I titled this blog “An Adequate Mom” quite deliberately, thinking that rather than holding myself to an impossible standard of perfection that I would always fail to meet, I would instead give myself a more realistic goal that allowed for rookie mistakes and rough spots in my parenting.
Recently, though, I fell way short of even THESE scaled-down expectations.
Why? Because Lily threw everything in her arsenal at me one recent Tuesday morning. Kicking me on the changing table, swinging her arm as if to hit me, kicking and flailing while I struggled to make her sit in the “time out” chair (for two or three time outs), trying to remove her diaper, taking off clothes that she had chosen for herself while screaming that she wanted to wear something else – you name it, she did it.
It took forever to get her ready to go and out of the house, and another eternity to walk her to daycare. But then, when we finally arrived, she desperately wanted me to stay, though she’d treated me terribly all morning. (Ah, taken-for-granted, unconditional parental love.)
She was throwing such a fit that I actually said aloud to the caregivers in her daycare room, in a deflated voice, “God, I just want to kill myself this morning.” So that probably wasn’t a good choice. (Fortunately, no hotlines were dialed.) But I was at the end of my rope.
After the caregivers finally just pried Lily off me so I could leave, I walked home, a weepy, wrought mess. And then I called Joe, and the sobbing escalated.
I told him that I wasn’t capable of handling Lily on my own every morning anymore.
I’d flown solo nearly every weekday morning since she was born, so that Joe – a busy attorney who can barely keep up with his work as is – could go in early and thus come home at a time that allowed him at least a couple of solid hours with Lily each night.
I work part-time; Joe works considerably more than a typical 40 hour work-week. So I knew, going into this, that I would by necessity have to carry a bit more of the parenting load. But I’d reached some sort of breaking point. I needed help, desperately; and although I’ve always struggled greatly with asking for succor – right or wrong, it has the stigma of “failure” in my brain – the problem had become too overwhelming to deny or repress (my usual means of survival).
Poor Joe had stepped out of a mediation to take my call, but I didn’t much care in the moment. I told Joe that I was embarrassed, and that I felt like I’d failed myself, Lily, and him all at once. But that we had to figure out how he could stay a while each morning after Lily woke up. I told him that she was out of control, and that I couldn’t handle her on my own anymore.
Joe, being Joe, immediately agreed and tried to console me. He puzzled about how he’d manage to do work (and make our dinners and exercise regularly), but nonetheless promised to figure it out.
Of course, as such things always go, Lily was much more pliable in the mornings following this, and after being gone for a week’s vacation up north, she slept in most of the next week, to the point that Joe had had to leave before she even woke up.
But even so, it’s nice to know, with bone-certainty, that if you call your partner and ask for help, he’ll come through.