I have fucking had it with motherhood

by renegademama

First, the world makes me think having a baby is the greatest fulfillment of my woman-self paired with pastel nursery items and tiny duck sleep-sacks. Like having a doll only more fun because it gives life everything you need to not worry about death.

Okay, so maybe I’m the only asshole who believed this.

I am not. I am not the only asshole. Look around!

I was, however, twenty-one when I found out I was pregnant with my first kid, and had, admittedly, spent the previous few years face-down in my own alcoholic vomit (aim high), but I really thought having a baby was like adding a small tasteful accessory to the lapel of an otherwise-totally-unchanged life.

And then, I get that kid, and realize having a baby is no more or less fulfilling than any other life activity but your body

We were babies.

will change and your identity will feel like it’s been sucked out of your breasts by this separate human being without whom you would die, which is the whole fucking problem.

And if you get postpartum depression, which many of us do, you’ll feel like a lone monster in a world of organic cotton harem pants while your husband looks at you like “But we wanted this,” or sleeps. Quite soundly, actually.

Not to oversell it.

And then it seems I have nothing but time, all those years of childhood – eighteen! So much can happen there, can’t it? And I’m thinking my life is going to be this raucous, fun thing of running around and telling kids to do shit and watching them grow and thrive and when they finally do – grow and thrive, that is – I will send them off with beaming pride and vague sense of relief.

I sent Ava off four days ago.

This morning I looked at the wad of her hair, permanently placed over our shower drain no matter how or when I ask her to clean it, and I thought to myself “I can’t clean that. It’s my last memory of Ava in the house.”

IN OTHER WORDS I’M DOING REALLY FUCKING WELL HERE FOLKS.

On the morning she left, I walked into the house and buckled, feeling like the air had been removed from my body. I spent the next fourteen hours walking around in a daze, crying, and not showering. I only broke my silence to tell Mac how I wasted it all and “only yelled” and “now it’s gone.”

I also ate a significant amount of brie and played Two Dots on the couch. When she left. Not during her whole childhood. There was a Candy Crush phase in there.

OH MY GOD I HATE EVERYTHING I DID WASTE IT ALL.

On day two I got a shower in at 4pm. That’s it. That’s what I did.

On day three I got a shower in at 3pm, and read an entire James Baldwin book for a book club I’m in.

And today, today I showered at 10am and now I’m writing to you with absolutely nothing to say beyond this: Motherhood is a crock of lies and I’m done with it. I’m out.

Please allow me this tantrum thanks.

Much like the way we don’t recall the pain of childbirth twelve seconds after they put that adult diaper on us, when that child leaves 18 years later, do we remember the endless work of raising her?

No, goddamnit. What you remember is her face beaming in the hallway as she comes out of her room, eight years old, in the most ridiculous outfit ever imagined, ready to go out for the day, and you remember her hair all frizzy in the beach wind and you remember her toddling and you remember her on the first day of middle school and you remember the way she became a woman. Do you remember the flaming cauldron of bullshit that is no sleep? Fuck no, you remember the way her body felt pressed against yours for the first time, the way it felt insane to drive home from the hospital – to actually place something this precious in a vehicle and move it around on streets shared by the common man.

I’m a mess without her. Her absence is a gaping hole in my home, this family, my heart.

The world tells me to be proud. Sure, but give me time. People say the happiest moment of their life was when their kid left. Cool. Good for you. I feel like my bowels have been removed. That was gross.

People say “It hasn’t ended.” Oh but it has. Part of it, at least. Can’t we let that be? Can’t we say “yes, the unbroken 18 years are broken.” It HAS changed. It’s okay, but for things to change, other things also have to end.

LET ME WEEP ABOUT HAIR WADS IN THE SHOWER IS WHAT I AM SAYING.

Nobody told me about the shower-hair sadness. Nobody tells you shit.

