Not Regretting Motherhood (but Resenting It a Little)

Last night I found myself crying in the bathroom. I was tired and overwhelmed and I felt like I just couldn’t do anything right. That, and my five-year-old had just spilled his cup of water onto my laptop (the one I didn’t recently drop and break), so I was prematurely mourning the loss of four little lifetimes’ worth of photos.

(Thank goodness, somehow Old Faithful withstood the spill.)

As I cried, I felt a miserable sort of irony at the scene. Here I was, fresh off a string of admiring “I don’t know how you do it” comments from friends and acquaintances, and the truth was that I’m not actually all that satisfied with how I do it.

“It” being raising four, almost five small kids. Doing the work necessary for their care and for the maintenance of a household and a marriage, all while putting on a smiling face for the world.

I don’t think I’m a wreck; I don’t think I’m a bad mom. I know that my kids are well cared for, that they feel loved, and that on many days, I truly am doing my best. (So please don’t feel like you need to affirm me here.)

But I also know my own heart. I know that I’m selfish and resentful and intolerant, and in some ways I’ve wasted these precious first years of marriage and motherhood by wishing them to be something other than they are.

I’ve resisted the limitations that these beautiful kids have put on me. I’ve railed against my constraints. I’ve reveled in the kisses and hugs and wide-eyed stories, but wished that even they could be limited to set, predictable hours of the day.

I’ve focused on what I don’t have: physical autonomy and a wide-open mental space for ideas and accomplishments and order. Freedom.

(Just now I jumped out of my skin at two boys who were playing too loudly while I was trying to finish this post. Like, “How dare you be kids while I’m trying to think?”)


A few nights ago I had a dream about my old workplace. I was visiting it for some reason, wanting to help out my old colleagues, I think. But underneath the official excuse (whatever it was), I know I was there because I wanted a taste of my old life.

I wanted to be in on interesting things. I wanted to push my mind, not just my physical stamina. I wanted to be around people who make things happen. I wanted to see my accomplishments listed out, easily numbered. I wanted to feel important.

Not that I don’t think I’m doing important things now. I know I am; I feel the awful, awesome weight of this responsibility down to my core. But in the day to day living of it, motherhood’s importance is the kind you can take for granted.

Shuttling groceries in and out of the house doesn’t feel important. Wiping crumbs from under the table doesn’t feel important. Dressing wiggly, screechy little bodies doesn’t feel important. (And forcing them to sit on the potty is downright miserable.)

And so the time passes. You focus on what needs to get done in the here and now, and you can lose sight of why you do it. Children grow quickly, but they grow slowly too.

If we could get glimpses into our futures, of the men and women our children would become, perhaps we would find the drudgery more noble. Perhaps it would be easier to set aside the daydreams of freedom and the memories of what our lives were like before they were tied up (or down) by the next generation. Perhaps it would be more tempting to see these years as precious.

I will admit that I’m not there right now.

Right now, I’m so wistful for space and freedom that I push away kids who want closeness. Right now, I’m made anxious and agitated by the mess, yet I’m unable to keep up the pace necessary to deal with it. Right now, I’m distracted by my own disorganization. Right now, I’m desperate for an active life of the mind, yet I can’t focus well enough to pursue it.

This gig is relentless, and I don’t take too kindly to Relentless.

While I absolutely do not regret giving my entire thirties over to the dishes and the diapers and the dirty laundry that come with having children and caring for them 24/7, I do resent it a little. I miss what else might have been done in these years. (Which is ironic, considering that I spent my entire twenties resenting the things I was doing instead of having children.)

For the first time, I think I understand the desire to pursue career alongside motherhood, or even instead of it. I know that those paths were not for me, but I see their attraction.


Now back to that bathroom, I guess. Last night I cried because my pictures might be gone. And because the kids were too much for me. And because I wasn’t enough for them.

I cried because I never get around to backing up the photos, or even printing them out to display in our home. I cried because I can’t be trusted not to break my computers. I cried because I haven’t had a clear kitchen sink in a week. I cried because my backyard gardens look like jungles and my driveway is growing over with weeds and I never get around to them, either. I cried because I’m behind on getting my kids to do their summer homework and I haven’t taken them to the library in years. (Literally: years.)

