Friday, May 25, 2012


L started crawling this week, and he couldn't be happier about it. Even before he figured out forward-motion, though, he's been going through a transformation. My cuddle bug has been exploring his independence. No longer content to be held and hugged all day, he perilously lunged out of our arms towards whatever shiny fun thing caught his attention (usually his older brother). So we'd mostly been plopping him on the floor surrounded by toys and while we went about our business we could see & hear him laughing and babbling...until suddenly he got tired or frustrated and shrieked to be picked up. And then lunged out of our arms soon after...rinse repeat. He wants to be free, yet he wants to be held...and he can't really have both so he is torn. He's simultaneously asserting his independence while still needing the safety & comfort of our care. I've been talking to a colleague with a teenage daughter, and its amazingly similar---as much as she thinks she wants to just be free from any parental restrictions, she actually needs those firm boundaries to push & rebel against (or what's the point, right?)

I notice these same contradictions in my own psyche. As much as I love & appreciate caring for and being part of my family sometimes I seriously envy the freedom of my single friends to plan their present and their futures based solely on their own dreams and desires.  From career moves to vacation plans to simply what to watch on TV in the evening, they can make their decisions for themselves and themselves alone. Not only do all my decisions require consideration of multiple other people, these other peoples' moods can affect my own so profoundly. They say a mother is only as happy as her unhappiest child...I'd expand that to say that anyone is only as happy as their unhappiest family member. In other words, in a family unit, everyone's emotions are inexorably tied together, for better or worse. When G is impatient & cranky, I feel it. When I am overwhelmed & anxious, he feels it (and then I feel guilty for making him anxious...and so on and so forth).

Maybe its because I came to marriage & motherhood so late in life, got a little too used to the freedom of being completely on my own, but I really can't help occasionally feeling trapped & constricted. The feeling generally leaves as abruptly as it comes on, and is replaced by overwhelming love & gratitude for my family. Because, coming to it late, I know first-hand the alternative...freedom & independence for me came at the high price of  loneliness. I have no regrets with my choices, nor would I realistically want my life to be any other way. I think I'm just settling into my new roles & responsibilities, and a few years later I won't remember any other way. Is this universal or is it just me?


  1. I definitely don't think you're alone in feeling this way ... at least, I'm there with you! I don't think it's age-related, either (in fact younger moms probably see their childfree friends living with freedoms they don't have and feel just as frustrated/guilty/thankful all at once).

    I also think it's normal to want time to yourself. We aren't good parents if we don't unplug from our families once in a while (at least, I think that's true for most of us). In order to do any job well, we need to be refreshed. It's so important to schedule in YOU time, and NOT feel guilty about it.

  2. I think everyone has mixed feelings about the situations in which they find themselves, as no situation is perfect. As a single person, I'm appreciative of all those freedoms you talked about - but I also have moments when I long to give them up in exchange for a partner and kids. As a medical resident, I'm appreciative of the challenges and opportunities of my work - but I also have many moments when I wish I could slack off like a normal person. All I'm trying to say is, I think it's normal to long for aspects of the life that you don't have, even if you would choose your life over again.

  3. You are SO not alone in feeling this way. I've wondered, too, if it's because I came to motherhood late in life. I had many years on my own, completely free to set my own schedule, and it's still strange to think that I will not be able to do that again for, oh, 18 years or so. I heard an interesting report on NPR this morning about parenthood and happiness in which the reporter was talking about yet another study about how parents are less happy than people who have no children. The report was evenhanded and questioned the study (because really, how does one truly define happiness?). But it got me thinking about your post and this issue all over again. I don't know if the memories of a free life will fade--I suspect not. I don't think I'd want to forget those free, open-ended years before kids. Without them, I wouldn't be the person I am today (or the parent I'll be tomorrow).

    Incidentally, my baby E is just about to crawl. She's on her knees and rocking, looking like she's going to take off any minute. I'm both thrilled for her and terrified for us (where are those baby gates again?!).

  4. Life, in my opinion, cannot simply be explained. Read anne valley-fox "your mythic journey"... Honestly, I am currently still reading it, and finding my own, and so awnsers are there, for you and yours. I hope that helps and if i may mention, activities help create happiness, and over-time, I'm sure you'll find other solutions... "the imagination is more important than knowledge", einstein.