 

Since she was about ten, Ava would play music while getting ready for school. She’d turn it up to wake up the other kids, to lure them out of bed to start the day. She’d play Disney soundtracks. She’d play Hamilton. She’d play horrible pop music I couldn’t name. Sometimes she’d play the Rolling Stones or Grateful Dead. Always she’d play the Beatles. And she’d sing. She’d sing and sing and sing.

I lived for that music. So many mornings, I held that music as my lifeline, proof that our family wasn’t really that fucked up. Here we were, singing. Look at us.

Well, the kids. I may be racing, late, yelling, so tired my bones ache, wondering how and why I’m going to face another goddamn day of driving in circles wondering how much is left in the bank account, but by god here are these four little humans and there’s music playing and it’s our home and we did this, Mac and me. Somehow, we did it and we’re alright.

She’d crank up that music and pull our family into her joy, and I heard it, goddamnit, I heard it.

The morning before she left, I heard it again. She was in the bathroom next to me, singing along to a country song, playing her music just as she’s always done, only I sat on my bed and wept.

It is just her I will miss. The rest we move on from – the regret, the pain, the shock – but her person with us, every day, bringing only what she can bring – for that I’m grieving, for now.

It’s funny, isn’t it, the way everything can change in a single meaningless moment, a single bad country song? It isn’t that I’m fed up with motherhood; I’m fed up with every story we tell about it. All the expectations I have around it. All the ways I think it’s going to be, or should be, or would be if I were a better person.

It is a tragic, heartbreaking, limitless joy, contracted sometimes into my own disappearance. I get smaller, this whole thing does, eighteen years pressed into her voice, singing oblivious to my ears, right next door, dying for her sound and its end.

One of these days, when my heart can bear it, I’ll turn the music on myself. Maybe I’ll even sing the way she did. Maybe we all will.

the day before she left we spent the best afternoon ever on the square in our town, listening to some dude play guitar and sing. I walked over and saw them like this.

 

***

Hey, hi. Look. There we are, a long time ago.

Also, holy shit my hardcover is $9.50 on Amazon.

Cheaper than the paperback. No idea how these things work, but for sure it will change soon.

33 Comments | Posted in I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I'M DOING HERE. | August 14, 2019
  • Anne-Cathrine Nyberg

    Sigh. As a mom of a soon to be 16 year old and soon to be 18 year old, I know the limited time I have left with them… and it breaks my heart!

  • Stephanie

    Went to kindergarten orientation with my baby yesterday and yet feel this in my bones. Instead of an ocean separating us, there’s a literal mile and a half. What I’m saying is I’m not prepared for any of this shit and I, too, tap out. DONE. Send in my replacement immediately.

  • Alexis

    Goddammit…now i’m crying at my desk at 0730. My oldest is about to start 1st grade and that is practically college, right?

  • Ashley

    Well thanks Janelle, because you’ve done it again; my coffee is now salty with tears, and my baby girl is all of 7. We joke about “freedom 50” when our children are gone, but losing them will feel like an amputation. Add in the fact that she will be having the best day of her life, and it should be a really good time! Good luck adjusting to this big change; I know you’ll come through it!

  • Kara

    My kids have just gone to a summer camp for 2 weeks and I’m barely keeping it together. I can only imagine what you must be feeling! Emotions are such bullshit sometimes.

  • Cindy

    I know this feeling and did it twice in the last four years. Then moved on to live alone and start all over again in a new state to add a little drama … you are not alone ! Shower hair tears are real 💙

  • Kat

    I don’t know why the hell I decide to read your stuff in the morning when I have so much shit to do. Because now I’m a mess. Fuck.

    As always, I’m in love with the way you acknowledge the joy and the pain, both as one chaotically enmeshed thing and as two separate entities at the same time. You demand a place to feel the shit. Thank you, because just doing that gives the rest of us the spark to demand our own. Not to wallow in it or use it for pity or attention. Just to BE there.

