I have been doing some hardcore psychotherapy.  I started in, oh, a few months ago.  My therapist is digging into some of my deepest hurt and fear from abusive childhood stuff and it’s been good for me but hard.  Without going into too much boring detail, the method has to do with identifying different “parts” of me that sometimes show up during different situations.  It’s not like real-live disassociative disorder (i.e. Sybil) but just the mild version that all of us have.  For example, if you were called into your boss’ office and fired and then marched to your desk and then shortly thereafter walked out the door with The Box that says “Yes, I’ve just been canned,” you might do it in a state of numbness, a state of iron self-control that surprises you; but then at some point later you’d probably shift into crying, throwing things, or whatever your flavor of coping might be.  My therapist would say that a “manager part” of you handled the mechanics of getting out the door, remembering to get all your stuff out of your desk including the air-conditioning cardigan sweater that you leave in the closet, and then that manager part would recede once you were in a safe place and your other feelings could come out.

This has been incredibly helpful for me and I’m now looking at the “part” of me that overeats.  Motherhood and overeating seem to go together, can I get an amen?  Because motherhood is stress, and it’s a new stress.  I’m approaching my motherhood stress in a special way, and by “special” I mean “uniquely effed up.”  Because of my vow never to complain about motherhood, I’m eating all the complaints and I want to stop.

Complaints happen.  Motherhood is hard.  If you hate me for having a child and complaining, then click away, Dixieland.

For me the stressed-out feeling comes because it never ends.  “It” being the “on-duty” feeling.  As I’m sitting here on the couch now, typing, and D. is playing right next to me, and we’re gated into the living room, it doesn’t seem so bad.  And “bad,” it isn’t.  But it’s a marathon, not a sprint.  That’s for sure.

I’ve been thinking about jobs I have had in the past.  I do very well with brainy, individual projects that I can work on and complete on my own schedule.  I do well with deadlines, because even then I can still be in control.  For example: if you require me to be at work from 10 to 6, during which time you hope I can get as much done editing on a 10,000 page manuscript as possible, and you begin thrusting pages at me the minute my ass hits the chair, I’ll do okay.  But if you say to me that you need 5000 pages edited as soon as possible, I’ll probably get more pages done that way, in the same amount of time.

I’ve done a few jobs where the pace was up to someone else.  I worked in retail at exactly one job for exactly two weeks before I was fired.  I worked at UPS loading boxes, and that was pretty freaking stressful.  The boxes just kept coming.  Although, I will say, that the shift did end and the boxes dried up.  And, packing boxes that are almost all uniformly square is a lot different than trying to be a perfect mother, giver of affection, consistent disciplinarian, preparer of nutritious meals, innovator, and cheerful reader of the same book a million times – that ain’t no square box.

Another facet of my mothering aptitude is repetitive tasks.  I suck at them.  If, on a temp job, I had to do a huge and messy xeroxing job, I would generally mess it up, because it was so boring I could not stay focused on the job.  Sigh.  All of this rumination about my various jobs makes me feel that I am selfish and spoiled.

It is what it is.  The important thing is that whatever my objection to spending 13 straight sole caregiver hours with my son, they are surmountable.  But the part of me that eats thinks I can’t handle it, so that part takes over and suggests that cookies will help.

And, here’s the bitch of it: they do.  Unless it’s cookies #6 and 7, which is way too many cookies even for me, they DO help.  They feel wonderful.  They make me feel like a kid in a good way.  My mouth (amazingly) forgets the soft bloom of sweet that fills my body even if it’s only been a few hours, and so it is wonderful all over again.   Obviously cookies only help for a minute, but the part of me that eats is convinced that one minute is all the comfort we can hope for.

So I need to admit that I feel trapped.  When it’s time to pick my indescribably loved and wonderful child up from daycare, I feel selfish and frustrated.  I feel afraid that I somehow won’t “handle” the next six hours even though I do handle it, every day.  Instead of just jumping in, having fun, and staying in the moment with this somewhat angelic little boy, I sometimes count up the hours in my head until bedtime, and they feel heavy on my spirit.  Sometimes I try to “get things done” while taking care of my child, and he ends up throwing things at me to get my attention.  I end up appalled and angry that he is such a little savage when he really just wants his mama to look at him and snuggle him for a minute.  Sometimes I eat cookies or candy that I don’t really want, and sometimes I watch TV and garbage on the computer, because I feel cheated or stolen from, and I eat to “get something back.”

Nice, huh?

Another weakness of mine comes into play, and that is the persistent idea that “getting things done” is more important than raising my child.  That two loads of done laundry and two batches of chicken chili has more value for the family than a day of laughing with my child.  We all will say oh, no, that can’t be true!  It’s the most important job in the world blah blah blah.  I agree with that, but if so, why do daycare workers get paid so little?  Why are teachers paid so little?  Are we so blind that we can only see the value in some tangible thing like a vacuumed rug, even though that rug will have to be vacuumed again, and our child will never be this exact age again?   I think we all want it to be the most important job in the world but we don’t know how to see it that way.  I sure don’t, nor do I know how to do it that way.

The crowning irony is that when I feel resentful and afraid of the demands of motherhood, there is a part of me that tries to protect me from those feelings by eating.  I am mothering myself in that way.  Badly.

A thousand of you can write and tell me your own version of this, and I’ll still feel like I’m not redeemable, selfish, spoiled.  That I forgot so quickly that not having a child hurts so much more.   So I just have to do the work of letting the ugly out and somehow finding a way to own it and maybe I can move past it.  Which for me means not medicating it with food.

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