Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The Pain of Motherhood

"The heart of a mother is a deep abyss at the bottom of which you will always find forgiveness."
French novelist and playwright, Honore de Balzac.

In my last post I wrote about the overwhelming stress I feel because of all the things I have to do before I fly to England next week. I'd like to update you that am feeling much better now, but my 40 inch, 40lb firstborn, Cheeky, has done little to cheer me up.

We are told about the joys of motherhood all the time, but what about the pain? I thought motherhood was tough when he was 15 months old and he was crying as I held his screaming newborn brother in my arms. But, boy I think I was mistaken.

Cheeky and I have hit a wall in our relationship.

The 'terrible twos' have been and gone and his tantrum voice has gained strength with every year passed. Now he is four, and lately, more often than not, I am going to tread on controversial motherhood ground here and admit, that we are not the best of friends.

Honore de Balzac better be right and somewhere in my heart I will find forgiveness, but today my heart has been heavy. Cheeky's put it through the ringer.

Every little thing I've asked him to do has been met with a "NO!" From getting dressed, to brushing teeth, to eating breakfast to getting in the car, to getting out of the car. Walking across the parking lot to school was a full blown hurricane of a tantrum, culminating with me being told to "Go away!" as I tried to kiss him goodbye at the classroom door.

I hurried back to the car to have a good cry.

Even his favourite milk drink and snack I had ready for him when school ended, was met with a sullen response and shouting when I refused to play a DVD for him to watch in the car.

The tears once again pricked at my eyes.

Then there was this afternoon's playdate at his favourite indoor playcentre.

I sat there feel ashamed he was my son as he shouted at his friends, bossed them about and threw tantrum after tantrum when the games didn't go his way.

I've lost count of the times I've apologised to my friends for his behaviour and listened as they've told me, "Don't worry - all kids are like that sometimes."

But that's the point. Sometimes I feel that my eldest is becoming like that all the time. And it's breaking my heart and breaking me down.

I love him. Of course I do. But lately he is pushing me away more than he is coming to me for cuddles. Time after tantrum, day after day, I try to hold him. Try to calm him down. Kill the bad mood with kindness but again and again he throws it all back in my face.

By dinnertime tonight, I wilted and couldn't take anymore. He rejected the food I cooked. (Okay, so I'm not the best cook, but the rest of my family ate it.)He spent most of the meal on and off the naughty step and even my mild mannered husband had had enough. Cheeky was reprimanded big time for speaking badly to both of us and the evening ended with him screaming and fighting his way through bathtime and getting all his Geotrax toys taken away.

Right now, that big pile of clean laundry I've yet to put away, is looking like a great place to hide from him.

I'm sat here, blogging relieved he's finally asleep. That's not right is it? Or is this how we all feel at times?

Before the boys grew into toddlers, and I held them in my arms cooing and covering them in kisses, I couldn't ever imagine not liking them, even for a second. Today, I wonder what emotional hell tomorrow will bring and how I will get through it.

I want our relationship to work. I want that so badly, but I am worried I am messing it all up. What did I do wrong? What happened to my sweet natured little shadow? The little blondie who told me he loves me,"More than Thomas the train." (That's BIG love!)Is this what I'm in for, for the rest of our lives together?

Now, with a trip back to England on the horizon, I am so worried that he will demonstrate this terrible behaviour in front of my friends. Friends who haven't seen him in over two years. Friends who I want to like my child, not recoil in horror.

And there, sitting on the sidelines, soaking up all this drama, is his little brother, Monkey. My sweet quiet but determined 2 1/2 year old, who hangs on his brother's every word. I am praying hard he doesn't copy everything he sees.

Tell me, is it normal not to like your child all of the time?


  1. I remember that phase, I remember when my eldest daughter and I had a particularly cool phase and not in a good way, she had the most sarcastic tone I'd ever heard on a child, she seemed very sly and that was a big no no to me, she was very defiant to me but to Daddy she was a little angel and at times my hand just itched to smack her.