    I love this post. And I hate it, because I know it’s coming for me. And I love it, just like everything you write for you and everyone else. *pound it*

  • Marsha

    Thank GODS for you. And thank you.

  • Diane

    I’ve been here. Mine are now 23 and 24, fully fledged, and hours from home living the fulfilling lives for which I was tasked to “prepare” them. That is supposed to be some sort of consolation prize designed to temper my incessant (and subjugated) desire to hammer call them and beg them to move back home. But, they do come home just magically on their own, and when they do (especially when they happen to be home together), it is a new and delicious kind of sweetness. When your daughter comes home the first time, you’ll realize you haven’t fully slept in her absence, but you will, that first night, soundly and deeply, knowing that all the babies are in the same nest again. And then she’ll leave again, which is like re-spraining that ankle and having to walk around on it anyway. It doesn’t get easier, per se, it just gets different, like so many of the other “new normals” that comprise our lives. In my case, I leave the dirty sheets on their beds for days, a reminder that they were here and we were, briefly whole and happy in our old normal. And then, eventually, they bring home a partner, and suddenly the nest expands in a way you didn’t think could ever happen and that, too, is a new sweetness. Hang in there.

  • Brenda

    I am so grateful for the way you say things out loud. Things that I recognize as thoughts I once had, but then buried and didn’t even acknowledge or remember they were ever there. Mine is only 8, but every day I imagine the day he will be gone. I look at other moms whose kids are already grown, and feel a combination of gratitude (mine is still with me!!) and fear. I want to hold him so tight. But he’s already leaving me. And I have to let him go. And god I don’t want to. Please write a column in a month or a year or a decade and tell me it works out okay, and that you survived it. I almost just about can’t bear it.

  • Jenny

    Oh man I hear you honey. My 18 year old found out who her college roommate is yesterday. I got to see a picture of this random girl who gets to share a room my daughter for the next school year. I said, “She looks nice.” Then an hour later Fiona is crying with her 5 year old brother on her arms, saying “You have to come with me, you’re my baby.” Exactly how I feel about her. I want to squeeze her and say she can’t go, our family will be all boys when she’s left, and she won’t hold us together with her ABBA and “Me oh my it’s a wonderful life” on our road trip, what will we be like without her? She’ll only be four be four and a half hours away. But the HOLE in our family, I really fear the hole that will be there when she’s gone.

  • juliep

    Oh honey.
    When I drove home last year after moving my oldest into college a few states away, I remember it felt unnatural, like I was leaving a part of me behind. It felt so wrong. I sobbed the entire 6 hour drive home. I felt bereft and depressed once home. I’d go to his room and smell the sheets on his bed.
    And then to make sure I didn’t come across to the ones still at home that I thought I was left here with ‘these losers.’ And the resentment I felt towards other moms whose kids went to schools an hour or two away(you should totally resent me that my kid is still in the same country as me.)
    There’s excitement for one’s kid’s next adventure mixed with pure grief. Bittersweet.
    It’s hard. It’s painful.
    And I have a son who doesn’t talk or share much, settled right into his new life seemlessly…as really one would want. It would have sucked so much if he was homesick. I liked how a friend put it to me–much better than how I felt he was now done with us, as he was so unemotional about moving on–she said something like ‘wow, you should feel so proud you raised a kid who’s so confident and at ease to move far away. He must feel so empowered that he can take care of & rely on himself.” So in a weird way it felt good that he didn’t miss me or home. He was ready.
    I don’t know what the hell my point is if there is one. Just that yeah it’s fucking hard. And that it’s normal to kind of hate your other kids at times, especially when the one who’s far away finally has the time to FaceTime & everyone including the fucking dogs won’t leave me alone, barking, talking, yelling, being total shits for the entire golden 5 minutes of my call with my son. No one wonder he doesn’t miss us…lol.

  • Nicole

    Yep. Sending my daughter off to college on Sunday and so not ready to deal with this. Also – Two Dots? I’m going to have to give this a try.

