My brain likes to tell me that I should never have had kids.  It is lying.  I do not regret having my lovely kiddos, but my brain constantly finds ways to insist I am a terrible mother that is setting my children up for a lifetime of troubles.  Some background:  I just arrived back in Singapore less than 24 hours ago, after yet another harrowing, delay filled, three airplane journey of 30+ hours.  I am extremely exhausted.  But I am back “at work,” bright and early this morning.

Why?

Because I cannot stomach the thought of being at home right now with my helper and my kids, as they are a sort of reminder that I am failing as a mother, untrue as that may be.

I am the type to mentally fall prey to every negative message out there—I am like a blame magnet, taking it all on until I resemble a donkey moving a caravan of nomads from one place to another.  But no one can see this from the outside.  The hubs has been frustrated with me of late, saying that I play the victim too much.  That got me thinking.  I suppose I do feel victimized to some extent, attacked by my critical inner voice day and night, year after year.  I know it is my own fault, but I often feel powerless to escape it.

I was just reading an article about shame that I plucked from Experience Life Magazine back in October of 2013.  It resonated with me big time.  I have felt shame for most of my life, resulting in thoughts of suicide as early as grade 6 that only abated after having my daughter, as I decided I would never abandon her like that.  I started cutting in college to deal with internal, emotional pain.  Ha, I even felt like a fraud about cutting, as I had read about people who do it and gave it a try.  My inner voice told me I wasn’t a real cutter, as I didn’t come up with the idea myself authentically.

I am writing this for three reasons:

  • To better understand myself.
  • Bringing dark thoughts into the light often destroys their power.
  • To help others understand me and people like me, that we might be happy and extroverted on the outside masking intense pain on the inside.

The reasons I feel shame are as endless as the napkin supply at McDonald’s, but the most pressing issue for me at the moment has to do with how I spend my days.  I thought I was going to love being a stay at home mother, mostly because the stress I had felt at my job was killing me.  I thought the change of pace would be refreshing.  I have since learned that I am a do-er.  I have an insatiable need to work and create, whether around the house or at work.  This is me; this is what makes me happy.  I know I am driven by shame to be a perfectionist and seek approval outside myself, and I have mostly made peace with this.

What I have not made peace with is the fact that this means I will not be the one raising my kids from 9-5 every day.  My brain tells me I should never have had kids if I wasn’t willing to put in the time to raise them in a very Pinterest-perfect and hands-on way.  Though I technically disagree, the voice never stops.  Though I have a very kind helper (nanny) at home with the kids while I am working, the voice still insist that I suck as my helper could never do what I could for them as their mother.  Every parenting article I read increases the critical burden, as I can’t micromanage my kids’ environment without being there every second.  Lol, even if I could, there is little concrete and double-blind research out there pointing in the perfect direction for every family.  Yet I can’t control my desire to read these books and articles, and I can’t control the voice in my head raging for better parenting skills.  If there is a better way out there, I have to be doing it so I can feel like a good parent and quiet my critical inner voice.

Yet what is a good parent?  Beyond providing food, shelter, and love, it all gets quite confusing.  And maybe that’s the point.  To praise or not to praise, to coddle or to discipline, to structure their time or leave it free, to demand good behavior or let them be their own people—it’s dizzying.  No matter what path I choose, my critical voice will tell me I am doing it wrong, of that I can be sure.

We all know there is no way to do it perfectly—though Internet trolls sure seem to know exactly what is right and wrong.  How many people look back at their own parents and feel like they did a perfect job?  Our respective stories about our parents give us something to bond with our parents about.  They teach us about tolerance and love, without us even realizing it.  At least my neuroticism puts me on track to give my kiddos enough fodder for a decent career in comedy…so maybe that’s a win?

Sigh.  Like most things in life, I know I am technically in control of changing my life by changing how I respond to it.  For me, that needs to start today.  I need to re-read my own post about priorities, edit it for the present moment, and follow it.  I need to force myself to make healthy choices in my life, instead of giving in to the call of self-destructive behavior.  I need to look at the positive things I am doing for my children and let that be enough.

It’s almost laughably self-fulfilling in nature.  My brain tells me I am a bad parent, which causes me to spend all my time figuring how to be a good parent, instead of chilling with the kids in my free time and actually being a good parent.

Here’s to getting my head out of the sand, my heart off my sleeve, and my hands in those of my children.

Jennifer Jasensky is a Dubai resident, United States transplant, former mathematics teacher and dancer/choreographer. She is an outgoing homebody and perpetual idealist whose love of learning knows no bounds. She is most happy enjoying a good book with a plate of kaya toast, runny eggs, and kopi-c peng siew dai, but now that she has moved from
Singapore to Dubai, drinking an iced latte in the ocean is fast becoming her happy place.

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