Monday, January 09, 2006

A Calm View From the Leaky Boat

The burden of inadequacy is a heavy one, an awkward load to carry, especially when you are trying to hurry along at a normal pace, keeping up with the flow of traffic. I feel like I might have an invisible seventy pound backpack of ineptness perched on top of my head and my neck just isn't that strong, but I don't want anyone to notice that I'm struggling along.

I was a fervent believer in myself in the early days. I knew I'd be one of those mothers you read about in parenting magazines who is creative and playful and has friends over for coffee while the kids politely play in the other room. I knew it! All I had to do was follow the "Ten Easy Steps . . ." or the "Three Simple Strategies . . . " and I would get the results I wanted. Perhaps it was my ease with mathematics that made me believe logic would apply to parenting, too.

But the variables foiled me. I didn't count on my own personal slothfulness. I didn't know my children would be anchors rather than sails. I thought they would bob along merrily, agreeably, grateful to be along on my own personal journey to perfection. I didn't count on runny noses and scant cupboard space and the overwhelming mountain of laundry and kids who get their hair wet but don't use shampoo because it's just too much trouble.

I miscalculated badly. I'm just not good at being a mom, logistically or emotionally. If I were a photograph, I'd be out of focus. If I were a car, I'd have flat tires. If I were a house, I'd be drafty.

I'm a leaky boat, but for now, I can bail faster than we're taking on water, so I'm sure we'll get where we're going.

But it won't be pretty. Which is truly disappointing to me. Don't even try to cheer me up because tomorrow, I'll be fine when the fog of denial and false cheer rolls back in.

And we're on Day 22 of the rain.


Blogger Diddy-Win said...

Mel, my dear I detect a bit o' pms? You need dark chocolate...and FAST! I'm right there with ya sister!
That was a masterfully written blog on motherhood. Ah, yes, I am still convinced that we were twins in utero...just ten years apart! I'm blurry and leaking...not sure I'm bailing as fast as you, though.
...dern it! I do loving things for my find out they are selling drugs and save them from a life of prison and being some other man's girlfriend....and they have the nerve to be mad at me for 'snooping'!! HELP! Someone out there tell me that they will appreciate it someday and come back and thank me....

12:13 AM  
Blogger Judy said...

"The sun will come out - Tomorrow!"

(not an attempt to cheer you)

5:09 AM  
Blogger Wash Lady said...

No solutions.....just company.
You aren't alone in feeling this way.

5:30 AM  
Blogger Beth said...

I blogged about this very thing recently, although, I must say, you write WAY better than me. I hear you and I know exactly what you mean and how you feel.

5:42 AM  
Blogger Heather said...

I can relate. I've always said that nothing challenged my self esteem and self confidence as much as motherhood. I have schmoozed confidently with big-wigs, flawlessly executed press conferences for dignitaries and prime ministers, but ask me to figure out how to help a child stay on the straight and narrow, and I'm little more than a blundering idiot.

5:59 AM  
Blogger Lisa said...

What mothers have NOT felt that way at some point or another? At worst, I feel like I'm a totally sucky and inept mom. At best, sometimes I can convince myself that I'm an "okay" mom, and am not screwing up my kids too badly.

Hang in there. (I hope you didn't interpret that as an attempt to cheer you up... lol)

6:15 AM  
Blogger Traci said...

Send the rain our way please. We are in the midst of a severe drought and there are fires burning all around the area. It is raining here today for the first time in a looong time. We are rejoicing!

6:55 AM  
Blogger Elizabeth said...

We've been having glorious wether here. It's just been fabulous. I can't tell you how wonderful it's been. It's cool and the sun has been out for months. It just makes you feel so happy. So very, very happy. It's like we're getting a fabulous, extended spring. It makes me want to....sing! Sing a song. Sing out loud. Sing out long. Sing of good things not bad. Sing of happy, not sad.

7:22 AM  
Blogger Goslyn said...

Ah Mel, I understand.

May the sun come out soon.

7:55 AM  
Blogger sallyrogers said...

This is not an effort to cheer you up... okay, so maybe it is... I can't help it!... The rain is probably not helping right now. Let me say though, that if you were the mom you describe in this post you'd packing your kids off to school every day regardless of whether it was good for them or not. You'd be letting everything go, not cherishing your daughter's desire to bring home Baby Jesus, not encouraging your reluctant student to do anything... Every day you face challenges that offer all the thrill of pushing a pea up Mt. Vesuvius with your nose and you do it and do it and do it again. When your kids are grown they will thank you in the way they follow your example. You're an inspiring, warm person and I wish I were young enough to be your kid.

