The Lies Moms Tell

I am being held captive, trapped by a tyrant.  He demands that I do as he wishes.  If I don’t, if I try to assert my independence, act as a free person, he explodes with rage.  He screams, kicks, and wails.  I try to outlast him but his will is stronger than mine.  Sometimes I try to sneak away while he is sleeping.  I hold my breath as I slip my arm out from underneath him.  I inch my body away from his, placing a pillow in between us as a decoy.  I ease myself up and away, never taking my eye off of his sleeping body.  I stand frozen, shocked by my sudden freedom, and am elated.  I dance silently out of the room.  I am free!  In my jubilation I throw open the fridge door with too much gusto, anxious to find sustenance, and I hear the high pitched scream of outrage from the next room.  I hang my head in defeat. He has discovered my escape.  For a moment I consider ignoring his cries, but inevitably I give in and return to my place on the couch.Image

This is the scenario I go through every day since Benjamin was born five months ago. Benjamin only sleeps if I am his mattress and I have to nurse him so often during the night I’ve stopped bothering to put my boobs away (much to my almost five-year-old’s horror).  But when people ask, I lie.  I say he sleeps great, that he is an easy baby.  Sometimes I lie because it’s easier.  And sometimes I lie because to admit the truth would be to admit my own shortcomings.  I can’t get my kid to sleep in a crib. I suck as a mom.             

  A quick google search of infants and sleep done out of desperation seemed to confirm this fear.   Each forum was filled with posts from moms complaining that their babies slept like they were under sedation, and reading this made me feel even worse. I wanted to find one of these moms with a baby that sleeps ten hours at night and takes two three-hour-long naps during the day and explain to her that what she had is what I call a high-end problem.  Complaining about a baby that sleeps too much is like complaining that your Mercedes is too fast or your four carat diamond ring is too shiny. 

After my initial jealousy and sleep-deprived rage, I began to feel like a failure, like Benni’s inability to separate from me was something I created.  Could I really have ruined him by attending to his needs too quickly as some websites suggested?  Were everyone else’s babies really sitting contentedly in bouncy chairs, sleeping away the day in cribs while mine transforms into a screaming ball of fury the moment his butt hits the baby swing seat?  And then I had another thought: maybe these moms were lying too.  Could they be putting on the happy face of motherhood to fend off the judgments of others?

 It’s not surprising that moms lie.  Just look at the recent brouhaha started by Time magazine over attachment parenting.  Mothering is hard and it is only made harder when the rest of the world judges how it’s done.  Somehow, in this woman-negative culture, it isn’t good enough that we love and raise our children the best we know how, we are seen as failures if our children don’t conform to unrealistic standards of what is “normal” or we choose to mother in a nontraditional way.  And so we tell lies to avoid the scorn.   I know I am guilty of telling mommy lies.  It is easier at the time to just say great, everything is great and easy and perfect when people ask about the baby.  But now I am beginning to realize that these lies not only make moms feel like failures, they also create an illusion of motherhood that doesn’t resemble reality.

                So here is the truth: my baby only naps if my nipple is in his mouth and I don’t move or breathe too loudly.  I let David have potato chips and chocolate milk for breakfast because I was too tired the night before to go to the store and there was nothing else in the house to eat.  On the all too rare occasions that Benjamin does fall asleep on his own, I usually spend that time catching up on Us Weekly headlines and playing Words With Friends rather than wash dishes or fold laundry.  While playing a Jonah and the Whale video game during a play-date, David yelled out “God damn it!” when his turn ended.  I laughed and said he must have heard it on TV.  He did not hear it on TV. 

                It’s freeing to admit that things aren’t easy, that my parenting style is more survival-mom than tiger-mom.  Go ahead, try it.  Confess your mommy lies and share your less than stellar moments in parenting.  I promise not to judge.

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12 thoughts on “The Lies Moms Tell

  1. My little man only slept on me or right beside me for the first 13 months. Dishes only got washed once a week when the sink was overflowing, and we didn’t have any cleans ones. I rarely made dinner and clean laundry was just stacked on the chair in our bedroom.

    I know it seems hard to imagine right now, but Benjamin will one day sleep in his own bed. Cherish those sweet baby snuggles and know that’s it’s okay to be frustrated that he always wants to sleep on you. You aren’t a failed parent if your child isn’t sleeping through the night at six weeks in his/her own room. Benjamin loves you and feels secure next to you. You’re exactly the mom he needs.