    By contrast, my younger 2 seemed so much easier and biddable. Now at nearly 17 she and I do loads of stuff together and we have a brilliant relationship. She doesn't remember when we had our cold war at all.

    You're a bright woman, you've read the books and watched supernanny, you know what to do, be firm, be consistent, set boundaries and keep to them, reward good behaviour etc etc, I am so pissed off that Jo Frost is raking it in and here am I having been teaching this stuff for feckin decades and not a Prada handbag to my name !

    You will get through this and he won't remember a thing about it, he'll grow up knowing he is loved, because he is, and all the tough times he gave you will be great fodder for your speech at his 21st.

    With love from your auntie


  2. Auntiegwen said it all, maintain the boundaries and keep the love. He's the child, you're the adult, he's asking you to let him know where his boundaries are and checking that you still love him... in the only way a four year old knows how!

    I have one the same age. A girl so she might be easier (not convinced that's always true but it might be :) ) but there are days when I just think: who's child is this? THen the boundaries are tightened, the routine becomes more stringent, negative behaviour is repreimanded but paid little attention and positive behaviour is reinforced with great enthusiasm. THen my little angel is back for a while. Until she needs to check where she stands again.

    It is a stage, most kids go through it, some more so than others, and when it passes he will be secure and confident in himself, and your love!

    Be strong - we've all felt like that!

    PS Sorry to hijack you post like that...

  3. I bet that was really hard for you to write.
    Yes Mom/Mum we all go through that and feel sick for even thinking it.

    My daughter is 3 and is like a feral child. She calls me an idiot, she screams, she yells, she defies every single thing I ask of her and has me walking away because I am so wound up.

    It is bloody hard!

    But you know what they say, it's hard to love the unlovable and I try my best to rise above it every time and treat every day as a new day.
    Totally agree with Auntie G about setting boudaries and sticking to them - however if your Cheeky is anything like my girl most things just don't work. She puts herself on the naughty step or sits and screams on it for half an your solid. Not bothered about stickers. Not bothered about losing a favourite toy.
    The one thing I did find helped was to talk to her like she's a grown up and explain why she shouldn't do it and how much it upsets people and blah blah blah. At the time she's wriggling and hands on ears and doing everything to ignore me, but I know it's going in so I persist!

    Honey, I totally hear you. Don't take the personal stuff to heart, he absolutely doesn't mean it - easier said than done I know.

    Big hugs. x

  4. God, motherhood is tough isn't it? It isn't just you. My Littleboy 1 can be like that some of the time (and like you, I worry that his sweet younger brother is copying him).

    I can't offer a solution, because I haven't got there myself yet, but it sounds as if he's going through some kind of difficult stage...maybe he is frustrated about something, who knows what. Have you talked to the kindergarten teacher to see if he's like that at school? If it's any consolation, I've heard it said that the brightest children are the most difficult ones.

    Hang in there, you sound as if you are doing all the right things.

  5. It is so painful to acknowledge these emotions and it is OK to not like your kids all of the time. My oldest and I have had a tempestuous relationship over the years and it is painful for me to admit this but...he was at his worst when I was at mine. In other words, when I was stressed, or depressed or angry (or all three) he would pick up on it and act out even worse. The girls, seemed easier but I think they would withdraw.

    But, things have calmed down around here a lot in the past few years and my son, now 11, is such a pleasure to be with.

    Do you think his behavior might have something to do with the previous post? Just asking. We've all been there.

