It’s Not All Mary Poppins

Dirty Little Secrets

I’m reading “I was a Really Good Mom before I had kids“.

It’s an entertaining read, and I have lots and lots of responses to it, none of which you’ve heard about. That’s because I’ve been too busy reading, see. Reading and scribbling down responses. The problem with blogging is that it fits in the same time spot as reading. So, very often, I can do one or the other, but not both. Certainly I can’t do a LOT of one thing and still do the other.

Lately, I’ve been reading. A lot. And it’s been wonderful. Not so good for the blogging, but wonderful for me. Sorry about that. (Well, not really all that sorry. As I say, it’s been wonderful. But here I am back! Aren’t you glad?)

However, “I Was a Really Good Mom” is a good book, and certainly good fodder for this site. (I do worry about all these neurotic, over-achiever moms with the astonishingly low self-esteem, though. Are they really that prevalent? Or is this book marketed to a particularly fragile niche of the mommy world?)

With that caveat in place, it’s an interesting, thought-provoking read. One of the features of the book is a recurring green sidebar titled “Dirty Little Secrets”, and in each is a confession of some small mommy misdemeanour.

Here’s a sampling:

My girlfriends and I decided that 4 p.m. is the “new 5” when it comes to pouring that first glass of wine every day.

(To which I respond: Is there some rule you can’t drink before 5 p.m.? Who knew?)

Some of them are silly. This one made me laugh out loud:

Sometimes I think, “I can’t believe I gave up nine months of drinking for this.”

Been there! I suspect we all have. (Except my Quebecois friends, who tell me that the French advice books allow one glass a day after the first trimester. How about that?)

Some of them made me sad:

I’m continually running away from my children. I love them, but they just drain me. There’s a poof of smoke at 2:30 p.m. when my help arrives and I fly out the door.

I am not thinking “What a terrible mother!” She says she loves her children and I believe her. We all know what a drain our children can be on our energy, our emotions, our selves. But for most of us, the feeling of being depleted is temporary and occasional. We all feel that urgency to flee … once in a while. How sad for her that this seems to be her everyday response to them. However, given that this is her experience, how sane and sensible for her to arrange some mother respite, so she can enjoy them when she’s with them, and also have a daily breather. (And how fortunate she is that she can afford it.)

Some had me nodding along, some I just couldn’t relate to AT ALL. But they’re all honest expressions of other women’s anxieties and “failures”, and as such, valid.

[Total Tangent About to Begin: And then there was the bizarre one. I don’t know what it’s doing in this book at all, because it has nothing to do with mothering. It does make you wonder whether she’s an incredibly (even pathologically) loyal wife, or if she’s an incredibly (even pathologically) repressed one, because she’s got to be one or the other. (One hopes for her husband’s sake she’s not both…)

I have a very vivid, very sexual dream about my contractor. So I fired him.

To which I say, WTF? He loses a contract because your subconscious was lusting after him? Where’s the justice in that? And what’s wrong with lusty dreams? And why on earth, if you find him that attractive, didn’t you just pour yourself that 4 p.m. glass of wine and inconspicuously enjoy the scenery?

That was by far the weirdest one by me. And I still don’t know what it’s doing in this book.

End of Tangent.]

We all have these dirty little secrets. I posted about one of mine here. That was one I really had trouble confessing to. THAT one made me feel like a poor mother at the time, no doubt about it. And, even years later, I feared the judgement of others… because part of me felt it would be warranted. Pretty near everyone has experienced a few of those, I’m sure.

Another, smaller and less significant DLS, formatted to the size of a sidebar, is this:

One day I didn’t strap the two-year-old into his stroller, and when I bumped up over a curb, he flew forward onto the sidewalk. I bent over him and pretended to make sure he was okay (which he was), but really? I was using him as a blind to look around and see if anyone had noticed.

If I were a nervous, low-self-esteem sort, I’d be convinced my response said all sorts of reprehensible things about my priorities as a mother, my ability to love the child, my appalling selfishness. Never mind the first failure of cavalierly endangering my child’s safety by not buckling him in! Which is BAD ENOUGH!!! But then I compound is with total lack of compassion, lack of guilt and sheerest ego???? SURELY I should be worried about the CHILD, not the potential embarrassment to ME!!! What kind of a mother am I???