  2. I have so many so called “parenting fails” I don’t even know where to begin…Know this Jamie! You should never ever ever ever ever ever believe yourself to be a failure as a mother. You are the most incredible person and loving mother that I know. You are so nurturing, patient, and kind (did I mention patient!?!) and why you have been blessed with children who need YOU! No one else would do.

    • Sharon you’re the one who saved my ass in those first weeks of David’s life. You’re the one who taught me to point the willy down if you don’t want leaky diapers and the magic of butt patting. Thanks for being a faithful reader and supporter of my work.

  3. My mommie lies could go for ages. As I type this out, on my phone, sitting at the dining room table, my 1 year old sits screaming in his high chair because he threw all his cherios on the floor and I’m ignoring him..dad just came home and he screams like I’ve tortured HIM. I’m exhausted. I’ve been up since 3:30 this morning (I work a 4-12:30 shift) I haven’t done dishes today, I didn’t take a shower today because I was so tired. I let my daughters ages 6 & 8, make P,B&J, top ramen or cereal for dinner for themselves so I can pretend that I am going to the bathroom for a few minutes of silence. My son picked up scabies at daycare…I told all our friends he had a skin infection & we had to “treat everyone to prevent him from being reinfection” when the truth was, we had to treat ourselves to keep US from getting it. The laundry…oh God the laundry! Its never ending & I hide it in the garage. I could go on, but dad wants to spend some time with me…&…I suppose I should tackle some of the laundry piling up in the bedroom that need to be folded & put away…maybe….

  4. Jammie, I would tell you all my lies but I can’t remember them!!!!! But I do know that you are one of the Best Mothers I know!!!! Don’t ever think you are doing it wrong,because there is no one way to be a mom! Listen to your heart and your mom. She did a Great job with you. YOU WIN THE BEST MOMMY AWARD!!!!!! xoxoxoxox

    • Thanks Susie! That means so much coming from you, my second mother. I’m trying to figure out a way to pay for a trip home this summer so you all can meet my little ball of terror.

  5. I actually don’t bother to lie. Bowen didn’t sleep off of me for the 1st 3 months. I wore him in the moby all day and slept with him all night. He finally started napping alone in our bed if I would nurse him down, which takes anywhere from 30-60 minutes and then I could sneak away for a while. He’s almost 21 months and still sleeps with us. On a good day, he’ll take a 3 hour nap, but that doesn’t mean that I get 3 hours of freedom. I still have to go in there at least every hour to nurse him back down until he’s ready to actually get up. I end up going to bed with him every night because it takes so long to get him to sleep. By the time he’s asleep, so am I! I just accept it because I don’t have another child to take care of (other than my man-child husband) and I’m not currently working or going to school. I can’t begin to imagine the stress and sleep deprivation I would have suffered if I had anything other to do than just take care of Bowen. But, I do know that eventually he will sleep in his own bed. It’s ready and waiting for him when that day arrives. Eventually he’ll sleep through the night. Yes, he still wakes up to nurse and no I don’t bother to put my boobs away. But, I really do cherish this time of totally closeness and intimacy. I have really listened to my friends and relatives who told me that the childhood years pass by all too quickly. Perhaps it’s because I’m older than many of my friends with children that I realize that time does seem to race by. Anyway, you are absolutely, positively NOT a failure as a mom. You are an amazing woman, mother, wife and friend. Thank you so much for sharing your writing.

  6. oh my, this post made me laugh! i love your honesty. i’m not a mom, but i remember my mom raising my three younger siblings and– although words with friends didn’t exist then– she would spend her precious spare minutes leafing through better homes and gardens or reading a novel. and that’s how i learned to do my own laundry haha! you’re allowed to relax when you can, you’re allowed to serve chips for breakfast, and you’re allowed to lie! because that’s everyone’s world too 🙂 well, at least the people who don’t get to complain about their servants being too slow or their carpet being too thick. hehe!

    • Thanks Jenna! I find being honest on my blog way easier than being honest in person. Maybe because I don’t have to see the looks of horror on people’s faces when I write about my cussing, chocolate milk fueled son.

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