Falling off the Path

I read a post this morning by JJ at Gaining Balance about her relationship with her father. She told how as a teenager she overheard her parents arguing, during which her father told her mother he felt trapped, and that this was not the life he wanted. My heart went out to her, because I understand firsthand how badly angry words yelled in the heat of the moment can scar a child’s self-esteem. Whether or not he meant it to be about his children, hearing it caused her a lot of pain, and I hurt for her on that. On that same post, Oh, the Joys left a comment how she does feel trapped sometimes, and feels like just running away. This hit a nerve with me, and I felt compelled to bring it here.

I remember one day about a year ago, my kids were having a bad day. Not an unusual thing here, but it was coinciding with and escalating my own bad day, and any mom can tell you that’s just a recipe for disaster. The worse they acted the worse I felt, and before I knew it I had a complete and total meltdown. If there had been any chance or way of leaving at that particular moment without my children getting hurt or being left alone, I probably would have done it. But there wasn’t. Instead I turned on a dvd for the kids, went into my room, and locked the door. From there I went into my bathroom and locked that door too. I sat on the floor and cried like the world was ending. I couldn’t take it anymore, and I just. wanted. out. This was not the life I signed up for.

It sounds horrible doesn’t it? Or does it, really? What mother out there hasn’t at some point felt so completely overwhelmed and unsure of herself, she wonders if maybe she’s made a mistake? A rare one to be sure. I think we all hit that rock bottom of motherhood once in awhile. Being a parent is not something that is taught to you so much as it is on the job training. Imagine putting a scalpel in the hand of a med school student on their 1st day of class and telling them they now must do brain surgery, and they are fully responsible for the life of that patient. It would never happen. Yet being responsible for the life, the welfare, the raising of a child is no less difficult, and the best we can hope for is a recommendation on the right parenting book to read. The stakes are high, and we think we should go through this will perfect grace and never falter from the path of perfect parenthood. We have that image in our heads of what parenting *should* be like, and we are shocked and confused when the Baby Story life scenes are not what we experience. In that regard having kids is the worst kind of bait and switch.

I did eventually come out of the bathroom that day after a long talk with a good friend. Sometimes it takes reaching out like that to get us back on level ground. I felt a little better, although convinced then I was the worst mother in the world. Yet another way blogging has helped me, I’ve since read other stories of mothers who have bottomed out that way, and come to understand it doesn’t make me a terrible mother. If anything it’s made me more aware of the pressures I put on myself, and made me understand my own limitations. I can now recognize it’s time to spend a few minutes alone, or call a friend, or get out of the house. Whatever it takes to get myself back in the right mindset and back on track to be the good mom I know I am, even if I make mistakes along the way.

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26 thoughts on “Falling off the Path

  1. You so totally rock!

    As you know, blogging- today for example, has taught me that feeling ‘trapped’ or ‘stuck’ is normal and most moms (and dads) feel that way sometimes.

    And it’s okay.

    As a kid, I thought it was my fault. As an adult I know it wasn’t, but I still feel unresolved issues due to the constant feeling that my parents/dad wished they were somewhere else instead of there with me.

    I try very hard to be a parent who is there with her child…But some days I wish to run away and hide…even for just a few hours. I’d always come back. Because honestly, there’s no place I’d rather be than with my daughter…

    Blogging today, (again) has taught me that I am not alone.

    Thank you Sara, for helping me see that I am not alone.

    And to all the commenters out there…You mean more than you know. Your positive feedback helps to resolve thoughts and ideas that would go unnoticed if it weren’t for blogging!



  2. My father disowned me when I was 11, because I became a diabetic. I still think today, 20+ years later that the embarrassment of having a diabetic daughter ate away at him & was the first step towards him leaving to be with his girlfriend.
    In hindsight the marriage was over well before this but even though my mum is now happier than ever I still feel guilty & to blame & I think I always will.


  3. For me it’s at the end of a long day when I feel like I can’t take one more thing. I just need a moment to myself. And I don’t always get that. We’ve all been there. It’s about time we start owning up to it too.


  4. I think we all have days we’d rather not re-live or days we know we weren’t at our best or even slightly below our “worst.”

    I always hate it when people say “parenting is hard.” It’s not hard. It’s exhausting. It’s trying. It’s, at times, monotonous. But it’s also like nothing else. And I wouldn’t trade any of the bad days because they make the “average” seem great on top of them. And there have been many “average” days that seem great!

    I don’t think I’ve ever felt “trapped” yet I have felt “tied down” — is that the same thing? I don’t know.

    Thanks for the post. It does help to know we are not alone.


  5. That was very well said.

    I remember when my kids were much younger, there were many, many times that I wanted to get in my car and drive and keep driving until I didn’t know where I was (that way I couldn’t go back). Obviously, I didn’t and now that my kids are older, I would never even think about doing that again. Toddlerism is just training for teenagerism.


  6. We all have those days. Every one of us. There really is no way to know what you’re getting into until you’re deep into it though is there? And so many days I think to myself “wait a minute, this is not, not, not what I signed up for!”)

