Puck & Pearl
As a psychologist, I don’t use the word INSANE lightly.
I mean it all the way in reference to the difficulty of parenting, and so I stand by my title.
Why INSANE (Absurd, extreme, mentally disordered), you ask?
Well, in part one of this post, I describe the extent to which parenting can change one’s life (it did mine)…..sleep, going to the bathroom, showering, and just existing in one’s own mind are all completely altered (in an extreme way) by parenting.
But there’s more behind my choice of words here. Parenting prompts us to behaviors and thoughts that are different (more extreme, absurd, and disordered) from our usual modus operandi. Allow me to explain:
1) MOST PARENTS OF NEW BABIES ARE TIRED, and therefore zombie-like, and so not always thinking clearly
Some of us occasionally have days in which we are a bit more irritable than usual, more easy to tear up or even cry, more easily roused to anger….correct? Well, those days could be the day of a hangover, an unexpected change in routine, or just a moment that is too loud and uncomfortable. When you’re parenting you’re often working on very little sleep, and you are frequently keeping the company of a crying baby or a demanding toddler. So you’re operating with at least two vulnerability factors: fatigue and noise. This makes you tired for one, which makes it harder to do simple things. Also, it might make you more likely to react quickly to things rather than with a calm disposition. This also means that you are more susceptible to being triggered by your unconscious, (or for those Jungians out there, “falling into a complex“).
2) Two Instincts are suddenly in conflict: MATERNAL VS. SELF-PRESERVING INSTINCTS
This is the insanity that I didn’t expect. I was already familiar with the “biological clock” that I could hear ticking in my late thirties. And I believed firmly that my maternal instinct would kick in when my baby was born, and give me the strength or protect my children from bears, or more realistically from mosquitoes (which I’m good at swatting when I spot one on my baby). But I totally forgot about my basic instinct towards self-preservation: going to the bathroom when the urge arises, feeding myself when I’m hungry, staying dry when it rains etc.
Yes, as it turns out, and much to my surprise, sometimes my maternal instinct and the one for self-preservation conflict. There’s no doubt that if it starts raining while I’m on a walk and I’m ill prepared, I’ll use anything on my body to keep my babies dry, and let myself get wet. But, I really really don’t like to get wet, I assure you. Or, I need to go the bathroom, and the thought dawns on me that I actually can’t go just yet, because it might take too long and both are in the middle of a feeding (yes, I can feed them both at the same time now). Or, I’m hungry myself, but A and M are eating now, and if they don’t get their food then they will cry, whereas I can hold it in and I won’t cry.
The other day I’m aware that I need to pee, and both babies are awake ( I can’t leave them together in a room, because A can hurt M- he’s not old enough to know any better.) I decide which baby I will take, so I grab A to accompany me, and he decides he must go outside right now, and realizes he’s being dragged in the opposite direction and so he starts throwing a T. I just want to yell at him to shut up so that I can pee. “What about mommy’s needs”, I want to scream at that point. And then the absurdity of it all dawns on me. I’m furious at my one year old for not letting me go to the bathroom, for not recognizing my needs? A clear sign, by the way, that I have not been taking care of myself. I’ve fallen for the illusion of being at his mercy for a split second, and I’m mad at him for nothing that he is doing to me- he has absolutely no understanding of the current events. Then the moment just passes, and I have urinated.
What about you? Have you had moments in which you actually felt like a zombie while parenting? Or, moments in which your own needs conflicted with your baby’s needs? How do you manage to balance taking care of yourself and taking care of your baby?
In Part 3 of PARENTING BABIES IS INSANELY DIFFICULT, I will give more examples of “insane thoughts” that have entered my mind as a parent….these are thoughts that I think are “normal” and common, but they actually make no sense….stay tuned…..