the honest pain of mothering: today i suffer so tomorrow i can heal

by vanessagobes

i think i need to just add a little preface to this post for people who are finding my writing for the first time.  below, i write about an experience that was extremely painful, one i wish never to repeat.  but, as i’ve learned, it’s an experience that a lot of us mommies share.  if you are turned off by the blunt way i present this, i get it.  i am, too.  in my own defense, this essay is not representative of my overall experience in motherhood, it is a snapshot of one really bad day.  i shared it b/c we mommies feel enormous pressure to do everything right and be perfect in every way.  so i invite you to take the pressure off of yourself and know that it’s okay to lose your shit sometimes and still be a loving, caring mother.  i also shared it b/c there are an awful lot of self-righteous, perfect parents out there in the blogosphere, and i think most of them are full of shit.  so please check out my posts on other subjects that will leave you with a warmer, fuzzier feeling.  here or on the other blog –

oh, and please remember that when you post commentary, you are communicating with a real live human being.  so if you wouldn’t say it to me in the freezer aisle at the grocery store, please hold your comment.


motherhood.  no matter what anyone says, it’s not all rainbows and sunshine.  it’s really fucking hard, as i’ve been reminded all too clearly over the past 15 hours…

it’s homework time.  my 6 year old daughter SG is in ready position with her assignment laying neatly on the kitchen table, so i choose to sit down and help her first.  meanwhile big sister PG is too busy making loud animal noises and complaining about the dinner menu to pull out her own homework and invite my help.  she’s pissed because she wants my attention.  NOW.  and she makes it known.  she spends about 10 minutes working up to a full fledged assault on me.  with one deep inhale, my daughter PG finally erupts with all her 8 year old power, “i HATE you mommy!  everything bad is YOUR FAULT!  i wish you never had me!  i wish i wasn’t here!  you’re the WORST MOTHER EVER!!!”

i send her to her room.  i don’t want to engage with or be affected by her tantrum.  she won’t leave.  i stand up, walk over to her, lift her off her stool, and carry her to the stairs.  this happens three or four times before she finally goes to her room.  she is screaming.  she won’t stop.  the clock is ticking and i’m thinking about the homework that needs to be finished, the dinner that needs to be prepped, the dishes that need to be cleaned, the baths that need to be taken before the clock strikes bedtime.

in quarantine, PG continues to breathe fire.  at first i can let it go.  i’m breathing deeply.  i let the hollers wash over me, not through me.  honestly, i’m not even sure why she’s flipping out.  i’m not sure SHE knows why either.  i know it’s an act.  this is high drama.  this is a game.  but it doesn’t end with words.  she runs back downstairs and gets right in my bubble.  she’s red in the face.  she’s channeling the devil, i swear.  she tells me one more time that she hates me, i’m the worst mother and she wishes she could have been born into another family with a better mother, “because YOU ARE A TERRIBLE MOTHER!!!”  she has a bag packed and is walking toward the door.

i snap.

i drag her back to the stairs, pick up her tote bag, containing a pillow pet and her crocheted baby blanket, and i chuck it at her.  then i pull her up the stairs.  she’s not moving.  in fact, she’s screaming.  i’m screaming, too.  but there are no reasonable words to use.  there’s just chaos.  i drag her to her room and slam the door shut.

after 20 minutes or so, when we’re both calm, i go back up there and we have a reasonable conversation.  there’s a lot of teary, “i’m sorry, mamma.  i’m so sorry.  i’m so sorry.”  but i know it’s just part of the game.  i explain to her, as i’ve explained a THOUSAND times before, that her behavior is unacceptable.  that she needs to be responsible for the way she behaves and makes other people feel.  she says she understands, that it won’t happen again.  but we both know better.  we cry and hug it out.  the rest of the night is fine.

so when it happens again this morning, i am not surprised, but i am surprisingly caught off guard.  i’m in my breathing room having a few moments to settle into my day and PG creeps in quietly.  when i finish, i open my eyes and say, “thank you for being so patient while i finished meditating.”  i give her a smile and a kiss and take her hand.  we’re all rainbows and sunshine.  we walk upstairs together and she sifts through her clothes while i wake up her sister.

