You know that scene from Superman 2 when Clark Kent is beaten up by the man in the bar after he’s given up his superpowers to be with Lois Lane? He’s first hit on the back and falls forward through a pane of glass, landing on the floor. He immediately recognizes his vulnerability, then gets up, more determined than ever to face his attacker, but then is punched a couple more times and lands again on the floor. He’s beaten, he’s bloodied, and you see his previously unknown weakness that befalls all mortals. That’s about how I feel right now.
I should first say that Baby B is a fantastic, silly, fun toddler 98% of the time. And The Husband is a wonderful, hands-on, loving, devoted father 98% of the time. But when I’m dealing with that other 2% from both of them — especially at the same time — it leaves me feeling not quite sure how to deal with it.
I’ve felt for quite a while like I’ve had this whole mom thing figured out; I’ve felt like an old pro pretty much since we got past that newborn fog after the first 6 or 8 weeks of her life. Sure, issues come up that I don’t know how to deal with at first, but we figure them out, make our decisions, move on, and learn our lessons from how well or poorly things turned out. But recently I’ve had the feeling like I’ve taken on the cloak of Supermom, and when something goes wrong, everything comes crashing down. I started feeling this way in Indianapolis with a simple thing: We accidentally left Baby B’s bib at a restaurant, and I felt like it was my fault because I’m always the one who remembers to check for things like that. But at the same time, I felt like it shouldn’t always be left up to me to check. Or it surfaces in instances when, come Monday morning, I find that I forgot to wash Baby B’s daycare blanket that we have to bring home on Fridays, and I get frustrated both because it didn’t get done and because I hate that I’m the one who always has to remember to do things like that.
The Husband is fantastic at helping out when I ask for help. If I ask him to fold the laundry, he’ll fold the laundry. If I ask him to pack Baby B’s daycare bag and let him know what to include, he’ll pack the bag. But I’m becoming increasingly frustrated that he rarely takes the initiative to do things like that on his own. From what I can see with other families, this seems to be a general male trait, so maybe I’m ridiculous or naive for thinking things can be different, but I hate feeling like I have to be the only one to remember to do so many of the things that help our days run smoothly. I’ve brought this up with The Husband (several times, in fact), and he’s said he hesitates to take the initiative because he’s afraid I’m going to criticize how he does it, which is a valid point. I’ve asked him to put away the laundry, but then got irritated that he didn’t put the sleepers back in the correct drawer, on top of the other sleepers. So, okay, I’ll give him that, and that’s something I’m trying to work on.
I decided that I need to communicate better, let him know the kinds of things that I do without him even realizing it (because how else is he going to know if I don’t tell him?), let him know how I do those things, then let him figure out the best way for him to do them. But then he’ll wash and fold one load of laundry, act like he hung the moon, then things go back to how they were, with Supermom coming to the rescue yet again.
The big problem is that the man — like many, many men — does. not. listen. Apparently he thinks that I talk just to hear my own voice and not to communicate vital information. So he wants me to let him know the things I do around the house so he can help out more with those daily Supermom things that I take care of, yet he doesn’t listen to half of what I say? How is that supposed to work? I can talk until I lose my voice, but if he’s not listening, nothing is going to change. I can’t win. I’m currently waiting to get an address from him. For his college friends. To send a baby gift to them. That I bought. And wrapped. And wrote the card for. Yeah, I’ve asked for that address at least three times now. Just in the past two days. And you know what that starts to make me feel like? Nagging Wife. And I absolutely hate feeling like Nagging Wife. I hate being put in that position. I have one child; I have no desire to treat my husband like one, too. We’re partners; we’re equals. But I feel like we lose a bit of that when I’m forced to remind him several times, which no matter how kindly I do it, seems to be perceived as nagging by him (not just him; I think most men are like this).
So while I think I have room to improve in this area, I think he does too, and I don’t know how to communicate that any better without seeming like I’m unappreciative of what he does do around here for me and Baby B. But I can’t go on being like Supermom all the time. It’s fine when everything is going well (which it does most of the time, thankfully). But as soon as one link comes out of the chain, the whole things falls apart and I feels incredibly incompetent.
And speaking of feeling incredibly incompetent, all this comes along with a dose of Ornery Toddler. We’ve dealt with typical difficult toddler behavior for a while now, but this weekend Baby B launched things into a completely new realm. At first I thought it was just because she hadn’t napped at daycare on Friday, but she continued the behavior on Saturday afternoon/evening (thankfully not while we were shopping that morning), and for a good part of Sunday. She freaks out disproportionately to whatever is currently frustrating her. This morning it was because we made her come inside from the garage because it was too cold out there. Before dinner it was because we made her stop watching baby videos on YouTube even though she’d been watching them with The Husband for 15 minutes. She cries, she throws herself down, and she’s 100% inconsolable, sometimes for a good half-hour. I’ve got a lot of tricks up my sleeve that have worked in the past, but none of them work when she’s throwing a tantrum of this magnitude. Doing something funny? Don’t think so. Distracting her? Good luck. Ignoring her? She doesn’t even notice.
