The nuclear family is not my friend
I have so many posts I would rather write than this one, but I am overcome with desire to pour my heart out instead; to process my hurt and confusion, my bitterness, my anger, and my sadness.
I don't think anyone knew what the nuclear family would really do to families, I mean, it sounds so great on paper! Self-sustaining! Independent! Privacy! But really, it just breaks us up, isolates us and makes maintaining connections of the daily-variety with peers nearly impossible.
It doesn't matter if you're in or out of the house, if you're the main caregiver of children you're doing it alone and mysteriously so. No one sees the machinations of a working mother or a stay at home mom. We don't know what her days and nights are made of. How she balances her needs with those of her family. We are separated from our larger communities on a basic level I'm not so convinced is totally natural and are left to recreate the wheel. Women are essentially robbed of other women and learning from their experiences first hand.
In our current nuclear set up women who leave the house to work are revered as super-women, often trying to do it all and often to their own detriment, and women staying home with children seem to be looked upon with both disdain and an odd kind of admiration for turning down the chance to earn cash. - Oh, how many times I've heard from working mothers, "I could never stay home with my children all day long! I wouldn't know what to do!" As if I somehow have a secret weapon they don't know about it. My only weapon is sheer grit and determination, honestly, and even that is waning in the harsh light of my unhappy reality. [Ed. note: the opening paragraphs were changed to better match my feelings of this particular post. My earlier version wasn't as well connected to my thought process.]
The nuclear family, something right-wing conservatives are trying so desperately to "protect," is eroding our families. This whole "someone leaves the house to make money and the other stays behind and tends to the children and the house" thing or the "both adults leave to make money, check the kids into daycare or school, come home and try to squeeze an entire day's worth of household duties into 3 and a half hours" thing SUCK. They plain S-U-C-K.
There are no helpful aunts and uncles and cousins galore to help tend to things every woman has to take care of. There is no moment where she can engage and talk and recharge while in motion. Everything must keep going. When I am with friends and family with Hollis I let go. I find myself completely disengaging for that 30 minutes or an hour and allow the other adult to relieve me of some of the burden of tending to a small, but extremely busy, tornado. I often wonder what kind of mother they think I am because I will all too happily sit in front of the TV or the computer while they tinker away with the boy.
I know for a fact that Anthony worries that I put Hollis somewhere below priority #1 because what he sees, and all he ever sees, is me taking a step back to relieve myself of the intense pressure and emotion I feel every second of the day when I'm with him. How often does your child EVER leave your mind completely when you're alone with her? Even when she's asleep I bet you go and make sure she's still breathing and snugly covered up. Your ears are trained to find "suspicious" silences, your eyes honed to notice the smallest pinch of the lips that tells you to make her spit something out, your lips finely tuned to the tracest change in body temperature, the pads of your fingertips sensitive to any new cut, bump, or rash.
[I must add here that it BREAKS MY FUCKING HEART to know that Anthony looks on my mothering with even the tiniest sliver of disappointment and skepticism. It's such a volatile topic for me that I feel fangs grow and my irises turning red when he broaches the topic of, "Is this what it's always like with Hollis when I'm not around??" There is literally nothing else he could possibly say to me to get me to shut down so emphatically and completely while simultaneously enraging me. Ever heard of don't poke the bear? Well, this is more like don't poke the starving, sleep-deprived, angry, cannibal bear.]
It is so wholly exhausting to be in charge of someone's life. I finally get it; how to explain it to others. Being alone, fully responsible for another person's life, personality, development, health, growth, and happiness - all while basically directionless and alone - has done me in.
This is what is so singularly hard about being a stay at home mother in a nuclear family. I can't believe it's taken me so long to finally get it. I've felt horribly guilty about finding it so hard because I had no schedule, no one to tell me what to do and when. I was my own boss and I was doing what I loved: raising my son. - And only one son! Not 3 or 4 or 5 kids. I've often wondered if I were busier I might not notice how shriveled up as an individual I've become, but I suppose eventually the shit hits the fan. So why not now?
I can't speak to working mothers' experiences, obviously, but I'm sure it's a shade of this for them as well. Like they can't imagine doing what I do, I can't imagine doing what they do, either: working so hard in an office then having to come home and cook, clean, love, maintain a marriage, a life, sanity, friendships. Jesus Christ. I'm overwhelmed thinking about it.
I hate to bring this up because I feel like such a fucking whiner. Some of you may be nodding your heads thinking, "Yes, she is whining. She's got it so much better than me!" and to you I say that everyone's experience is different and our hard wiring makes everything even more experiential and personal. I even look at myself and think I'm a big baby, but I can't change how this life is affecting me. I've tried.
I am so sick to death that I have to fight for live interaction with other adults. I struggle with it every day as I wander through the hours trying to keep Hollis engaged, happy, stimulated, and loved. Where are the villages of parents and friends I keep hearing about? They're like goddamned Big Foot to me at this point.
How did we let it come to this??
And I ask that question of myself and of society at large. Obviously, it's mostly rhetorical, but seriously. When did it become cool to bend over a barrel like this? And suffer and be lonely and have to sign up for adult interaction on internet websites in the form of a mommy group??
I am a swirling mass of frustration, confusion, and sadness. I wanted this life so badly and now that I have it I am drowning in it. I feel like a massive ingrate and a weakling. I am so awed by the women who have figured out how to make this work for them and humbled when they share their struggles with me. But the nuclear family is still not my friend. If it had a Twitter page I would unfollow it; a Facebook page I'd unfriend it.
Of course I don't say all this without having a plan. I always have a plan. I'm working towards happiness. I really am. Like my last post suggests we do, I am changing things and I do know how to change. I have goals to do some part-time work soon. I made a schedule of activities for me and Hollis next week which fills me with relief to have some structure. I will soon have my husband home again for a full week.
I really wish I could share everything with the Ether, but I can't, I'm afraid of some of it myself, but this is the most I can put out there while still protecting myself. I hope it's enough to pull back the curtains a bit and shine the light on the darker corners of our middle class Western family culture - and even more personally, me. Take me as I am or not at all, I say... thanks again for being here for me.