I’ve been thinking a lot about you lately.
I’ve been thinking about how crazy our broken up lives are, all separate and sequestered behind our closed doors. I’ve been thinking about my first year as a mama, how isolated and confused I felt. And I’ve been thinking about you out there, alone behind your door.
The world you used to inhabit has fallen into pieces at your feet, like so many mismatched socks. The friends you used to spend days lazing in the sun with, plotting the overthrow of The Man or a hike in the mountains with equal fervor. The friends who now kindly tolerate the drastically downscaled walks, the baby fussing during potlucks, the constantly interrupted conversations. And then go back to their quiet, own homes and self-structured lives.
You try to explain what your life is like now. Why you feel so dragged out. But it always comes out like bitching.
You don’t mean to be bitching. About your tiny, beautiful unfurling flesh of flesh. If it’s difficult to explain how hard this new life has made your own, explaining the surge of devotion for it is all but impossible.
You search for a new friend. A mama. Someone who understands the caged feeling that strangles you daily, the guilt that crushes, the fury that lights in you sometimes like wildfire, and terrifies you no less. Someone who understands as well the spiking joy. The immeasurable sweetness of that tiny new soul birthed from your body, taking shape in the world. The quaking in your heart when she stares wide open into your eyes. The way her body yields to yours, trusts you entire.
Someone who understands the roller coaster that is your life.
But everyone else seems to be doing fine. The other moms have their shit together. They play with their kids, clean the house, make dinner, all with a smile. Don’t they? Or are you just recalling movie moms? I myself look back and try to count the moms I’ve actually known in my life, on a personal level.
Did they have babies when I knew them?
You feel the rug ripping from under you, and wonder suddenly how you can be 30 years old and have no idea what babies or their mamas are like.
In your loneliness you look to the Wide World. You nurse your baby to sleep in your lap while staring into that glowing screen of possibility.
If real life is peopled by mamas who appear to be surviving so much better than you, the cyberworld is full of super-heroines. Blog after blog, written by cool, green mamas. They wake in the morning perky and fresh. They craft colorful happy things out of wool before the children wake up. They prepare healthful homemade breakfasts. They take their kids on walks in natural landscapes, which they photograph in macro. They sew their own cloth diapers. Make their own whole grain breads. That they never scream at their kids is a given. Never fight with their man about money. Never swear. Never forget their reusable cloth grocery bags.
These super-mamas are a curse and a blessing. You’re addicted to the fantasy they peddle. But, this is your first baby, you don’t know yet that it’s a fantasy. You think it’s just you that’s failing. Just you who screams at the baby at 2 AM to go the fuck to sleep. Just you who bread dough won’t rise for. Just you who can never for the life of you remember to bring the goddamned grocery bags.
I have three very important things to tell you, dear new mama.
1. It is fantasy. It’s a tale we blogstresses spin, for ourselves as much as anyone else. In the cyberworld you can choose your character. You can construct just the person you always wanted to be, and carefully photograph your proof. Anyone would want to show their best self to the world. To focus on the positive, turn toward their sweetness.
But the outcome of our selective presentation is that we all look to one another and see nothing like the tangled ball of dark threads inside our own secret heart. And the rift grows.
I call our bluffs! All of them! I speak brazenly for all bloggers, who carry closets full of everything. We are you. We try and fail daily, hourly. We are doing what we can with what we have.
2. The insanity eases. Motherhood is a slow stretching– of what you know to be true, of what you think yourself capable– and the beginning can be the most painful. No matter how much you think you might be drowning, you’ll be okay. You’ll make it. Babies grow. It will get easier.
3. Cut yourself some slack. A lot of slack. However much slack you need. If you are just now awakening to the green, DIY revolution in homemaking that I champion herein, cut yourself several extra fathoms. If you lived a passionately self-made life full of responsible action before, understand that you will slip– possibly all the way back down– for awhile. That’s okay. There’ll be time later to build or re-build. Babies need you so completely at first. Surrender yourself for now.
And in the meantime. Read all the inspiring, edited stories of mamas who kick ass. Enjoy them for what they are– a celebration of the good parts. Know that in private they fall short, several times a day. Just like you. They are discouraged and disillusioned and ravaged by guilt sometimes. They soar on the ecstasy of motherhood sometimes. They do it all with a smile. They say fuck the world from under the covers and order out pizza for dinner.
Their life is a roller coaster.
Our lives are a roller coaster.
Here’s your ticket.