As A Mom, I Look For Sympathy But Instead Get Judged
Iâ€™ve never been very good at internalizing my problems. My way is more like grabbing the first person I see and launching into a diatribe. â€œYou wouldnâ€™t believe what just happened to me,â€ is how it usually starts. To put it mildly, I wear my feelings on my sleeve.
Having children has changed that not a jot. By the time my first daughter was a month old, Iâ€™m pretty sure I was known in my circle as The Venter. And venting doesnâ€™t always go over particularly well â€“ especially in the UK, where people are more prone to the stiff upper lip. The most common responses to my exasperation â€“ whether about coping when my partner is out of town for weeks on end or staying alert when my two-under-two were both up every night â€“Â all went: â€œYou just get on with it.â€ People here just get on with things.
Was it good advice? Probably. But that doesnâ€™t mean I had to like it. And itâ€™s not a surprise that, years later, Iâ€™m still not happy with the responses Iâ€™m seeking when I rant about parenthood. My even keeled husband is the worst culprit. He addresses toddler tantrums with grace, attends to waking children with a magical blend of coolness and concern. He has never understood my emotional fluctuations as a mother â€“ even as a mother without her beloved eight hours sleep. His standard response to my parenting concerns is sarcasm â€“ â€œPerhaps this is something you should really worry aboutâ€ â€“Â and a roll of the eyes. Now thereâ€™s a conversation-ender.
Fellow moms at the school are equally frustrating, but in a different way. â€œOh, little Henry never wakes in the night,â€ Iâ€™ll hear in response to my nighttime woes. â€œYour daughter is still in diapers?â€ is another gem â€“ only here they say â€œnappies,â€ which makes it sound even less dignified.
At a meeting with the school guidance counsellor to discuss what Iâ€™d presumed was a common childhood phobia, I got this response: â€œYour daughterâ€™s behavior sounds highly unusual.â€ Now Iâ€™d expect a guidance counselor to know better than to challenge the neuroses of a mother. Then again, I seem to be the only mother in the neighbourhood who doesnâ€™t channel Doris Day. Que sera sera!
I know, I know. I should just shut up. But I canâ€™t. I canâ€™t help sharing that niggling quandary with my physician on my way out the door, though I always regret it when he rewards me with a look that suggests Iâ€™ve just unveiled the Elephant Man. Grrr.
I suppose Iâ€™m on a constant quest for understanding, for a human response that says: â€œOh, yes, Iâ€™ve been there. Youâ€™ll be just fine.â€ Thatâ€™s my holy grail. And all signs indicate it will remain just that. The only one who can make things better for me is me.
Though consider this an invitation to weigh in at any time.