I recently realized that motherhood is impossible, and I completely and thoroughly suck at it.
Last week, I picked my daughter up from day care and told her we needed to drive downtown to attend one of my work events. With a scowl on her face and her arms crossed, she said, “I don’t want to go to Mommy’s work! I want to go home!”
But I want to make money so you’ll have food to eat, I thought.
As far as I can tell, being a mom is a series of impossible scenarios like this one, in which I can’t adequately meet all of my daughter’s needs. I feel like a failure, and it’s not because I’m depressed or unbalanced. It’s because I am a failure. I’m constantly failing my child, and the more I try to meet all her needs, the harder I seem to fall.
There’s not enough time, resources and energy for me to do anything besides fail her. And today, I hate it. I hate that this is the best I have to offer, when I wanted so badly to offer her the world.
A crash-course in high-stakes failure
The world was never mine to offer, though. The world requires things from moms that are impossible to navigate unscathed. All too often, the world will hurt my child, and there’s not much I can do about it.
Last summer, I sat in the middle of my living room floor, sobbing and screaming as I desperately grasped at the jagged pieces of my crumbling marriage. My daughter was 2 at the time, and she toddled to me and said, “Mama, mama, don’t cry, mama.” I can’t do this to her, I thought. So I left. I filed for divorce and stopped screaming in a heap on the living room floor, requiring my daughter to console me whether I wanted her to or not. But now she wails for her dad when it’s time to leave him. “I don’t want mama,” she cries. “I want my daddy! I want mama and daddy to love!”
Let me ask you — which scenario is better? Anyone with a heart would respond, “Neither,” and it’s true. Neither was good. I just tried to make the best decision I knew how to make in an impossible situation. Late at night, though, I wonder whether she’ll forgive me or blame me for her heartache.
I hope you know how much I love you
These questions race through my mind as I lie next to my daughter in bed. She’s snoring, and I’m holding her hand. I nuzzle up behind her, and smell her curly hair, which holds the scent of a swimming pool and baby powder. I want to stay here next to her, where she can reach for me if she has a bad dream or needs reassurance of my love. But I squeeze her hand and sneak away to the darkness of my dining room, so I can tap out another article for another paycheck for another day.
I think to myself, I hope you know how much I love you, daughter. And I hope you know I’m sorry to be your first glimpse of the frailty and failure contained within love.
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