms into a frustrated and completely clueless role model void of all parenting self-esteem….
You’ve had a nice Saturday morning with your baby while your feverish husband needs to stay in bed. You have played and connected, then Baby starts being irritable; your instincts say it is time for sleep. You ease the excited game period into a quiet time to relax before nap time. You know it’s the right thing to do – you’re proud and confident, you can read the signs! So, off to bed.
But one second on the mattress and Baby is up on all fours, moaning. You pat her head, say sweet words and leave the room. You do this because 80% of the time it works. However, Baby is still not happy and starts crying. You wait behind the door as long as you can, then go back in with a big smile and sweet words. You give a hug before Baby goes back down and then you leave the room. Your instincts are still confident because, again, you know this generally works.
The crying starts again and you wait at your post behind the door, perhaps a little longer (you might be too soft?) but the crying resumes. My instincts start to wonder… I then go through the classics in my head: food, drink, nappy, burp, boredom. Then I remember – yes! she often likes a little milk before going to sleep. Of course, that’s it! My instincts are back on track … I pick her up and take her down to make a bottle. She takes it as though she’s just been walking through the desert. Satisfied mummy smiles (yes, I do know my own child) and patience is boosted by this success. I take her back up, put her down…
Alas… We go through the same scenario…
Then behind the door, again, all the less classic reasons for tears run through my mind: Is baby uncomfortable? Does baby need food? Did you really give her enough to drink? Has she been sick, is she cold, is she teething? Is the bump on her head from yesterday suddenly thudding again? Is the rash on her bum from last week back this very instant? This is when you should call in for back up. But no, not me, I decide to go in a little deeper.
Check the bum, scrutinize the head, put cream on her, offer a banana, let her play a little more (perhaps she just isn’t that tired?), and after unquestionable eye-rubbing, I put her back in bed. Perhaps not with the same wonderfully-blessed-mother attitude as the first try? You get tense when you put her down and you wait for it … wait for it … And, here it comes – she cries again!
Is she just joking around with you? Slowly “slightly irritated” builds up into “frankly stressed-out”. You think, right, firmness is the key. I’m giving her bad habits by picking her up all the time; I need to show her who is the boss and that I know better than she does as to what she needs. She is tired and she needs to sleep.
Then it is the point of no return, I don’t shout, I don’t grab, but I do know my voice is firmer and my embrace straighter. Does that help to convey the message? Three guesses? No, of course not. It’s worse and then I feel as if I’m on the verge of crying myself. I hate this frustration building up. That’s when parent number two needs to come in.
This morning my feverish husband got out of bed, gave Baby a hug and she fell asleep immediately. He then crawled back to his own bed – all this in 5 minutes while I was standing there in the corridor like a zombie.
Incredibly enough, the peace and quiet just overwhelmed me and all negative tensions disappeared. I felt like a happy and contented mother again. I just then had to write this down for you. Why? Because its moments like these that I am not proud of myself, and I realize how glad and so privileged I am to have a partner who can step in for me, and for whom I can step in for when “enough is enough.”
I am not saying it’s completly easy even if there are two of you – it’s a fine dance for a couple. Step in too early, the other feels it’s an intrusion; step in too late and the other feels like a failure. One has to admit they sometimes need to step out of the situation when it’s not resolving itself; the other has to offer help as a teammate and not as a righteous teacher.
I am just so looking forward to the day when my baby can say to me “Mummy, I’m thirsty,” “Mummy, I’m too hot” or hopefully in my native French, “Maman, j’ai soif” and “Maman, j’ai trop chaud!”
Have you experienced the “enough is enough” frustration when you can’t find the answer to a situation and you need your partner to step in?
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Ambre French, our French “maman” writing from Oslo, Norway. You can view her profile on our Writer’s Page.
Photo credit to http://www.flickr.com/photos/34128007@N04/5424663830/. This photo has a creative commons attribution license.