    A friend of mine is in the process “trying” to get pregnant so we’ve talked a lot about parenting and motherhood lately. I would love to be able to explain to her about how it’s not always going to be this wonderful, romantic experience without scaring the living shit out of her and just sounding like a total downer. There are no words, though so I have resolved I will wait until she is knee deep in it and let her know that I am there for her when the time comes.


  7. I absolutely believe that many of us have days quite like this. More than we would like to admit. In fact, more of us than would like to admit it. Mothers and fathers alike.

    I don’t believe that it is a reflection on our parenting or our love for our children, but rather an echo of who we were before we were parents. We were individuals, tied to nothing so strong as we are now to our children. They change everything. And yes, sometimes we find ourselves startled by some of those changes, even when we are quite confident that we would not change our lives for all of the world.

    I could write so much about this, but instead I’m just going to thank you for reaching out to JJ and exploring this more. I’m off to read JJ’s post now and write a mini-blog entry in her comments.


  8. When I first moved to Washington state, an aeon ago, I had one toddler and was about to get pregnant with my second. We moved to what I consider a “small” town. I started taking Mommy and Me classes at the local tech school and they SAVED me. There were other moms there who got that sometimes you’ve had enough of the “mommything” for a half-hour! They never got my sense of humor, but they got the basics and that is what mattered then. We all lose it. I don’t care what age your kids are, whether you work outside the house or not, or go to college, we ALL lose it. No one was admitting that back in the early 90’s. If I hadn’t had the phone and my mother’s number I would have ax-murdered all of us!!!!! 😯


  9. Isn’t it funny how we women are? I’m not excluding the guys altogether, but we are such emotional people and NEED to seek out others to help us through these hard times.

    I have been a mom for just over 12 years. I have had more of those types of days than I care to admit. Parenting is definitely overwhelming!

    When my two older ones were young, I remember putting them in front of a movie and going into my bedroom and crying until I couldn’t cry anymore. This is a safe and sane thing to do. If you can’t eke out that little bit of time for yourself to have that emotional release, you may just blow at some inappropriate time.

    The blogosphere is wonderful – you can find friends and people who are feeling the same way that you are.

    Keep up the great posting!


  10. I had one of those moments yesterday and blogged about it. It felt awful to want to just leave my kids on someone’s doorstep. But you’re right, we do all go through those periods sometimes.


  11. Thank you for sharing such an eloquent summary of what so many mommies go through. I loved your surgeon analogy. In our house we joke about the fact that you need a license to catch a fish, but any old fool (including me) can have a baby! (And there’s no such thing as “catch and release”) I agree with many of the comments that express the sentiment that those moments are completely natural in the process of parenting, and are not a reflection of someone’s skills or capabilities. I’d be more worried about the stepford mom who smiles through it all – that’s just not human.
    I’m fairly new to blogging, but I appreciate the outlet it’s given me to share my musings, and see my both my woes and triumphs reflected in the writings of other moms.


  12. I would say that a parent who never feels this way, who never feels like they aren’t up for the job, or never longs for the days before the 24/7 job of raising children came into their life is probably not someone that I would like to know. It just means that you are putting everything that you can into being the best parent that you can be, that is why it is exhausting. Any job well done is exhausting and fraught with peril.


  13. Oh girl, if I had a nickel for everytime I wanted to run away I’d be a rich woman. Instead, I arrange girls nights out, go out of town to blogHer and get babysitters just so I can free time.

    In a way, we *are* all trapped… it’s just a matter of making sure there are enough air holes in our collective jars.


  14. Aint it the truth–I remember so MANY times feeling that way, especially after I became a stepmom.

    “What the HELL did I get myself into, and how the hell do I get out of it?” I would ask myself through the sobbing and the tears.

    Well written, as is JJ’s post. Both make me take pause and totally appreciate knowing I’m not alone.


  15. I have been feeling on the edge of one of those melt downs for a few weeks now. I no longer feel like a bad parent when it happens. I am human and sometimes, it feels like everything in the world is being thrown at you at one moment. How could you not melt down.

    But I am waiting for school to start on Monday and I know there will be relief.


  16. I’ve had several rock bottom moments in my parenting career and absolutely fantasize about a whole different life. It’s very true that it’s good to recognize your limits, not compare yourself to others (who may have greater limits), and get help! My doctor once told me that he feels humans are not meant to live in the isolation we live in today and that we would thrive if we lived together in tribes, with our extended families and friends. I think he’s got a good point. No one (or maybe even two) parent(s) can take on the awesome task of raising a human being alone. It’s just too much, IMO.


  17. You will have to forgive me…as I am a little slow on the uptake! I read Janet’s post and commented something along these lines…..something like I should watch what I say when my kids might hear……I just now put two and two together about the other comments!

    I loved this post and I can completely relate! I am glad to know I am not the only one who has occasionally had these feelings!


  18. I was almost at this point yesterday evening but caught myself before it got worse. However, I did yell and I feel horrible for it now. I dont think there is a parent in the world that hasn’t felt this way unless of course they’ve never spent any time with their children. I just wish I had family close by when these feelings come up so that I can say HERE TAKE THE KIDS I’m going crazy!


  19. Thank you for that post. I wish I had read it yesterday when I had a rock bottom moment. I’m ashamed of the way I acted, yet I posted about it. I think I wanted some confirmation that I couldn’t possibly be the only one.


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