But I have sturdy self-esteem. I’m a good mother. I didn’t feel like a failure, I felt like a doofus, and I didn’t want anyone to see me being a doofus, thanks so much. But yes, 1) I didn’t buckle him in, 2) I managed to eject him onto the sidewalk, and 3) I was more worried about public embarrassment than my failings as a mother. Ooooooooo….

Okay, now it’s your turn. What are your dirty little secrets?

November 17, 2011 - Posted by | books, parenting | , ,


  1. My first child was a painful and demoralizing learning experience, because I honestly had no idea what months of sleep deprivation and isolation would do to me. He WOULD NOT sleep anywhere but my arms. Not naps, not nighttime, not ever. Not even in the car. He wouldn’t take a pacifier. He wouldn’t suck his own thumb. Unless he had either my nipple or my finger in his mouth, he wouldn’t sleep. I spent the first six months of maternity leave sitting on the couch, watching hours of daytime TV, while he sprawled out on the nursing pillow and drained my soul. Nurse on one side. Fall asleep for 20 minutes. Wake. Nurse on the other side. Fall asleep for 20 more minutes. Repeat.

    My husband worked long hours, my parents were too far away, and the only other adult I saw during the day was my live-in elderly father-in-law who had no real experience of babies.

    One night I just… couldn’t hold that child anymore. No lullabies left to sing. No more strength or will to walk the floor again. No more desire to doze sitting up. I dumped him unceremoniously in his crib. He screamed. I put earplugs in. I could still hear him. I walked around the yard. Back in the house. No good, still screaming. And yup, I broke. Pounded the mattress with both fists and screamed – really screamed – that he just had to fucking sleep already, my god. At that moment for a nickel I’d have walked out the door and never gone back.

    With my second, I knew when that moment was coming, and would always hand the baby off to hubby to take a breather. He wasn’t unwilling with the first; I just felt like the baby was *my* responsibility because I was the one who really wanted kids and hey, I wasn’t working at a Real Job all day and why would I wake hubby from his oblivious slumber when the baby was my task? With my second I had a lot more perspective and realized that hubby’s job was not 24/7 with no breaks. Made all the difference. But wish to god someone I trusted had pointed that out to me before I brought that baby home.

    But you didn’t walk out that door, did you? You went back, and you didn’t kill him. You didn’t even scare him a bit. You went back and you dealt. Because you’re his mother and you love him. Basic as that. Profound as that.

    And even with that in your history, you had a second — and you’re about to have a third! Brave lady. Also one who’s learned some important lessons about parenting, partnership, and limits. Brave, perhaps. Wiser, definitely.

    Comment by Hannah | November 17, 2011 | Reply

  2. My dirty little secret isn’t much different from yours. Baby on the bed, fists pounding the bed, screaming louder than the baby, just so I could hear myself for a change instead of him. Honestly, I didn’t even feel guilty afterwards. I just felt like, damn, that didn’t work either. Kid is still screaming.

    That incident did shift my perspective somehow – I had become as frustrated and strung out as I could possibly get and my baby was still screaming. I was at the end of my rope, but, I found a little more rope and we both got through it.

    Ultimately I feel ok, even pretty good, about what happened that day. To be so completely empty and unable to go on and then find the strength to go on after all when your baby needs you to, that’s the deepest part of parenting.

    My mom left me screaming in my crib once when she couldn’t take it anymore. She walked around the house and came back in. I suspect this has happened with many moms and many babies.

    Comment by Sarah | November 17, 2011 | Reply

  3. My 2nd child would scream for hours. As a 3yo it was still happening and I was exhausted from hearing it. He’d get frustrated at preschool or with a friend and he’d find me and then have a meltdown. Loud and long. One day I pulled out the video camera. I have watched it once. He’s screaming at me to put the camera away. Just screaming out of control. But I tell myself, I wouldn’t notice how much progress he’s made if I hadn’t done that. If he hadn’t been screaming about the camera it would have just been screams about something else anyway.

    I was fed up with his complaining, arguing and whining last week and I did it again. I haven’t watched the video and I may not for a long time. But I hope I’m glad I did it. Hopefully the progress will continue and the two videos together will help me remember and recognize the improvement.

    Comment by My Kids Mom | November 17, 2011 | Reply

  4. to the previous response – that’s awesome. I wish I’d videotaped some of my kid’s meltdowns. How great to look back afterward at how much better things are (and they do get better), and also to feel justifiably proud of yourself of *getting through that*. Because you did. And that’s what matters.

    Comment by nan | November 18, 2011 | Reply

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