Naked Writing Project:You Can Feel Panic and Thanks at the Same Time: It’s Called Parenting. (Or ‘Panks.’)
There’s this thing where I fear my kids.
My anxiety is so tight around my neck that I can’t really breathe. I can’t catch my breath to attempt to keep up with them. I can’t think because the air is choked off. I holler, the abrupt loud noise all that escapes out the top of that clamp.
I don’t know what to say. They ask. They ask everything of me, and I don’t know how to answer them, how to be what they need. I don’t know how to mom. It’s terrifying. It’s not even ‘what if I fuck it up?’ it’s, ‘how can I less fuck it up today than I did yesterday?’
Nothing is cleaned. The bills aren’t tended to. The kids are never content. The marriage is barely credible. I never commit enough of me to either work or home. I don’t make enough money. But I’m away from the kids too much. I feel judged. And I judge. I can’t sit still because then something is going undone. There’s always the undone. I can’t do it all but I have to do it all but I can’t do it all. I can feel my shoulders hunch and breath quicken. I drink to not feel terrified.
I wanted to be a mom. I wanted it so bad. And we had to work for it. There was waiting that broke my heart, there were pregnancies that ended up in blood and defeat. We’d walk around our neighborhood, trying to talk sense into all our despair, and I had visions of my kid in the sunlight, on a bike, just ahead, just ahead of me. There was such lightness and relief in that vision.
And then I got my kid. He was healthy and wonderful. And rides a bike, in the sunshine, just like I wanted. And then, with not so much as a stutter, he got himself a sister. And we had two kids. And the job. And the house. And the everything I ever thought I wanted. And now two bikes, in the sunshine, just ahead.
But in my bliss, I sweat. Oh, the guilt. The guilt! I have every damned thing in the world and no business feeling anything but happiness with gravy on it. I know moms who had to work WAY harder, who lost WAY more, who had to settle/adjust their dreams in a million different ways. I know of moms whose kids aren’t safe, aren’t fed, aren’t healthy, and can’t ride bikes in the sunshine.
So my malcontent is just me being spoiled and ungrateful. And there’s more guilt about that. There goes those shoulders and that panting, breathlessness again.
The other day all of us were in a grocery store. My husband had the kids in/near the cart and I wandered off to get something. When I came back, I said something to one of them and they didn’t respond and I had the most bizarre thought; what if I imagined all of it? What if this isn’t my family? What if I’m a stranger and they don’t know me? What if I approach them and they shrug me off?
If they’re not mine, but someone else’s, who am I? Where am I? What would I be if the kids and the sunshine had never happened? Would I still be married? Would I have all the time in the world that I don’t have now, to be creative and self-aware, and clean and organized and fit? Would I be all that, or would I be a quiet, sad version of me? If I just picked up my box of wine and walked out of the store alone, where would I be headed? And what of that little family back in there? Who would they be without me?
Icy, lonely. Cold all over. It felt weird and detached, surreal. In that second as I stood there stupidly hugging a carton of orange juice, I felt the gulf of living away from my life. Living another life, a life without my sunshine’s. It didn’t feel like freedom, it felt like loss.
A moment later there was a fat, sticky little hand in mine and I was back in the moment, in the momming. Being needed, and needing them back.
I’m trying to live my life, with these blessings, without the panic. I’m trying. I’m talking and writing about it. I’m trying. Maybe if I share the most ruthless, honest, shitty, terrifying stuff, it will free me from some of that strangling feeling. Maybe other people feel it sometimes, too.
Breathe in. Breathe out.
Postscript: OK. I followed the rules, I wrote with the flow, pushing my feelings onto the page, and did not edit. Now here’s where I make the curator of this Naked Writing Project let me share my preambles/caveats/apologies for what I wrote. (Ahem)
It’s overwrought and not economical in expressing emotion/It leaves you feeling bad for me and not hopeful for yourselves, that is not my way/Where is the humor to make me sweat less as I share?/My therapist says I hide behind jokes but haha no I don’t, she is/It COMPLETELY disregards my daughter and how incredibly goofy and great she is/It makes both my kids seem like heavy accessories to me and does not give them their own awesome selves and they deserve better/It’s so fucking ungrateful. What is wrong with me?/I’m self-conscious and don’t know if my shallow words, echoing my tepid pain are really worth putting out there into the world/Shallow words? Tepid pain? Good Lord. That’s the kind of flowery malarkey I’m talking about. Sheesh.
Umm. Ok. I think that’s all for now. It’s scary to be naked.
Sarah is a Physician Assistant, a mom, wife, bachelorette party-planner, co-owner of a hippie ice cream shop, and a writer in training. She can usually be found writing dick jokes for sketch comedy or confessing to poor parenting on her blog, http://sarahandrobbbigtrouble.blogspot.com. She is not always naked. Sometimes she wears socks since she lives in the Midwest and it is cold there.