a minute or two passes before PG starts freaking out from inside her closet, “it’s cold in the morning but hot in the afternoon and i never know what to waaay-errrr.”  i try to help her but she is unhelp-able.  she’s lying in the middle of her bedroom floor now, kicking her legs and saying nasty things.  i think i’m still writhing from our scuffle last night and immediately tap into my unreconciled emotions.  i’m standing in the closet door jam, pointing expectantly in the direction of her hangers, demanding that she get dressed.  she walks past me, jabbing me hard in the thigh with her elbow as she goes by.  without thinking, the sole of my foot meets her rear end and i push her solidly to the ground, “YOU DON’T HIT ME, PG!”  i scream, “GET DRESSED!!!”

i’m mommy dearest, officially.  i take two steps back and watch her while she begrudgingly picks out shorts and a t-shirt to wear.

we finally make it downstairs and i spend the entire morning bawling.  bawling.  ugly cry.  meanwhile my other two kids are angels.  they’re hugging me and being sweet.  they’re cooperating and being kind to each other.  and i can barely acknowledge the little ones because i feel like total shit.  i send PG off to school without a kiss or a hug for the first time ever.  i just can’t look at her.  i feel like an abusive, psycho failure of a mother.   and i’m mad at her for bringing that out in me.  oh, i know a psychotherapist or a judgmental mother would look at me and say, “it’s not the kid’s fault, it’s your fault.”  but right now i’m just mad at her.  and i can’t help it.

these meltdowns are nothing i’m prepared for.  i hadn’t scheduled chaos into my days.  there’s no appointment in my calendar that says: “monday, september 17, 5:30pm: knock-down-drag-out that causes extreme psychotic episodes and results in diminished feelings of self-worth in both parent and child. ”  it just doesn’t happen that way.  pain and suffering are sneaky.  they strike when we’re unprepared.  they jump out of the darkness and choke us with guilt and shame, desperation and squeezey-ness.

i wish there were some sort of smoke signal that would go up in the early morning, just to warn me that there was danger ahead.  i wish i had a chance to armor myself against the mass of headache and heartache that was waiting to ambush me.  but that’s not how motherhood goes.  motherhood is one minute tickles and giggles and the next minute flailing arms and streaming tears.  no buzzer or bell or emergency alert signal to give a heads up, it just happens.

why does this have to be so hard?  just when i think i’m getting somewhere.  i’m working so hard to create a peaceful home for my kids, to instill a sense of compassion and kindness in them, to teach them responsibility for their surroundings and gratitude for the gifts they enjoy…  all of the love that i show them is seemingly blown up in a flash.  they betray me, like traitors.  shouldn’t i have more control than this?  don’t i get more of a say?  i am their mother after all.

am i the only one going through this?  do all these other mommies in their decorator homes with their manicured lawns and their shiny happy appearances experience this?  because i can’t fake my way through this day.  i can’t get through this day pretending to have it together.  because i’m falling apart.  today, i’m falling apart.  and i’m lost.  tomorrow i might feel different, but today i am in the abyss.  and it feels very dark and lonely.

i try to turn to buddhism, looking for an answer.  but how does a monk with all his peace and devotion understand what it’s like to be trapped in a house with three small people who can turn on you like a stray cat?  what can buddha teach me today?  really, i’m dying to know.  the buddha is here, inside me.  as close as my own breath.  so i take a moment to listen for answers.  i boot up my computer, as so often i find answers in my writing.  this is the medium through which i discover my tiny shifts.  during writing meditations, my fingers race over the keyboard (no time to capitalize, sorry) and i come out on the other side with healing epiphanies.  but today, i find there’s nothing.  maybe it’s PMS throwing up a smoke screen, confusing me and keeping me from connecting with inner peace and brilliant spiritual solutions.  but maybe there is no epiphany for this mother today.

maybe there is just pain and acceptance today.  today i suffer so tomorrow i can heal.

i cannot control how my kids feel or how they act.  i can certainly encourage them to be their best selves.  i can kiss them and love them and feed them and guide them.  but they are who they are.  one minute they despise me, the next they’re snuggling in bed with me.  this is just the way it is for us mothers.  this is just the way it is.

from mine to yours,



lordy, i’m afraid to post this.  but the purge feels cathartic and it’s the realest thing i’ve written in awhile.