  • Denise

    I got to hang on to my oldest an extra 2 years (yea for free community college!) but we’re packing him up tonight. I almost broke down in Walmart while filling my cart with things he’d need in a dorm. “he’ll need laundry soap” :SOB: “and a new pillow” :SOB:

    It sucks.

  • Sarah

    I only broke my silence to tell Mac how I wasted it all and “only yelled” and “now it’s gone.”

    That sentence felt like bricks upon upon my chest when I read it. I have spent most of my time running around nagging with a trash bag about rooms needing cleaning, complaining about shoes on the stairs, being late, and homework. Meh.

  • Peggy McCloskey

    This makes me feel badly for my Mom when I left home. She is always so happy to see me when I come back.

    • Lea

      yeah, right. things I only begin to understand 10-15 years later, now a mom myself. but also I still remember how secure and empowered I felt moving away and well, that’s really speaking for my parents way of parenting me. all like it should but probably still hurtful.

  • Lindsey Mansfield

    All of this. I am sending my baby girl off to college in 9 days. You summed it up with so much honesty in a way that is exactly how it feels. I had her when I was 19, she has been with me my whole adult life. It doesn’t matter what people say to ‘comfort’ you, this is beyond hard and I’m not ready.

  • Anne

    Yes, you can have the shower-hair sadness. And the too-quiet morning sadness, and the Two Dots on the couch sadness. All of it and then some. (But please do us all a favor and find out how to say “shower hair sadness” in Dutch.)

  • Alison Lee

    you’re doing great.

  • ISABEL

    My 17 year old is a junior this year. My 9 year old is in 4th grade. And time just won’t stop. I feel like I have wasted so much time, too. I should have played with them more. I can still play with them, right? I should have been more present. Why have I done laundry instead? I should be savoring every moment, but instead I just watched 3 episodes of The Boys on Amazon. Those are thoughts that run through my head. Sigh. I feel you.

  • Anna Allen

    Amazing article.

  • Lisa

    Yep. After saying over and over that I can’t wait for my kids to be on their own I’m a literal mess at the actuality of it. Fuck. Did not see that coming despite everyone telling me it would. xoxo

  • emmaclaire

    There is a reason that when my youngest left for college I went directly back to therapy – OMG, the hole where she was is SO vast. She was the baby, and she was my only girl of the 3 and I knew (in my head, but not yet painfully in my heart) that she brought a special joy to my life that no one can replace. To be clear, I missed the boys as well when they moved on – the oldest was hard because he was my first and he didn’t leave as much as disappear, so I had years of worry before he made his way back into our lives. Middle guy had a classic leave-taking. 5 years of college, ROTC, straight into the Air Force as a shiny 2nd Lieutenant, moving from Smalltown Washington to Los Angeles with hardly a hiccup. That one was easy/tough because “good for him!” and “does he REALLY not need us AT ALL?” But that girl…sigh…

    I have to say I’m still not that impressed with “the new normal” Hang in there mama.

  • Marcie

    My daughter (22) just moved out 2 weeks ago. Oh how it hurts. She is only 15 minutes away. Living with a boy who has no job. I tell myself this is the problem. My son isn’t far behind. I’ve been so sick of both of them not doing a damn thing around here. It was time for her to go but my heart is broken.

  • Vanessa

    😭😭😭 My oldest will be 12 this year, and every year goes by more quickly than the last. I have a whole bunch of kids so my house will be far from empty when she leaves, but it will be devastating to the whole house. I’m going to hug her so hard when I get home. Also, everyone go and call your mom!

  • Jennifer Haston

    Ah Janelle, I feel you on this so hard and
    my little girl is three. We screw each over as parents
    over and by saying platitudes
    like, “Treasure every moment!” Really?
    I should treasure this moment that
    she is frustrating me to my very last nerve
    and I want to pull my hair out?
    No. I don’t think I will, thanks.
    But her sweet hug around my neck
    and the way she smiles at me. Sure,
    that’s one moment I look forward to all day.

