This is what my client Didi told me yesterday. After she said, “I do not like being a mother,” she said, “I never did and I feel really guilty. When my son was a year old someone said, ‘How do you like being a mom?’ with a big, assuming smile on his face and I wanted to say, ‘I don’t,’ but instead I said ‘It is great.' In that moment I was scared that I was feeling the way I was feeling."
Didi is worried that she is not cut out for the job of motherhood. The crying makes her tense. The tedium makes her depressed. The serving and the slaving and the getting the meal on the table are deadening and she feels resentful. She did suffer from a postpartum depression that but that was eight years ago.
"What I cannot figure out,” says Didi, “is why or how this is supposed to be enjoyable. It makes no sense that you spend your life trying to get them to brush their teeth, pick up their clothes, do their homework, practice, get out of bed and stop fighting when this is simply not what they want to do. My son has oppositional defiant disorder and he hits me and says he hates me. What am I supposed to do, say, ‘Yes honey, I understand. You must be very frustrated.’ He is a tour de force. I am no match for his personality, his refusals. Fighting with him is exhausting; I would rather be doing almost anything else. What is wrong with me? Am I a bad person? I know I am a bad mother. I could possibly be the worst mother on earth.
Other moms seem happy. They move in groups. They take each other’s kids and drive them around at 9 p.m. It is like they all do it together in this sisterhood, but I just don't want to hang out with them. Not that I could, there is this cliquey-ness and this superficial friendliness that is confusing. I don't feel like one of them.
But maybe that is the secret. You have to be in a mother sorority to make it and to have fun and support. My problem is that I feel lonelier being in a group of people who aren't like me than I do being alone.
I stay home. I wanted to. I made that choice because my mom did, and I thought it was the right thing to do, for them, for me, even for her. She comes over to help. I left my job. I was a lawyer when they were born because I believed in making a home. Dinner at 6. Polished furniture and homemade cupcakes and excellent learning-experience vacations. With other families sometimes. I went back to knitting and began a knitting club, I teach cross stitch and my husband went back to the firm where we both were, where we met.
Something is not working.
You know, I hide what I do. Sitting alone in my car crying, taking a nap but not being able to relax, surfing the internet for stupid stuff, spying on other people's lives and feeling envious because they have a nicer house, better friends. Better style. This is screwed up. What was supposed to happen? I do adore my children so why do I feel they destroyed my life? Or me?
I feel guilty just telling you this. You need to go ahead and fire me as a patient. The thing is that I look at moms that work and I see their stress—the stress of being someone and doing something that matters ... that matters outside the home. Because the home matters. What matters more? But I read that working women, working outside the home, are less depressed. I am not even going to bring up the Feminine Mystique. I read it, not all of it. It was reissued recently. Here is the answer. There is no answer.
Maybe it is not about A Room of One’s Own but Time of One’s Own ... I could use an hour to do nothing. Alone. An hour of complete silence.”