Having just gotten married, I’ve started thinking quite a bit about what is going to happen when Dan and I have children. How are we going to adjust our work schedules? How is that going to affect my relationships with the animals? And most importantly, what kind of mother am I going to be?
It’s said that we all become our parents eventually, and I don’t disagree with that assessment. I watch my mom do and say things that her mother would do and say, and I’ve recently started catching myself unintentionally spouting off almost direct quotes from my mom.
I love my mom and Bubby, and I don’t question that their journeys as mothers have been struggles for them. My grandpa (Zeydeh) left Bubby to raise two young girls on her own. I’ve heard the stories about apartment-hopping in Brooklyn and Queens, and about Bubby having to sleep on the floor to accommodate the needs of her children, especially my Aunt Rochelle, who suffered from back problems as a teenager and was bed-ridden for a period of time.
My family has a history of mental illness, which is something I’ve struggled with for years and documented in previous posts (see here, here, here, and here). I know that my mom struggled with her depression while I was growing up. It’s no easy task to balance your already tenuous mental stability with maintaining a relationship with your spouse and working with them to effectively to raise a child, particularly one as defiant and emotionally unstable as I was.
After I had a breakdown last week because I came home to find the dogs in the house when I thought Dan was taking them to Merced (yes, really), I started to get nervous. I know I’m dealing with a major living and working transition right now, but that situation should not have triggered the reaction it did. And to take ownership of my feelings, I should say, “I should not have reacted that way.” But I literally had no control over myself. I couldn’t stop myself from crying / screaming / hyperventilating / etc., and I don’t know how I’m supposed to take ownership over a reaction I didn’t anticipate and didn’t know how to stop.
My immediate concern was for the dogs. How long had they been home alone? When was the last time they had gone out? Did Dan feed them breakfast? These are all legitimate, maternal concerns. Things like this show me that yeah, maybe I can do this parenting thing. But the reaction those thoughts caused in me in that moment was unacceptable, and that’s what scared me.
Another example: On Tuesday night, Leela peed on the carpet in the living room. When I caught her, I yelled at her at the top of my lungs, in a voice I didn’t know was capable of coming from my mouth. I sounded like a demon, and it frightened me. Dan asked me to please calm down, and took Leela outside to do her business in an appropriate place. I stayed behind to clean up.
When Dan came back in, I looked at him and very matter-of-factly said, “I hate her.” This isn’t true. Leela’s sweet and adorable, and even though she can be crazy sometimes, for the most part, she tries really hard to be a good girl.
Dan knew I was just shooting my mouth off. He’s witnessed me take out much of my stress on Leela over the last few weeks, where every little thing she does wrong sends me into a spiral of intense rage that I seemingly can’t control. I sometimes think that if she behaved perfectly, I’d be able to keep the crazy under wraps. But I can’t deal with the stress of a new move, a new job, and a giant puddle of pee on my new carpet. That’s just one issue too many.
“You don’t hate her,” Dan said. “You’re just frustrated. And you need to watch what you say.” I reminded him that Leela’s a dog, and for as much as I talk to her and Nixon, neither of them really understands me. And he said, “Yeah, but consider this a trial run for when we have kids.”
That stopped me dead in my tracks. Because you legitimately can’t tell a kid that you hate them. They understand you, and they’ll take it to heart, and I don’t want to inflict that kind of emotional pain on my children. I don’t want to be that kind of mother.
But I don’t know how to change myself so I’m not “that kind of mother.” Maybe I need to try to control myself better, or maybe I need to be in therapy, or maybe I need a higher dosage on my medication. I don’t know what the solution is, and even worse, I don’t know how to find the solution. All I know is that while I can get away with behaving like this in front of the dogs, I have to draw the line somewhere. And it needs to happen soon, because the timeline to babies isn’t getting any longer.