I cried because I’ve been feeling uncharacteristically jealous of other moms lately – the ones who print pictures and do yardwork and go to the library. The ones who travel and take their kids to shows. The ones who can count professional accomplishments alongside parental ones.

And then I cried because here I am, crying about overgrown flower beds and summer homework when we might be going to (nuclear) war with North Korea. And an entire generation of Syrian children have been scarred, forever damaged by a war thrust upon them by grown-ups who care more about power than people. And plenty of kids here in our own country go without food and love and stable places to live, let alone trips to the library.


I’m not trying to say that I regret my choices. I love my kids more than I could possibly express. I love my husband and I’m glad to be pursuing this worthwhile work alongside him. I love my life.

But somehow that doesn’t stop me from resenting it a little too. The world is big and our lives are short and there’s only so much we can fit into our day-to-day. I think it’s okay to mourn the stuff we can’t fit, as long as we don’t lose sight of all that we can.

And I know that I need to do a better job of that.

These Walls - Not Regretting Motherhood but Resenting It a Little

Epilogue (Please) To The Day Of The Snake And The Water: One Hot Mess (Vol. 4)

I sit here, stunned, numb, in disbelief at all the unpleasantly wacky things that have happened in our home this week.

Tuesday, there was this critter, or one very like him:

Yesterday's specimen.

Amongst the toys. In our parlor. Discovered by our three-year-old. If you haven’t already read the happy tale, here it is. (Anybody visiting here from Blythe’s, do check out that post. If you like hot messes, you’ll love Tuesday’s.)

Quickly – before I get to the meat of this post – let me tell you that it has come to my attention that loved ones who read the snake story now no longer want to come to my house. So let me assure you, dear friends and family, that (I think) you have nothing to fear. Ours is a very large, very old house with lots of hiding spaces for critters.

Don’t let that freak you out. Rather, let it give you comfort, because the creepy-crawlies have better places to go than in your path. They have cool, dark, dirt crawl spaces. They have toasty-warm attics. They have cozy spaces in between plaster walls and wooden floors. This dramatic sighting was surely an anomaly. Surely. Or that’s what I’m telling myself. Over and over and over…

Now back to today.

You may hardly have noticed it at the time, but the snake story included a mention of a leak in the pipe that provides water to our house. It was way boring in comparison to the snake, I know.

But this afternoon. Oh, this afternoon…

We’d received a notice that they’d be turning off our water again for an hour or so while they undertook more repairs to the water pipe. Just an hour; no big deal – we wouldn’t even be home at the time.

Yay for play-dates with good friends!

Yay for play-dates with good friends!

A while after we returned home, I used the powder room. And when I flushed the toilet afterward, the thing jumped. The whole flippin’ toilet jumped. With a BANG!

I jumped too. Then I froze and stared as the toilet continued to hiss and sputter a bit.

Hissing and sputtering I get: air in the line. No big deal. But jumping? What in the world makes a toilet do that? (Hmm… could a certain snake have something to do with it? Shudder…) I was shaken, so I called the hubby. He’ll take a look at it when he gets home.

A few hours later, I went upstairs to use the bathroom again. When I flushed the toilet that time, I stood back a bit, wondering if it would jump too. It didn’t. Whew – just a bit of that hissing and sputtering.


Water started pouring out of the tank! Disgusting brown water! (Please let that be brown from the pipes and not brown from – ahem – something else.) I started and stopped. What should I do? Would it stop on its own? No? How much of this disgusting brown water would pour out of the tank and all over my bathroom floor? I’d better do something.

So I took off the lid to grab the chain/bar/whatever-it’s-called thing and WATER STARTED SQUIRTING INTO THE AIR. Out of some straw-looking-thing at the top of the tank, into the air, at the window and its brand-new blinds, and all over my arm.

I was in shock. Water squirting. Out of the toilet. At the window. New blinds. All over my arm. Some spraying up onto my face and clothing. I dropped the bar/chain thingy and held my breath.

It stopped.

It stopped, but there was still disgusting brown toilet water all over my bathroom. And on me.

What to do now? Nothing to do, I suppose, but wash off my arm, walk back downstairs, call the hubby to complain (again), and sit down at the computer to tell you fine folks alllll about it. You’re welcome.

Be sure to head on over to Blythe’s to indulge in more of this week’s hot messes!

Photo 20140522161804