Or maybe it makes more sense to say that everything is normal.
What mom hasn’t had it up to here to here that she is literally the only one who ever scrubs the damn toilet or picks up the damn toy trains or checks to see which damn coupons are about to expire? Why, she asks, am I the default parent responsible at all times for anticipating my family’s needs? For snacks. Orange juice. Towels. Field trip signatures and fresh dollar bills from the Tooth Fairy. One of these things is the straw that breaks the camels back and suddenly you’re yelling. Again. And there’s a part of you that’s incredibly ashamed.
But getting frustrated because your partner comes home every evening and asks what’s for dinner even though you’ve been out of the house and he’s perfectly capable of fixing a meal isn’t outrageous. I’d be more worried to find out that you had been socialized to believe that cleaning up sticky stuff and other people’s shit is your sole purpose.
So you sometimes yell and you sometimes snipe and sometimes you feel kind of mad for no reason other than that you used to dream of becoming an archeologist and now the closest you get is digging through the Duplo blocks for petrified fruit snacks. Who wouldn’t be just a little mad about that?
But maybe that’s not it at all. It’s that everyone around you seem to be taking gentle parenting to the extreme without missing a beat and you’re secretly proud of yourself if you can go a day without raising your voice. Is it your kids, is it you, or could it be that very few people in your life will be ever brave enough to share that they, too, have struggled with their tempers or still do? And who wouldn’t! Kids push and they push and they push and they know just what buttons will drive you bananas.
You swear to God you had a plan once upon a time. A five year plan for the career your kids interrupted and while you wouldn’t give them up for a million billion bucks, you’re just a little tired of doing itsy-bitsy spider for the hundredth time in a day. And you had a plan for this morning, which was going to involve a nice game of Candy Land and then talk about fractions but instead involved a lot of screaming and a cracked iPad screen. You work, but you hate it. You stay home but long for a job. Or you love what you do but you feel so fucking guilty because Newsweek or the Atlantic or someone on the Mothering.com forums told you that you should.
Then there are questions like: Why won’t your toddler put on his shoes without a battle? How is everyone else making gluten-free paleo pancakes when you can barely manage Bisquick? Is your living room Instagram-worthy? Are your kids Pinterest-worthy?
And worse, the questions like: Where is the me I used to be? Is she in here somewhere lost among the wadded up tissues and unwrapped lollipops bouncing around at the bottom of this stained diaper bag? Is it normal to feel how I feel?
There are probably times when you want nothing more than to grab your keys, get in your car, and run like hell away from your family, that is normal, too. Sometimes kids can be real jerks. Sometimes partners can be really touchy. And sometimes you’d give almost anything to have ten solid minutes during which you weren’t being literally touched.
I’m much more surprised when I meet someone who claims to adore each and every minute she spends with her family, twenty-four hours a day and seven days a week. I love my kids and I love my husband but we are four people crammed together in a house that is ridiculously tiny by modern American standards and two isn’t the most gracious age. Neither is five or even thirty-five, judging by my own behavior.
That is family life. That is motherhood. Yes, you signed up willingly to put in your 18 years to life with these people but that doesn’t mean you have to love every miserable minute. Asking yourself “What the hell am I even doing?” is normal. Your experience of motherhood is normal and valid and real because it is yours and you are a mother. But it’s hard to believe that in a culture that puts motherhood on a pedestal while simultaneously deriding the actual human experience of being a mom at every opportunity.
So if you can’t believe that, believe this… you may never be able to really accept that you are normal. That all the chaos and the confusion is okay. But in the end what matters isn’t being normal anyway, rather it’s being a part of something bigger. Mama, I promise you that you are and so am I, and together we are better than any illusion of perfect motherhood you can find in the pages of a magazine. And I’ll take that over normal any day of the week.