Anonymous Mom: I Almost Called Child Protective Services On Myself

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Anonymous Mom is a weekly column of motherhood confessions, indiscretions, and parental shortcomings selected by Mommyish editors. Under this unanimous byline, readers can share their own stories, secrets, and moments of weakness with complete anonymity.

Before I had my kids, I vowed I would not be one of “those parents” who outsource their children. If I was going to be a stay-at-home-mom, I was going to do it all. I couldn’t comprehend those SAHMs who stayed home AND had help with the kids. Why would I need extra help if I was home? What was the point? Wasn’t that my job?

During the first year of my son’s life, I was proud of myself for sticking with my convictions to go at it alone. My husband was as helpful as he could be, when he was there. Since I wasn’t earning an income, his had to suffice and he was putting in the extra hours to ensure we could maintain our lifestyle. Although our house wasn’t quite as clean as I’d like, I felt my sacrifice paid off: I was super close with my son and he was a happy, healthy and amazing little boy.

When I had my daughter two years later, it was as is we’d entered a whole new world. When I wasn’t breastfeeding my girl, I was playing on the floor with my boy. And when I wasn’t playing with him or feeding her, I was preparing food for the family. Or cleaning the house. Or driving around running errands.

One afternoon, to shake it up a little, I took my kids to the fun-fair near our house.  My son was almost three and it was close enough that we could walk, so we ditched the stroller and set off, my 6-month-old daughter safely ensconced in her carrier. We had a blast, enjoying the petting zoo, kiddie rides, and treats galore. After a couple of hours, I figured we’d leave on a high and told my son it was time to go.

And that’s when it all went to shit.

He threw himself onto the ground and started to scream.  As he convulsed on the grass, it wasn’t long before my daughter got in on the act, wailing at the top of her lungs. Panicked, I bent down and grabbed my son. While he flailed and cried, I held on tight to his arm, essentially frog-marching him out of the park. As we headed towards our house, he continued to scream that I was hurting him. But his complaints fell on deaf ears: I knew I needed to get back to the safe confines of our house, stat. Plus my daughter was now hysterically bawling, gasping for breath, and whipping her hat off in protest.

By the time we reached our place, I finally loosened my grip on my son’s arm. And then I saw it: my badge of shame. My death-grip had left actual fingerprint marks on his skin. Up and down his arms was the evidence of my poor parenting. Instead of letting him ride out his tantrum, I held him so tight I left proof on his arm. I felt sick. We went inside and as I iced his arm, I started to panic. Was I an abusive mom? He flinched as I tried to comfort him. Had I permanently damaged our relationship?

Mortified, I picked up the phone and dialed the Parents’ Help Line. I’d had their number on the fridge for sleep issues and teething questions, but I was now consumed with guilt. Was I an unfit mother?

The woman who answered talked me down. She reassured me that I was neither the first nor the last parent to lose control of her child. The fact that I had actually made the phone call meant that obviously I was not an abusive parent. She also joked that I was lucky I didn’t call Child Protective Services, as I surely would’ve lost custody over what was, in retrospect, a one-off. The most important words she did say, however, were to get help. Not psychological help, but real, hands-on physical help. Whether with the cleaning or the childcare, I was clearly in over my head. I’d always heard the saying “it takes a village to raise a child.” But it took a handful of red welts on a toddler’s arm to make me believe it.

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