“Our mothers always remain the strangest, craziest people we’ve ever met.”
For many of us, our mothers are the primary caregivers in our early years. They carry us in their bodies for 9 (actually 10) months. We are wholly dependent upon them for food, shelter, care, and comfort.
So how is it that this person with whom we are so physically and emotionally intertwined can appear so foreign and impossibly crazy?
Because of US. We did this to them. These women were relatively calm, sane individuals before we arrived on earth. Let me now list for you some of the strange, crazy things I’ve done in just the last 11 months.
1. I have expressed breastmilk over a toilet in a public restroom.
2. I have arrived at the pediatrician’s office without my driver’s license and credit card. TWICE.
3. I have accidentally texted inappropriate bodily-related information to someone other than my husband.
4. I have googled things like “orange poop, cream of wheat consistency,” “when will I sleep again,” and “can babies read minds.”
5. I have walked out of my house to the neighbor’s (2 blocks away) without realizing that my shirt was pulled up and my nursing bra exposed for all to see.
How did I get this way? I’m not alone. Check out any online mom forum and you’ll hear these same stories, many of them far crazier than my own. Listen to this. In my scientific opinion, three main factors contribute to this condition.
Sleep deprivation. It’s no joke. The early days of parenthood are hazy and full of tears, mostly yours. Babies don’t know night from day. These tiny humans need to eat every two or three hours and they don’t feed themselves. You’re stressed, your partner is stressed. You annoy the hell out of each other.
Even after the newborn days have passed, you’re forever trying to catch up on sleep. Every time junior hits a new milestone, sleep goes from bad to worse. Everyone and no one seems to have an answer to your baby’s sleep “problem.” See this.
I don’t have much hope for the toddler years since the kid can now get herself out of bed. I imagine parents of teenagers lay awake with worry if their adolescent is out and about in the world. Maybe I’ll sleep again when Lena’s 35? Probably not. I’ll be worried about her not getting enough sleep because she now has her own baby…
Tiny humans, big problems. When you become a parent you become hyper-aware (some might say obsessed) with things to which you gave little thought in your regular adult life–what brand of underwear to wear; the color, consistency, amount, and regularity of bowel movements; ordinary head colds; bedtime routines; every little piece of lint on your floors and whether or not your mobile infant did in fact put that in her mouth. To non-parents, these conversations are MIND NUMBING. To other parents, it’s a rare opportunity to share notes. Either way, these are inane-sounding conversations.
Parenting is a fucking minefield and everyone has an opinion. Modern parents have access to scientific studies about what is best for their infants and children, a benefit our parents and grandparents didn’t enjoy. Yet this information comes at a cost–an overwhelming and simultaneously contradictory barrage of voices yelling, “do this, don’t do that.” While this is undoubtedly a 21st century phenomenon, I suspect that even your great-great grandmother suffered from at least one relative who knew what was “best” for baby.
All of this unsolicited advice is maddening. If your mother ever seems like she has multiple personalities, this is likely the reason. There actually are 452 voices in her head telling her to what to do.
While I like Marguerite Duras’s observation about mothers, allow me to amend it slightly:
“Our mothers always remain the strangest, craziest people we’ve ever met. Unless we become mothers ourselves and then we wonder how the f#$@ she held it together as well as she did.”
So. Go hug your mother. She’s tired and is likely talking to herself.