I have been informed in no uncertain terms, over the years, that it is unseemly at best, the way I gripe about the daily clatterbang-in-the-ear that is the reality of childrearing. Particularly the stay-at-home variety. You wanted this more than anything in the world, I've been told. And now all you do is complain about it.
Or more pointed: You remember what it was like to want this reality so desperately you would shoot your body full of mare's urine and blow up your ovaries like Jiffy Pop -- and you have the audacity to complain? Other people can read this, you know. The walking wounded with Jiffy Pop ovaries and no carseats full of fishy crackers. A windwhistling gap in the heart.
I know. I know.
I do remember, you know. What that was like, living with my head somewhere detached from the earthly plane, lost in the what-if. How it blurred everything I did, the fuzz of grief, like a migraine in its infancy. The multithreaded timelines for each possibility: if the first baby had lived, if the second had, if I got pregnant now, if we had the home study a month from today. Wanting to take all the unknowns in hand and press them into a shape I could at least recognize.
I keep that with me, that time, a little rock in my pocket to reach in and feel. A weight light to carry hidden, solid enough that I don't forget it.
Here's the thing though: that little rock, it isn't magic. I can't brandish it at the children when they're abrading my last taut nerve and transform them; hell, I can't even transform myself with it. It does what it does, which is to sit tucked away, providing ballast; but it doesn't change the moments, either joyous or difficult.
It made me notice the little pebbles other people are carrying around, though. I can sense the heft of another person's pain. I wouldn't trade that for lighter pockets.
But I can't carry someone else's pebbles. You carry your own, I carry mine. Some people won't be able to read about the ugliness inside my mothering, and that's all right. We know our own boundaries. We keep ourselves safe.
Here's the other thing: this part of mothering, the constant aggravation tempered by (and sometimes made the worse for) moments of incomparable sweetness, the noise and the clutter and the brain-static that I can't shake off even in a rare moment of quiet -- I knew this was coming. Hell, I'd read enough Erma Bombeck to know what was in store for me.
And this was exactly what I wanted. This mess, this chaos, this panic of needing aloneness and never quite being able to get it -- the hilarity, the impossible stories, the silliness -- this is what I wanted. The struggle of figuring out how to handle a child's first attempts at lying, of helping a tiny person get a handle on big feelings. All this.
If nothing else, daily interaction with small children is great for comedy material. Dark comedy. Very dark.
It's not accurate to say that no one talks about this part of mothering; it might be true, though, that nobody understands it until they're in it, and then the depth of understanding defies words. I don't know if it changes much to talk about it, like this -- but I do know that if I don't talk about it, I'll die.