I can tolerate it for so long, but then something in me snaps and I just have to leave the room immediately because I can’t deal with it. I hate myself during these times because as I’m leaving the room, I’ll say things, not really to anyone in particular, like, “She’s such a brat.” I don’t want to have thoughts like that, let alone say them outloud, and certainly not where Baby B can hear me. And as I mentioned before, she seems to be going through an anti-mom phase right now, and while I know she’s not at the point where she is doing this on purpose to be hurtful to me (there’s plenty of time for that when she’s a teenager), it still comes across as hurtful and it’s hard to accept that she’s acting like that.
This evening I had the pleasure of dealing with all this by myself, as The Husband went to a friend’s house to play a game right before dinner. So I got to deal with her hideous dinnertime antics, which nearly had me pulling out my hair, before doing a storytime that was nearly a complete disaster. (Thankfully bathtime went pretty well, but that was the only thing that did.) I say complete disaster because by the time she was supposed to go into her crib, I’d had enough of her tantrums and her treating me meanly, and I collapsed in the corner crying. No…I was bawling. I haven’t felt that level of frustration since those early newborn days when I really didn’t know what I was doing. I certainly didn’t feel like any kind of Supermom; I felt like all my powers had been stripped away and I was much like Clark Kent in that scene, left crumpled on the floor, beaten up and completely vulnerable.
While I cried, Baby B entertained herself quietly with The Dog, then I began to compose myself but still sat quietly in that corner for another few minutes. I wanted to make sure I was 100% calmed down before going back to her in case she was still pulling her antics. I was also hoping that Baby B might come over to me, wondering what was wrong with Mama. At first she didn’t, which hurt me even more, but then I heard her scooting over and she peeked around the crib at me. I said, “Hi, Baby B. I love you. Mommy needs a hug. Can you give me a hug?” If I’d asked for this any other time this weekend, she would have denied me, without a doubt, but she took the two steps forward and buried herself into my chest, pressing her whole body against mine. I started crying again, gently this time, and repeated over and over: “Baby B, I love you so much. Thank you. I love you so much.” And we sat together on the floor, and I rocked forward and back as she hugged me back, though there was no way she could match how hard I was squeezing her.
I think part of it is that because both Baby B and The Husband are so fantastic 98% of the time, it’s perhaps even harder and more frustrating when we reach those times that are less than ideal. It’s like the fact that I’m fortunate that I don’t have to deal with headaches very often at all, so when I do get a headache, it’s difficult to deal with because it’s not something I’m used to. A headache that would be minor to someone else might feel more major to me because I don’t have as much frame of reference. I feel like it’s the same with Baby B and The Husband, because I really am very, very fortunate they’re both as wonderful as they are most of the time.
Right now I feel like I want to give up and just take the path of least resistance, which is to keep being Supermom, retain all of my mystery duties, and if something is forgotten, then, well, it falls on me. But realistically I know we can’t do it like that, especially whenever Mythical Child #2 comes along and there are even more tasks that need to be done, but I need to figure out how to get The Husband to listen to me with things like this. Even though this seems to be a common male trait, I find it hard to believe that it can’t be overcome. I want to do my part to help delegate some of my mom-only duties (which is a hard thing to do, in a way, to give up that control), but I also need The Husband to do his part, too.
As for Baby B, I don’t have any simple answers. I know this is a stage she’s going through, and I know we just have to weather it the best we can. This might sound bad, but it’s really times like these that I’m very glad that I work during the day and don’t have to deal with this behavior 24/7. It sounds bad, but it helps keep me sane so I can better deal with it (even if I could stand to deal with it differently). I’m also fortunate to get a decent amount of alone time so I don’t have to diffuse every single tantrum. I know she is just going through the necessary steps to become a more independent and self-sufficient person — which is the ultimate goal –and that we have many more battles that loom ahead. And thankfully we have way more fun, memorable moments as a family than we have these types of episodes. I’ll tell you…it makes me want to call my mom right now and apologize for every time I made her feel like a rotten mom, or that she couldn’t do it all. Maybe I just need to keep it in perspective like that and know that we’re doing the best we can. We’re still old pros, just a little less like superheroes.