  • Rachelle Kohnen

    Wow… tears! My daughter is 11 and just started 6th grade. This feels so real to me already… right now! Your words ring so true to me about “yelling” and “wasting it.” I will try to do better. Thank you.

  • Carli Hess

    The moving away phase is the hardest ever. My beautiful first boy is 20 now, and the last couple of years have been rough. We have always had a unique connection because I was a single mom with him until he was 4. I know people say you’re supposed to be a parent and not a friend, but we really did both. When he graduated, he started out with great plans and expectations, and then when he was finally in the place that he had been so excited to reach…he fell apart. Anxiety, depression, loss of confidence and of his support system all but broke him. And no matter how hard I tried, nothing I did helped. Because he wanted so badly to succeed FOR me, not WITH my constant help. My heart broke a million times and I just wanted to be his mom and have him tell me everything and let me fix it again. Our relationship changed, his path changed, and it was so so hard. I NEVER expected it to be that hard, especially not with him. He’s steadily finding his way, and we are building a brand new kind of relationship. But I mourn for the time before. Back when he was still my kid and not the adult/boy that he is now. Damn, we give so much of ourselves to being their moms. Sometimes I wonder how there is anything left of me. But then I look at my other two, and I look at my new husband who has helped me learn how to actually be the person I was always meant to be, and I know that I’m regenerating and building new parts of myself every day. I’ll never stop missing the sound of my boy drumming, literally, on every surface of our house, and explaining how to build a backyard fire to his little brother, and making his little sister do ridiculous things just so he could laugh. I’m proud of his journey, but I ache for that boy a lot.

    Thanks for the space to vomit that up!

  • Kristen Kerwin

    We’re a week out from our oldest heading off to college (where there’s an active shooter situation at this very moment and I think I might die of ‘what if’ fear…), and I don’t think I can stand another well-meaning comment about how I’ll adjust and how she’ll grow and give back and all of that crap. I feel like I’m being cleaved in half, even though we have 3 still at home…and I’m grieving. HARD. She’s an amazing kid, funny, cool, and one of my best friends. 18 years of waking her grumpy butt up and cleaning up after her empty late-night ice cream bowls was not enough. My heart is broken, and I’m supposed to hide it from her, too… I’m calling in for backup, I give up. I can’t do this – and four times? COME JESUS COME QUICKLY. BEAM ME UP ASAP. Now I’m off to weirdly save her next week’s worth of drain-hair. xo

  • Catherine Forest

    Oh how I hear you, sister. We have been living full time in a bus with our girls (15 yo twins and 13 yo) and one has expressed the desire to settle down… We are all struggling with this and we’ve had offers from family where she could stay and go to school (my girls have always been homeschool), but I can’t imagine it right now… I just would fall apart… I also know that we cannot settle down right now. Just like you knew you could not wait another year to leave. We know. And even when we know with great certainty, it still hurts so bad that we start to doubt ourselves… That’s what pain does. Honor that mourning of that season of your life. It’s a hard transition. I’m right here with you and I feel you completely.

  • Maryann Angel

    Took me right back to 2006 when my oldest left home at 17. Seventeen. We only had him for seventeen years. Now all of mine have long gone, My littlest Angel is on the other side of the world in Vancouver, Older daughter in outback Queensland (which takes just as long to travel to as it does to Canada. Australia is a big country). But my firstborn stayed close and he and his partner have made me a Grandma. The circle goes on.
    Oh, about the hair; my youngest daughter left her hairbrush behind when she moved last year. I still have not cleaned it.

  • Donette

    I feel your pain sister. I dropped my oldest daughter off to her first year of college last week. I also felt as though I couldn’t breathe, the. whole. way. home. My 14 year old son and hubby tried to comfort me. There is no way they could ever understand. You wrote it out perfectly. I am not alone. Best of luck to you and your family and thanks for reminding me I am not alone.