Consumption: Feeling consumed by motherhood

Today, we have a guest post from our co-ordinator Katherine. Many thanks to her for sharing her writing with us!

When I had my second child, I felt like I had been swallowed up by a big black hole. Everything fell in with me, and I pulled everyone in as well. I couldn’t grasp for a life rope either, as that had fallen in there too.

The heaviness of my responsibilities was massive. I couldn’t even see how considerable it was until I was well again. I took every battle and decided to give it my all, even when my resources were nothing. I felt like a wrung sponge for a very long time. I also felt consumed by the needs of everyone around me, and I was left completely unnourished by people who I thought would help.

The biggest reason they didn’t help was that they had no idea I was suffering. I didn’t even realise either.

I thought being a good mum was being someone who fulfilled and reacted to everyone else’s needs, so when I struggled, I felt like a failure. I was overwhelmed by the daily chores and then when an additional request was made, I completely unravelled. My little boy was a hungry baby and I was breastfeeding, and at times I did feel like he was eating me, some days were unrelenting and I also had a toddler to entertain. I felt so guilty for turning to the TV to keep her entertained during the cluster feeding hours. I also felt I should also be a good wife, but completely failed because I just didn’t have any more to give. No conversation, no intimacy.

Thankfully, I did get better and the depression has gone now (hopefully to never return), but there are still times when I feel completely consumed by motherhood.

I am the most popular person in my house. Hands down, no one else comes even close. They have voted on it. My embrace is the only one which can make anything better, the only opinion that matters and the only viewpoint (at the moment anyway). They seek my approval for their choices daily, including what to wear, eat, watch, and play, and whilst I find this amusing and endearing, I also feel smothered by it.

I try to rebel against their neediness occasionally, but this seems to drive everyone wild. How dare I be unavailable?

My favourite imposition so far is that both my children insist we share a toothbrush holder. They have their own, but it does not compare to mine. I’ve actually asked them why they can’t use their own and they have lots of different answers, but my favourite is that “yours must be the best, Mummy.” So there we are, owner of the best toothbrush holder. I smile every time I see one of them has sneaked their toothbrush back next to mine.

My bed is also the best in the house. I’ve never had so many people beg to sleep with me: where was this when I was in my 20s? Every night I have the same conversation: no, I would like to sleep in my bed with Daddy. I laughed for a long time when my daughter asked, “How come Daddy is so lucky that he gets to sleep with you?” I felt like a rock star. But sometimes I would like to sleep alone, and that is certainly not allowed. If the other half is away, I must have a chaperone in my slumber, one that kicks me in the face.

Is my resisting the tide of motherhood what is making it so hard? Perhaps if I succumbed to it all my sense of self would be completely washed away and I would no longer miss just being me, singular. I don’t think future me would be very impressed, and present me isn’t too keen either.

I also felt consumed as my role as a wife after having children. My husband and I were everything to each other BC (Before Children) and now I feel guilty for not even thinking of him. Our fire alarm went off one night (false alarm), but I didn’t even realise he wasn’t with us until I was outside with both the children; he hadn’t woken up, and I didn’t even consider him. I confessed in the morning and he did laugh. I had bigger things to worry about, he said. But I also resent the intimacy he wants. After being everything to everyone all day, could I just not be demanded of once again? Yeah, it’s great while it’s happening, but the clean up after is just another chore and I’m tired. Why do all the bodily fluids ultimately fall to me to sort out?

I know things will change: that is actually what I like about motherhood, the inevitable change it brings. Like them, it doesn’t stand still. Humour is where I find the way to cope with it.

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