Monday, May 31, 2010

The Mom Gene

I love my children.  I have no doubt that they love me, that they need me, that I give them the warm embrace of a caring mother.  I want to spend time with them.  I miss them when we are apart.  Despite all of this excellent mothering I do, however, I do not possess the mom gene.

Though this is something I have suspected for quite some time, perhaps from age 11 when our baby golden retriever threw up on my lap on the car ride home from the breeder, I knew for sure when I was having drinks with an old friend recently.  We were talking about kids (other people's kids), and I shared an anecdote about a friend's baby, who was 3 months old at the time.  I visited this friend, and she gave me the baby to hold.  As I held him, I knew.  I knew that I did not want to have any more children.  I knew that, despite having reared two infants successfully into toddlerhood, I would never feel comfortable holding a baby.  I would never coo and ahh like women are supposed to do.  I simply don't have the gene that sparks warm fuzzies when babies are near, the gene that makes me know automatically how to soothe, how to connect, how to relate to any child.

As I shared my story about holding this baby with my friend, she proclaimed, "So you don't have the mom gene either?!?!" I knew in that moment that she was right.  I have two beautiful children that I adore, but I don't have the mom gene.

Luckily, since I do have two children that need to be mothered, I have other genes that make up for my deficiency.  I am efficient, and perhaps it was this gene that enabled me to conceive b/g twins, getting our perfectly balanced family with one pregnancy (which I hated) and one stage of infancy (which I hated nearly as much).  I am good at compartmentalizing, which helps me to keep my stressful professional life away, for the most part, from my mothering duties.  And speaking of duties, I have a nice dose of a guilt gene that keeps me focused on the things that should be done, even when my mothering conflicts with my personal desires for freedom and quiet relaxation.

When I think hard about it, the qualities that make up for being "not-a-naturally-born-mom" are those that have led me to never question, never doubt, never waver from the path of career woman.  And that makes me wonder whether the mom gene is in conflict with the professional desires I face.  Perhaps all career women have a mom gene; but perhaps we feel we need to keep it in check.  Or perhaps, as my friend and I assumed, it really is possible not to have it at all.

As I ponder this question, I will continue to be the best mom I can be to my kids.  I will make them smile, soothe their hurts, and do my best to do the same for my friends' kids.  I will work hard at these tasks because I don't have a mom gene - or it's so far buried that I don't recognize it.  But being the over-achiever I am, I'm sure I can succeed without it.  And I'm sure I'm not the first mom to have done so.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

The Glue that Holds it Together

I'm cranky.  I'm cranky because I'm tired.   I'm tired because I haven't stopped moving and/or thinking in over a month.  Every time I think I'm going to be able to slow down, something else gets dropped on my plate - a stack of graduation folders, a broken dishwasher, an email that needs to be answered.  I was so beat the other day that I was going to sneak a twenty-minute nap while the kids ate lunch with the babysitter.  I handed them off to her as she parked her car on the street and I emptied our car of their backpacks and papers from school.  Before I made it into the house, my son ran the toy stroller into my daughter, who face-planted on the pavers. I spent the twenty minutes playing Dr. Mama, worrying that my mediocre skill with steri-strips would leave my baby permanently scarred and wondering if I should rush her to a real doctor.

Today I had intended to go to the gym, or at least to go for a walk.  I haven't been able to fit it in this past month, and I think the lack of exercise is contributing to my foul mood.  My husband, as he does every weekend, set himself up in his basement gym; I got stuck cleaning the garage alone - unless, of course, you count the helping hands of my 2-year-old son, who my DH dropped in my care. 

There have been many times in the last month that I have wanted to sit and write a blog entry.  Like the day I came home from a long day at work at 10:00 at night and sat on the couch with my "dinner snack" to the sound of crunching, plastic Easter eggs.  "Am I the only one who sees this mess?" I thought.  I had a lot to write about that topic...

And then there was the Wednesday of "hell week", the week I had three professional development workshops plus my classes to plan.  I thought I had made it to hump day, only to find a stack of folders for graduation review in my mailbox at work.  I really wanted to rant about the to-do list that is ever growing in my professional life.

Of course, there was also the day my husband emailed me to tell me the dishwasher was broken.  Or rather, it was the next day, when my babysitter asked me what we had decided to do about the dishwasher as soon as she walked in the door.  Since I hadn't gotten home until after 10PM the night before and my husband was already groggy in bed, we hadn't really had time to resolve the issue, and I didn't have the patience to explain the craziness of our lives to her.  I didn't have the guts to tell her that I had broken down at the breakfast table that morning, crying out of sheer frustration and exhaustion. 

I've been struggling to hold it together lately.  My administrative workload has been increasing steadily, our home has been under construction with endless tasks for us at night and on the weekend, and my son has entered the "why" stage.  He has been testing me, rejecting me, and screaming at both my husband and me.  I'm trying to toe the line, to keep consistent with my discipline, and not to take it personally.  And it's hard.  It's exhausting.  And I'm walking like a zombie, a shell that houses a mother, professor, wife, and all the other selves I am.

The stress has taken it's toll.  I've been fighting pain in my knee, my hip, my shoulder, and my neck for weeks.  I knew that a trip to my chiropractor would help, but I hadn't been able to find the time to make an appointment.  When my fingers started going numb the other day, I figured I had to make the time. While I was on the table, Dr. Jenn told me that she has seen 80 year old women with better spines than mine.  She said, "It's like someone poured Elmer's glue all along you just to hold you together."

Well, that about sums it up.  At least now I know what has been keeping me in one piece - and now I know why my daughter's bottle of glue is nearly empty.  I thought it was just because she loves to glue cotton balls to construction paper, but I guess my sweet girl is really the one who is holding me together!