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"I hate being a mother": How parents can feel guilty about perceived shortcomings



Photo: Joshua Huston

 

Brenna Richart’s path to motherhood — an unplanned pregnancy shortly after graduating high school — is less common these days. But the Seattle mother shares the frustrations that are nearly universal to modern moms: The tension between work and school and being fully present for your kids. Dealing with that sense of defeat that comes from realizing something has to give in our overpacked lives, and struggling to figure out what to sacrifice.

Last year, when the pressure became too much, Richart found release in a 1,260-word poem that poured out of her in a single evening. She called it “I hate being a mother.”

 

I hate being a mother.

When I saw the plus sign in the window of the pregnancy test I started laughing.

Of course this is a mistake

was my first thought.

------

I hate being a mother.

 

I wake up at 7 and have to bribe my son to get out of bed.

He argues with me about what he wants for breakfast,

and points out how his dad makes better eggs than I do.

 

Richart, a single mom to 7-year-old Lucas, is a student at Seattle Central College. She works at the school as a liaison between student parents and the college, and she also sells homemade baked goods for a little extra income. She wrote the poem after a particularly grueling quarter at school, when she was working three jobs and caring for her son, who has diabetes. The breaking point came when a friend told her she didn’t want to hang out anymore because Richart was too stressed out all of the time.

 

I hate being a mother.

 

I get home at 2:45.

I pee and let the dog out.

I soak in the silence

and run my hands under cold water

as I breathe in the ten sweet minutes of peace.

My phone goes off alerting me that my son’s bus is coming.

He had a bad day.

He hates doing homework.

He’d rather play at the park.

So would I.

 

Since she wrote the poem, first published in July in the parenting magazine Hip Mama, Richart said she has grown less bitter. Her feelings started to change when she decided to stop apologizing for being a less-than-perfect student or employee or friend. She’s trying instead to explain all that she’s juggling and she’s hoping for some understanding.

“I’m choosing myself a lot more than I’m choosing school or choosing work,” she said. “I can’t live so stressed out that I want to cry.” Choosing herself means more time and energy for her son. She’s going to school part time instead of taking a full load and has two jobs.

The thing that Richart hates about being a mother, however, isn’t the mothering of her son. It’s her response to how mothers are made to feel guilty for their perceived shortcomings.

Richart feels good about putting her son and herself first, but that doesn’t mean life has suddenly gotten easier. When her son recently got into a fight at school, they had a serious talk about the consequences of violence and skipped a planned trip to the pool, which punished them both. A few days later a classmate called him “gay,” triggering a conversation about bullying. Then they had to navigate an episode of peer pressure when a friend encouraged him to misbehave.

“It felt like such a heavy week,” she said.

The thing that Richart hates about being a mother, however, isn’t the mothering of her son. It’s her response to how mothers are made to feel guilty for their perceived shortcomings, like having to miss work because your child is sick, or canceling plans with friends at the last minute because of a family situation.

“I’ve let go of the fact that people are going to judge me no matter what,” she said. “I’m a young mom.” But she’s a mom who’s finding some peace in the priorities she’s chosen for herself and Lucas.

 

My son is six.

Yesterday I asked him if I looked okay before we left the house.

He said,

“you’re cute and fun and I like how your head goes well with your body.”

He tells me that I am his favorite person,

that he loves me the most in all the world.

The feeling is mutual.

-----

I love the way he wraps his tiny arms around my neck.

I love every single particle that makes up my son.

And if I had the chance to turn back time,

I wouldn’t change a god damn thing.


Read “I hate being a mother” in its entirety at hipmamazine.com.

Read more articles on work/life balance from the April 2015 print edition of Seattle's Child

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