Those of you who know me know that I am not a happy housewife or a contented stay-at-home-mom (SAHM). Since I don't earn much money and I have two children, I really should be those things, but alas, my DNA, or inbred bad temperament, or something, prevents me.
Since admitting all of this two years ago and taking steps to remedy the situation, I have come to the point of being spoiled by adequate childcare. This means that when confronted with extended periods of responsibility for my children and dinner and laundry and the dog and all of that, my initial reaction is to try to get out of it.
This isn't something I'm proud of, or like to broadcast. But since you already know about my psychiatric medications and my drinking habits, why should I leave this out? One of my goals for this blog is to tell the truth about what happens to one's mind in mental breakdown/motherhood mode. I tend to identify rather well with Heather Armstrong's version of SAHM, which is Shit-Ass-Ho-Motherfucker.
Still, I often regret that I can't deal with domestic life in a more balanced, grateful, accepting way. Because in a global way, I feel deep gratitude for my life. If someone asked me to close my eyes and think of a time when I was happiest, I would say, "Now." And all of my jaw-flapping about practicing being present, and practicing non-attachment, and accepting the moment for what it is is totally sincere. It's just impossible to follow at home.
Or almost impossible. I am discovering a new way to practice non-attachment with the children. I tell myself that I am not in a hurry. And I practice not being in a hurry. When I am in a hurry, I am trying to escape the moment. The moment can be excruciating to stand, when Audrey needs to re-buckle her car seat after vacating it, or when Jonah sings songs while staring at the ceiling with his underwear halfway down his skinny legs and growls at me when I try to hurry him along so we can make it to preschool on time. During these moments, I would like nothing more than to be transported elsewhere.
Pema Chodron says most of our behavior is about running away from a feeling we can't abide. And yes, it's true, I hate feeling impatient and hurried and exasperated by my children. They don't seem to understand that the world is going to end if we don't follow our plans. I want it to be over. I don't want to be held captive by the dawdling and pointless resistance of these little people while I endeavor to get on with the day. The waiting and the dealing with petty problems en route to the front steps is hella boring. What am I supposed to do with my mind during these times?
I started to ask myself what would happen if I pretended the world wouldn't end if we were five minutes late. If Jonah went to school with no underwear once or twice. If the children brushed their teeth a couple hours after breakfast instead of the instant they swallowed their last bite of waffle. What would it be like if these transitions between events were the events themselves? If it was all one big event, or all one big transition?
In a Zen way, I could say that all moments are equally important, and equally unimportant.
Playing with this idea has been a tremendous relief for me, and for my kids. For one thing, it gives me something to do with my mind. And for another, it's having a good effect on the kids. Two nights ago, Jonah said to me, "Mom, you're not yelling anymore."
I looked up from my dinner and smiled. "You're right. I'm not. I'm really glad you noticed."
"Yeah," he said. "I think you're learning how not to yell."
I think I'll always be learning how not to yell. But that's okay, because I'm not in a hurry.