Inside of me lives two mothers.
The first is silly and creative and kind. She is patient. She is funny, she plays music and dances and makes art projects. She is good at her job. And she is madly in love with her children. This mother craves her children throughout the day with an insatiable hunger for their touch, their voice, their selves. This mother’s heart lurches when the door to their room closes at night, signalling the end of another day with them-another day in a pool of days that will at some point in the future, cease to exist. This mother is sturdy and solid and knows in some part of her body that she is doing exactly what she has always wanted to do-exactly what she was put on this earth to do, and she is profoundly fulfilled.
The second mother is different. She is short tempered. She is irritable. She is tired in a way that she never knew was possible. She is angry and resentful and impatient and lonely. She isn’t sure that she should have become a mother. She isn’t sure that she is doing a good job. She isn’t sure that she will survive this moment, much less this life. This mother sits alone in a dark room and weeps for her old life. This mother leafs through old journals filled with worldly travels, romances and life-changing experiences-experiences that are long gone and likely to never return. This mother feels cheated. This mother feels shame.
Mother 1 and Mother 2 are consistently at battle.
The moment I wake up, I crave my children. I literally long for them. I run to their room to wake them up, all the while my heart is beating fast as I imagine hugging them, kissing them, being near them. I’m like a schoolgirl with a crush. The door opens and they smile and yell “Mommy!” as though they are genuinely surprised that I’ve come back. I hug them both and inhale their nighttime smell, kissing the tops of their messy haired heads. My son pulls my face to his and says “Mommy, I always have loved you.” My daughter kisses my nose and says “Mommy, is it the weekend time together?” My heart throbs. I feel as though I’ve never been happier, I’ve never felt more perfect and complete. I smile and scoop them up and head into the kitchen to begin breakfast.
And then I hear it.
“Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!!!!!!!!!!!!!! That was MINE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”
“Give it to me! I hate you!”
“I’m gonna hit you!!!!!!”
“I don’t like you anymore”
And just like that, Mother 2 begins slithering towards the surface. I take a deep breath. I sip my coffee. It will be ok. I can do this. I am a good mother, I say.
“Mommy, I don’t want breakfast.”
“Mommy, I don’t like you-I’m gonna hit you”
“I don’t want to do anything today”
“I don’t like anybody, I’m not eating”
And then the plate of oatmeal hits the ground. The cup of milk is turned over. The pancake is fed to the dog. The toy is thrown across the room. The hair is pulled. The crying begins. The whining has never stopped.
Mother 2 swallows me whole. My eyes turn red, my heart beats fast, the bile rises in my throat like lava. It spills out of my body as I turn and yell.
“What is wrong with you?!”
“Why do you always do this?!!!!!”
“Go to your room!”
“That’s it, we aren’t going.”
“I’m so sick of this crap!”
The moment the words leave my lips, I feel the sharp and familiar sting of regret. I watch as their faces absorb my words. Their little mouths turn under. Their eyes well up. Their shoulders slouch. The tears spill over and just like that, my throbbing heart is breaking.
“Are you still mad Mommy?” a little voice asks me.
“We are sorry Mommy.” she says.
“Do you have a ed-ache Mommy?” they wonder.
Two pairs of eyes watch me. Two pairs of eyes, waiting, hoping, wishing for me to smile and to comfort them and to love them.
“No, mommy has to go to the bathroom” I say.
I retreat to any empty room in the house and weep. I hate myself. I hate myself. I hate myself. I am terrible. I should be stripped of my duties as a parent. They hate me. I don’t blame them. I can’t do this. I can’t do this. I’m sick of it, I’m failing at it. I can’t do this. I sob into a pillow.
But Mother 1 begins to claw her way back. She is strong like that. She reminds me that I am tough, that I don’t believe in giving up. That I am good enough. That I am trying. And that I can actually do this. I take a deep breath, I swallow Mother 2 into my belly, into the recesses of my body, to be ignored for another day. I step out of the room and listen.
“I am eating all my breakfast up. But I will share with you if you want?”
“Thank you. No thank you I am full now. Let’s be kitty cats.”
“Ok, you can be a kitty cat first.”
“Ok, we can be kitty cat friends together”
And just like that, I’m back.