By Marisa Nilphraphan
First of all, before I tell my story, I want to make it clear that I am not a single mother. I was raised by a single mother, and whatever my situation should be classified as, it is not single motherhood, which is a life far more demanding than my own.
When I was about seven months postpartum with our second child, my husband started a new job contract in another country. From one day to the next, I went from having a work-from-home husband to one who would only come home every other weekend. Things got tough overnight.
My then 26 month old daughter missed her father fiercely, and her sadness manifested itself in temper tantrums, sleeplessness, and other unusual-for-her behaviors like screeching at me when I told her what to do, hitting me, and hitting her baby sister. And speaking of her baby sister, this child was not okay with being left alone or even put into a super fun bouncy contraption. No, my then 7 month old would rather have watched paint dry than play with the plethora of toys at her disposal if it meant she got to be held constantly by mommy.
I think I handled the first week pretty well. I was so afraid of dropping the ball that I didn’t allow myself to acknowledge any kind of stress. I just pushed it all down and got on with it. But that stress wouldn’t stay down for long. How could it? Never mind that I was less than eight months postpartum and my body chemistry was still trying to regain homeostasis, but parenting two kids under three would be trying for even Jesus/Allah/Buddha. Eventually, my stress bubbled up and over, and my toddler got the brunt of it. I think at one point I shouted, “STOP SCREAMING AT MOMMY,” from the deepest part of my lungs and scared her so much that she just threw her arms around me and cried. I was such a shit.
It took me and the girls about two months to find our groove. It took me two months to finally calm the fuck down and stop yelling at my children when I couldn’t take it anymore. Two months. I think back on those two months and suddenly feel the guilt rising into my throat. I yelled at babies. Who does that? Someone who is stressed out but thinks they can still do it all, that’s who.
I didn’t start writing this article with the intention of making such a confession, but it’s kind of turning into one, especially since my husband is going to proofread this and see the details I had previously left out of our conversations. But I want you to know that behind the cool, calm, smiley mom who gets asked “How do you do it?” by so many people is a human being who has a breaking point. We all have a breaking point. The answer to “How do you do it?” is that I finally recognized the signs that lead up to my breaking point and I’ve learned how to mitigate reaching it.
I’ve accepted the fact that my house will never be as clean as it used to be. And seriously, who gives a shit. I know there are people out there who cannot relax in a messy house because I used to be one of them. But something had to give, and it wasn’t going to be time with my children or husband. When I think back on my childhood and the amazing woman who raised me, I do not wish for one second that she had spent more time cleaning the house. Our kids won’t either.
Also, my children eat take-out food maybe twice a month, and semi-homemade food all of the other days. I know people who actually take the time to cook nutritious homemade meals full of fresh vegetables with little to no salt or added sugar, and their lovely children eat their hearty meals with gusto… Well that’s not us. And because my toddler is the pickiest eater in the universe, I will pour her a bowl of Cheerios and milk if it means she will consume some semblance of healthy calories for dinner.
The laundry… Actually, you know what; let’s not even talk about laundry. Laundry can go fuck itself.
But most importantly, I’ve learned to accept help when it’s offered. And I seek help when it’s not obvious to everyone else that I’m nearing my breaking point. I am quite fortunate to have a partner who supports me emotionally and financially, so I don’t have to work or do this parenting thing completely alone. However, there are people who are doing it alone who won’t ask for help or don’t realize they need help until after they’ve yelled at their child, or worse.
For Über Moms postpartum awareness month, I wanted to tell my postpartum story and how my children had to deal with my hormones and stress mismanagement because I wasn’t aware of my own limitations. I suppose my target audience here is not only women who are in a similar situation as I am, but anyone who has a breaking point. That is, everyone. And if you know someone who seems to have it all together, and you think that you’d buckle under the weight that they have on their shoulders, then go ahead and assume that they’re probably struggling already.