“Sometimes I feel as if I am going out of my mind and then at other times I feel guilty as if I am not doing enough and I am failing them,” she said with a sad shake of her head.
The ‘them’ referred to are her children. She is married and could be considered by many as living the perfect life.
“It is like I feel proud when my children do well and then they don’t I feel like a failure and question whether I am a good mother,” she said almost sorrowfully.
We were having a casual conversation as acquaintances, and I felt for a moment that she was comfortable sharing those thoughts with me because we were not close. She agreed to talk to me about parenting and to be honest, I thought she was about tell me how good it was, because I always admired how well put together she appeared to be.
“It is like when they are babies and you have to wake up in the night and so on and it is all about feeding and changing diapers and you pray for the day when they become older and more independent. But with that comes other issues you would not think about, you have to always be helping them with school work, taking them here and there and sometimes it becomes frustrating,” she continued.
“Now don’t get me wrong,” she said with a laugh and she held her hands in the air as if to block any thoughts I might be having, “I love my children.”
I nodded in agreement as at that moment I felt she needed to know that I understood perfectly what she was talking about; if I were in her place I would have wanted that assurance.
“There are times I feel like a bad mother, you know, when I feel so good when they are all asleep and the place is quiet or even sometimes when they are out. It is like I am happy to be alone but then I feel guilty when people talk about always being happy to have their children around,” she said.
I said nothing, but I wanted to interject that just maybe those persons were not telling the whole truth. I wanted to say that most women, if not all, knew what she was talking about. At least those who do not have the help of nannies and housekeepers at any rate.
We stood for a while, both lost in our own thoughts.
“You know sometimes I get cold sweat just thinking about how my children will turn out. Could you believe that? Is like people would be looking at me, I don’t even factor in my husband it is like I just feel that it will be my fault,” she said, breaking the silence.
“And then I comfort myself, rightly or wrongly, by thinking if I could turn out good enough with parents like I had—a father was always drinking and a mother who run behind her husband more than looking after her children—then I think my children will be okay,” she said.
“But at other times I just don’t know is like when I try to give my children everything I could I am spoiling them because they can sometimes be so, be so ungrateful,” she said. I noticed that she struggled to say that last word.
“And when I try to discipline them I end up feeling like the bad person. Is like I can’t win because my husband he hardly disciplines, well he is hardly home always working and when he come home he does his own thing and the children don’t really go to him. Then sometimes he come home, and he plays with them so he never disciplining,” she said, the frustration evident on her face.
“It is also confusing. Am I confusing you?” she asked.
I quickly said no and went as far as to say that I understood what she was talking about.
“I never thought parenting was this hard. I always wanted, you know, to have a husband and children and imagined that my children would have been well behaved children who performed well in school. I used to look at other people’s children and say, ‘my children will never be like that,’ you know, in that judgmental kind of way.
“Now I know there are people who must be saying the same things when they see my children and it does not make me feel good. Sometimes I talk to my children and even cry trying to tell them to behave better but is like my words falling on deaf ears. I even question sometimes if they love me because they must see how I am hurting. Why can’t they just behave better?” she questioned, not expecting an answer.
“It’s times like those I feel that I am not a good mother. I know God and I pray for help so why my children can’t just be well behaved? Why the teachers always have to tell me they are disruptive in school? I just yearn for my children to be better behaved,” she said almost pleadingly.
“People would say ‘oh they are just boys, boys will be boys and they would grow out of it’ and I want to scream because I see boys who don’t behave like my boys, so don’t tell me about boys will be boys,” she said a little angrily.
“If I am working hard to send them to school, provide for them and then working at home to ensure they have clean clothes and food to eat why can’t they just try to behave better? Why can’t they just want to make their mommy proud?”
I noticed that she did not say ‘mommy and daddy proud’ but I did not point this out.
“I can feel my body getting old and I know soon my children will be adults. I just don’t want them to punish, let them have careers and so on that is all I want, for them to be productive adults. Of course, I don’t want them to be wife abusers or anything and I want them to be godly,” she added the last part after a long pause.
“Girl, look I think I said enough. Thanks for listening. Like I said, it is all confusing and I guess the most I can do is just pray and keeping on trying harder,” she said.
“I know this is not what you expected but I want to tell you the truth,” she said with a smile that made her the woman I knew; the one who had it all together and not the one who looked confused just a moment ago.
I looked at her and it was as if she was mirroring me because some of the thoughts she expressed were the very ones I have had time and time again. I wanted to tell her that I believed many women have the same fears, but I did not think she wanted to hear that. I got the feeling that she wanted to erase the conversation we had. She did not tell me not to write about it, but I felt she was having second thoughts, so I made a point of assuring her that her identity will remain anonymous.
As we parted, I wondered how many more women like her there were – who appeared to have it all but are just like the rest of us with our fears.