Can you smell the shit?

My kid does this thing where he behaves beautifully in public, when we’re in front of other people.

And when we’re at home, or in the car, especially when I’m the only adult around, he’ll completely break down and fall apart.  Worse yet, lately he’s been misbehaving on purpose.  Taking things from his sister, doing the opposite of what I’ve asked, throwing things, etc.

Let me be clear – overall, my kid is very well behaved.  He’s always been quite mellow, a rule follower, compliant, agreeable.  It’s great, he’s great, and I know I’m very lucky.  While I’d love to take all the credit for his amazing disposition, I know that he was just partially born that way, and partially due to my (mostly) awesome parenting (plus the much more patience-filled parenting job his dad does).

What sucks, aside from me having to deal with the breakdowns (unintentional) and the defiant threenager behavior (intentional), is that my mommy friends usually just see compliant, agreeable Dudeman.  This sets up a dynamic where I don’t feel like there’s room for me to complain about my situation.

It’s the little comments and compliments like, “Wow, he’s so well behaved!” or, “I could never imagine D doing something like that!”  There’s a mix of emotions that comes with hearing these.  On one hand, the compliments are very nice and very well received.  There’s a certain amount of mommy pride that comes with the reputation for having The Good Kid.  On the other hand, like I said before, I can’t complain about the bad times and feel like I am being believed because no one ever sees them.  It makes me want to wear a GoPro or one of those police body cams so I can catch D-man in action and then play it for my mommy friends.

See?!  See THAT?!  He was just a total asshole to me! 

I guess I just want to feel accepted.  I want to be part of the club.  I army crawl through the trenches and slog through blood and piss and shit just like y’all.  Even if you don’t see it.

And now that I type this, I find myself laughing on the inside because I’ve always thought of myself as one of those moms who didn’t care if she didn’t look put together.  At least, I care about sleep more than I care about looking put together…because I’m not.  But, with D’s behavior, it’s not like I’m hiding anything.  He’s just more likely to behave when he’s being stimulated and is around other fun people and kids, which is when we’re hanging out with the mom friends.  It’s when we’re alone and sick or bored or tired or hungry that he’s more likely to push my buttons and test boundaries.  Totally normal, I keep reminding myself.  (More than normal, even, because he’s testing me because he is safe and loved with me)  There’s just a part of me that wants to wear some of that blood and piss and shit on my sleeve as proof that I’ve been to war.  Maybe a purple heart would be less smelly.

So obviously I’ve realized that, as a stay at home mom, I want a witness to my suffering and my hard work.  It’s like when you want your boss to say, Great job, Janice! (if your name was Janice. If not, that would just be weird), but you’re doing the kind of work that when it’s done right and done well, no one notices.  This is why, almost every day when my husband gets home from work, I insist on giving him a detailed play-by-play of my entire day.  I need him to hear my struggle, see my pain, congratulate me for getting through it and being such a badass.

And now I’ve come full circle, I’ve realized, to my last post.  Because I feel invisible, the work I do is invisible, and my struggles are also invisible, I find myself searching for witnesses.  Empathy.  Validation.

Can you smell the shit?

 

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Invisibility Cloak

It’s been really hard trying to adjust to life in Oregon.

People have been telling me that it’ll take time.  Like, 2 or 3 years.  You know, to find friends and get used to the rain.

Well, it’s been 3.75 years and I’m still waiting.  Waiting to feel…adjusted.

I’ve moved before and it hasn’t felt like this.  So I’ve been wracking my brain to figure out what is different about this time and this place.

Many things are different: this move is permanent, with no end date in sight.  I didn’t move here for a reason of my own, meaning that we moved here because of my husband’s job and not because of work or school for me.  We don’t have any family close, not anywhere in state.  I moved here 8 weeks pregnant and have been largely housebound raising kids ever since.  The weather suuuuuucks.

But all this I’d been over in my mind, again and again, and nothing felt heavy enough to be such a roadblock.  Perhaps all of them put together is what is blocking my road?

Of course, there’s more.  My life is pretty unrecognizable from what it was 4 years ago.  I was working full time, not yet married, not yet a mom (of two).  I had friends and family.  Hobbies.  A brain.  A life.

Now I feel like I am getting somewhere – that along with grieving the loss of my homeland (via the move), I am grieving the loss of my identity.  Before, I was a therapist.  A partner.  Active, creative, thoughtful.  Productive.  Energetic.  Mobile.  Free.

I look at the clothes hanging in my closet, and I don’t recognize the woman who wore those clothes.  She’s not me, but I kind of remember her, the way one remembers a grandmother who died when you were a child.  I deeply miss her.

I feel like becoming a capitol M-O-M has wiped out any identity I had that doesn’t pertain to my relationship with my kids.  People no longer ask about me, they ask about the kids.  Or they ask about how I am in relation to the kids, as a mom, and not as a person.  (Because moms aren’t people, you guys.)

Edit: To be fair, my momfriends very much DO genuinely ask how I am doing.  It’s just that most often, I’m unable to answer honestly or with much gory detail because of the circumstances (read: kids running around trying to kill themselves).

Make no mistake, I’ve definitely been making an effort to integrate myself into my new life.  This introvert and homebody has forced herself to join a moms club, get to library story times, and go to various playgroups.  I’ve made friends and enjoyed some of what Oregon has to offer.

What finally hit me was something my good friend said to me recently.  I was bitching about how being a mom gets in the way of making good quality friendships because even when my momfriends and I can get together we’re still always chasing after our kids and can’t have a decent conversation.  I can’t remember how the conversation went, but I think I said that my momfriends and I mostly talk about our kids because that’s what we have in common, but we don’t share who we are as people.  And she pointed out that none of the people I am meeting and trying to forge relationships with in Oregon knew me before I had kids.  I just read back what I typed, and I can see how that may not sound so earth-shattering, but it definitely felt that way to me.  Besides my husband and this particular friend, zero people in Oregon knew who I was before children.  There’s been essentially no carryover from my old life to the new one, in every way possible.  Ugh.

As I take this thought and play the tape through in my mind, I’m seeing another layer of difficulty in trying to make new friends: not only do we lack the logistical opportunities as moms, but I am working blind.  I don’t even know who this new me is yet, and no one here knew the old me, and in that sense I feel completely invisible – swallowed up by my children (and then pooped out for me to clean up).