I can’t be a stay-at-home-mom. There. I said it. Not because we can’t afford for me to stay home, but because I’m terrible at home. I feel confined and itchy and mean and weepy—the kind of mother I don’t want to be for my child.
I used to think that staying at home with children wasn’t “work.” Now I wish my mid-thirties, toddler-rearing self could go back and smack my younger self right in her smug, wrinkle-free face. Raising a child is work—especially a toddler, with whom I find myself constantly engaged in a battle of wills. And sometimes, if I can’t strong-arm my kid, I have to outsmart him. I felt defeated covertly squirting a syringe of Motrin into his juice yesterday and enticing him to drink it, but after we both ended up on the floor crying and covered in children’s suspension liquid, it was clear to me that there was no other choice.
A better mother, I sometimes tell myself, wouldn’t have these problems. A better mother wouldn’t yell when she’s trying to take a shower and her toddler has just dropped Peek-A Who? in the tub for the fifteenth time and then screamed, “I wan book! I wan book!” She wouldn’t yell when instead of eating the pieces of banana she painstakingly and lovingly chopped, her son throws them on top of the dog. Or when he tries to eat everything in the library’s play area so that all the drool-covered plastic fruits and vegetables have to go in the “To be sanitized” bucket. Or when he screams in gym class because he doesn’t want to return the big foam noodle.
I don’t know how stay-at-home moms do it. I’m aware that some moms have MORE THAN ONE of these soul-sucking homunculi, which is incomprehensible to me. If I had another kid, what would I do with that one while I was wrestling the first one to get his pants on, because this day has been totally for shit AND BY GOD, WHEN YOUR FATHER GETS HOME, AT LEAST ONE OF US IS GOING TO BE WEARING PANTS!
I’ve been asked how I can be so patient at my job, with other people’s kids. I don’t know exactly. For one, I teach preteens, with whom I can be diplomatic, use logic. They’re not creatures driven (well, not completely) by id. They’re also other people’s kids—not my own, who might be my only shot at any kind of lasting mark on this earth. That’s a hefty burden for a little id-driven monster to carry.
So maybe I should let my kid be a kid. Let it be. This too shall pass. Live for the moments that are actually happy, the moments I feel a twinge of, “I got this. You know, I could actually do this.” The peaceful moments when he’s in my lap, wrapped up in my arms, and I’m saying, “I love you soooooo much.”
Because I do, even though within minutes I’m likely to say, “I can’t believe you came from my womb! What did I do to deserve this?!