parents

"Sometimes I just don't want to do this anymore"

Stock image - this is not Felicity. Nor her child. Nor even her to-do list

I never doubted that I wanted to be a mother. Motherhood was my true north, my guiding light throughout my teens and my 20s, the thing I knew I was destined to do and that I would be really good at. Lately, however, as I observe the sun setting on my 30s, I’ve been wondering why I was so certain, because it is definitely not what I thought it would be. And I’m starting to suspect I actually suck at it.

My third and final child has begun kindy, and while it was emotional for a fleeting moment, mostly it’s been a joyous event. On that first day Matilda was at kindy, I skipped about the house, giggling and giddy.

My unbridled joy at child-lessness has confirmed the notion that has been sneaking up on me for a few years – the realisation that I’m not the kind of mother I thought I would be. I’m not the earth mother who adores being surrounded by scads of kids, making demands on my time, my soul, my patience.

And now I’m left wondering if I’m actually a failure as a mother. Not only am I a million miles from what I imagine to be the perfect mother, I’m actually someone who selfishly, secretly wishes her kids were off her hands so she could pursue her own activities.

Before we get too deep into this pity party, I’m not suggesting that I neglect my children. I don’t. I happily and willingly bake for their lunchboxes, make sure all their uniforms are clean and folded in their cupboards, supervise homework, make sure library books don’t get lost and I volunteer in the classroom.

However.

I’m not one teensy tiny bit sad that my youngest is at kindy and I’m already counting down the year until she’s in Prep and I get even more days to myself.

I want time to write.

I want to clean the house in the morning and know that it will stay clean and tidy for several hours!

I want to watch Days of Our Lives.

I want to have lunch with my girlfriends without kids knocking their water over the table and demanding their nuggets be peeled of the crumb coating. And then demand the crumbs be put back on.

I want time to be me.

For just a few uninterrupted hours I don’t want to be someone’s mother.

I don’t want to be someone’s wife.

I don’t want to be anything to anyone that further contributes to the feeling that I’ve lost myself, my own identity.

Not permanently. I’m not talking about abandoning my family. I love my family. But I feel like the past seven years have been a loooooong losing struggle. I’ve been struggling to get the housework done, struggling to find time to exercise, struggling to find time to see family, struggling to find time for my personal projects.

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I want to do a photography course. A French language course. A sewing course. A knitting course. A cooking course.

Sure, I can look back at the past seven years and see my successes. I’ve raised three wonderful kids. But that’s far from a solo achievement. My husband is as much to be credited for that particular success as I am.

And looking at my kids I can also see my failings. I’ve failed to spend enough quality time with them, failed to be consistent enough in the rules that govern their lives, failed to be patient enough, loving enough.

And here’s the nub of the issue – no matter how well we do with our children, are we always going to feel guilty that we could have done better? Or is it just me? I could have prepared more nutritious meals, could have made them organic lunchbox snacks, could have spent more one-on-one time with them engaged in cerebral activities, rather than plonking them in front of the telly so I can cook dinner.

Is motherhood a guilt trip no matter how well you do? And why do I feel so stifled by what has been my own free choice?

I have thought long and hard and am drawing the conclusion that while some of the blame for my perfectionist tendencies lies with me, some of that blame can be squarely laid at society’s expectations of me, of mothers.

As a microcosm, in my own house, the conflict is crystal clear when I’m frazzled trying to keep up with the housework, while also giving enough emotional support to each child, while also being a good wife, along with preparing a nutritious meal three times a day, along with performing exceptionally well at my part-time job two days a week. I have never once achieved this impossible list of goals. And yet every week I’m trying desperately to get everything done. And failing.

By comparison, my husband – like most husbands – doesn’t feel that same pressure. Men have other pressures, certainly. They have work pressures and pressure to be good fathers. But fatherhood has somehow remained separate from domestic chores. Yet motherhood has somehow evolved into domestic goddess territory where we are tending our children and our home all in one fluid concept.

When did motherhood become about a clean house as much as it is looking after a baby?

I don’t know, but for my own sake and the sake of a sane family life, I’m going to start looking after my own ambitions as much as I do everyone else’s. I’m going to banish the guilt of putting myself first on those days when I am blessedly child free and seize the opportunities presented to me.

Felicity Moore has been a journalist for 15 years and is currently a sub-editor for News Ltd. She writes an opinionated blog at Moore4mums.com and hopes sanity is not a prerequisite for successful motherhood.

Do you struggle with putting yourself before others?

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