9:25 AM  
Blogger Gina said...

I daresay we have all felt somewhat like frauds at one time or another.

There is NOTHING to fall back on but our own parenting instincts, good or bad. And the "advice" doled out by magazines and people cannot ever address the amazing fluidity of dealing with a toddler, or a teenager for that matter. It always fails to take into account the billion different paths a conversation can take.

And that, my friend, can indeed be scary.

I've got an extra bucket. Want one?

9:41 AM  
Blogger jennifer starfall said...


mel, do you even read the stuff you write about your kids? you are SO NOT "not good at being a mom" i really thought you might be kidding. you know, working up to a punchline or something...

because, really, come on. you rock. if you were a photograph it'd be one of those perfect ones we all envy that come with the frame. if you were a car, you'd be fuel efficient, fun to drive, and impossible to crash. if you were a house, you'd be cozy and warm with a piano, a library, and the sweet smell of cookies would be lightly wafting about.

you are not a crappy mom AT ALL, i'm not trying to cheer you, and i'll wish sunshine in your direction. i hope it helps.

10:19 AM  
Blogger Vashti said...

Per your request, I won't try to cheer you up. I will just say that you aren't on the boat alone. other words...Much of the time I feel like I am on a leaky boat too. And when I am around those "magazine" parents I feel even worse. Keep bailing water.

10:50 AM  
Blogger Jack-on-the-Lake said...

Sometimes I feel like my boat is made out of duck tape and toothpicks - my strong-willed child keeps putting holes in the boat too.

11:09 AM  
Blogger yorkist rose said...

just wanted to say hi and I love your blog. I did link it to mine, but don't feel obligated to do the same if you don't want. Rose

11:40 AM  
Blogger Reloaded said...

perfectly imperfect. that is what we are. it is not the avoidance of mistakes that makes us "good" people, it is how we deal with our failures and the failures of others.

we are all leaky boats. we all make mistakes. we all have flat tires. those of us with kids can never be ideal parents. it is a mad goal.

the magazines sell because they trade on guilt. if it isn't the guilt of losing weight, or being well-read, or not having the newest stuff, it's the guilt of not being a perfect parent, husband, wife, whatever

for some people, guilt a.k.a. externally applied discipline works. for me, it does not. i want to be a good parent because i want to be a good parent, not because Joe Blow down the street taught his daughter to do sign language in utero :)

reject the guilt :) strive to become better at what you do because you want to become better at what you do, not because someone else guilt tripped you

kinda preachy, wasn't it? :)

12:28 PM  
Blogger Shelly said...

Do you mean, 22 days where you had rain strait or 22 days of non stop rain? Just wondering.


2:01 PM  
Blogger Tossing Pebbles in the Stream said...

Hoist a sail. Give each kid a bucket to bail. Put hubby on the oars. DON'T FORGET YOU ARE CAPTAIN OF THE SHIP. Sail on throught the deluge and when you make landfall the Sun will come out.

As a single father, who mothered children I learned long ago to go with the flow until a moment of delight comes along, making it all worthwhile.

For what it is worth. . .I think you are terific!!

2:21 PM  
Blogger Yvonne said...

Been where you are - and still beating myself up for the past - but 22 days of rain will do that to anyone!

2:50 PM  
Blogger yum said...

No pep talks from me. I know EXACTLY how you feel too.

I always say nobody knows what parent they will be until they are a parent. In fact, sometimes I forget who I was before!

4:53 PM  
Blogger Lauren said...

I won't try to cheer you up either, I hardly know you. But one thing I do know if I were a writer, I'd want to be you.

8:13 PM  
Blogger The Daring One said...

I've been thinking a lot about my expectations for this: "I thought they would bob along merrily, agreeably, grateful to be along on my own personal journey to perfection." lately. They don't make it easy on us, do they?

12:44 AM  
Blogger deb said...

I remember sitting, day after day of rain, looking out our front window wondering if I could ever go out and play again. And the soggy yard - how could it get any soggier? And the grey sky above seemed oh-so oppressive.

In a way (and you may not believe this now) I think back on those young times fondly. It was warm and cozy inside the house, and I found an introspective part of my soul to nurture and grow. It's not always easy as a mom to do that, but it can be done - to find the sunshine in the rain.

7:19 PM  
Blogger Tina said...

I remember you using these metaphors before...anchors, bobbing along. I can really understand, and relate. I like the part about being able to bail faster than you can take on water...that's hopeful enough to go on.

7:33 AM  

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