As many of you know, I have now been a stay-at-home mother for two years.
And while it’s been amazing to witness the evolution of my two-year-old daughter’s bubbly personality and be privy to my son’s daily musings on snot and superheroes, it’s time to make a change. Before the authorities deposit me, straitjacketed, into the nearest Betty Ford clinic. Because yes, there are mornings, many mornings, when in the midst of pouring bowls of honey nut cheerios for my offspring, I open the freezer door and ask myself “Is it too early for a glass of Limoncello?”
I never knew I’d miss work so much. Nor that my ability to keep my temper in check would fly out the window. My earth mother fantasies — barefoot, stirring a giant pot of gruel, laughing while my children gently tug at my flowing skirts — are no more. I know better now than to pretend to be someone that I’m not.
Though I do hope to improve. Relax more. Tolerate chaos better. Let things roll off my back a bit more easily.
The other day, I completely lost it after my son, the darling boychild, started complaining about the delicious braised chicken legs I made for dinner, straight out of the Alice Waters cookbook.
“But what are these bits, in it, Mama?” he whined, honing in on the strands of perfectly translucent, caramelized onions in his bowl. “I can’t eat this, Mama.”
Temper rising — after all, was I serving my little emperor mushy peas and liver? – I took a deep breath and cycled through suggestions:
“Pick them out!”
“OK, don’t eat!”
“Come on, just try it!”
I’ve often joked that negotiating with the boychild is akin to negotiating with a terrorist. A lose/lose situation. This moment was no exception, as his emotions started to escalate. Losing my patience, and desperate for a way to avoid a further power struggle, I sent him to his room.
Later that evening, as I was bathing the two little devils, the boychild asked “Do you even like us, Mama?”– as innocently as if he’d posed the question “What shall we have for breakfast tomorrow?”
Had I become that bad of a mother? Or was this just the boychild’s way of grabbing me by my invisible cojones and twisting them to get the desired effect, which was in my case, an overwhelming GUILTY feeling that I am a horrible mother who has no business raising children?
And then, in a moment, I realized that it didn’t really matter if he ate the damned chicken or not. What mattered was me. I needed to make a change. I needed to work on my patience, step back from my life, and reconnect with the simple sense of feeling alive.
I’ve studied Buddhist meditation before, and decided that if I could find a good meditation class, I might hopefully wind up responding to my children’s prods more like this:
As opposed to this:
So last week, I told hubby I was taking Wednesday evening off. I had found a nearby meditation center, and I was going for it.
The minute I walked in the door, I felt like I had come home. I think it was the smell of the incense, which was somehow a visceral reminder of the self I was more in touch with before kids — not the freewheeling, dancing-on-tables partier that I sometimes long for — but the younger woman who struggled more and was actively searching for meaning, for spiritual sustenance. The woman who traveled alone to Asia, befriended young monks, sat watching the sunrise on mountaintops and studied Buddhism in incense-filled rooms.
As I stood there, observing the others who were also gathered here for meditation, I felt relief — not just that I might eventually, with practice, become a more patient, less flustered mother — but also relief in knowing that motherhood hadn’t numbed me completely to myself. That the younger woman inside me who sought greater personal clarity still exists.
Of course, we won’t dwell on the fact that I showed up ever so slightly tipsy, having taken myself to Matt Murphy’s, the cozy pub across the street for a pre-meditation cocktail and to finish the biography of Steve Jobs.
I don’t think anyone could really tell. Apart from the woman I met in the lobby who was also there for the first time, and who endured quite a bit of babbling from yours truly about how excited I was to be there.
Then again, who says the Buddha was always calm? And never had a swig of rice wine before sitting under the Bodhi tree?
Was this guy sober?
I think not.