  6. @AG - Good to hear you got through your difficult stage with your eldest.
    Your advice is great auntie. I can only hope to achieve the closeness you and eldsest beautiful child have, with Cheeky in our future. He is my world, and that is why I think such 'cold war' (brilliant description AG) is so hard to live through.
    This challenging behaviour of his has been going on for a few weeks, but I am trying to see the light at the end of the tunnel. We set himn the boundaries, we praise him when he's good, just none of what the books tell you and Jo Frost says seem to work right now.
    We'll persevere obviously because we love him so much. It's just bloody tough isn't it?!
    I suggest you go reward yourself for your parenting and professional successes with that Prada handbag! It'll suit you better than JF anyhow!
    You star auntie. x

    @MdP - Thank you for your wonderful comment - hijack away!
    it's fgood to hear am not the only one who has a challenging four year old. I think we need to pay less attention to the bad behaviour, maybe that would work because I think in some respects, he thrives off the drama he creates, even if it makes us both sad...Today is a new day and today i will take a deep breathe and try harder to tighten those boundaries and give more praise when he's good. Wish me luck!

    @Tara - you're right, as always mrs. It was very hard to write that post. To admit that I sometimes don't like my son is a hard pill to swallow. But, it is good to hear am not alone and that we all struggle at times with our children.
    My love for him is unquestionable, it's my stamina for the job that I question!
    Yes, like you, so much of the discipline that we use for him has little effect, but taking favourite toys away seems to at least stop the behaviour for the moment. Am just not sure how effective it is longterm as the toys get taken away and returned so often.
    Today am going to cuddle him more when he's good and smack a smile on my face and plough on!
    Bless you for your support. x

    @NVG - Thank you thank you - your comments and kind words are of great comfort.
    Maybe i am raising a little genius then? (naturally, he takes after me!)
    We talked to his teacher a few weeks back, and you know what, she said he was a "pleasure" to have in the class and "really well behaved" hubs and I could barely contain our shock as she went on to say he was "great" about sharing toys. We had to check we were all talking about the same child!
    Suffice to say, I know he has it in him to behave and not be so defiant. It just sucks doesn't it that they always display their most negative of behaviours for Mummy and Daddy?
    Wishing us all luck on this journey of motherhood!

    @Audrey - Thank you thank you thank you for your comment. it has made me feel less alone to know am not the only one out here feeling this way.
    I think you have a point - the kids dopick up on my stress and react negatively. So, yes, no surprise I suppose that he's being particularly difficult this week.
    However, this bad behaviour from him has been going on a while and the dramas at playdates and if he doesn't get his own way happen even when the family waters are calm.
    I will keep positive and try my hardest not to let it get me down.
    So glad you have a good relationship with your son now.
    Let's keep hope painful times stay in the past.
    Bless you for your support. x

  7. It is normal and you are not alone! Last week was like this (and I think it's still the same this week but perhaps Im becoming used to it?). It got to the point that I was in tears and frustrated with Small Child - she does as Tara's little girl and also tries to smack me in the face as I repeatedly put her in the naughty corner! I tried telling her it made me sad, that she wasnt being very likable, tried taking away toys... all of it! You sound like an amazing mum (and mom) to me and repeat after me... it's just a phase, it's just a phase!
    And thank you for writing so honestly about this - it's great to know that someone is feeling the same way sometimes! x

  8. Thank you for writing honestly about this! My daughter yelled at me all the way to school this morning that she hates me and doesn't want me to live in 'her' house any more. I think the trigger for this morning's tantrum was the fact that she had an extra hour to get ready for school because, unusually, I didn't have to drop her off at the before-school program. I should know by now that she doesn't deal well with change in routine!

    I am SO fed up of her tantrums! Like your son, cuddling doesn't work - she screams that I'm hurting her! God forbid the neighbours should overhear - one day someone's going to call social services!

    I am relieved to go to work. I am relieved when she's asleep. Yet we do sometimes have lovely moments.

    I worry that I am not doing a good enough job, that I should never have been a mother in the first place. Right now I can't even contemplate a visit to family and friends because I would be too embarrassed at her behaviour :-(

    Sadly, the little one is beginning to copy her attitude - so his behavior swings from the cutest most loveable child ever to defiant, stubborn, and obnoxious.

  9. As you can see Mum/Mom you are not alone. My eldest is being a nightmare at the moment, so her and cheeky can go off and be horrors together. I ended up in tears twice last week because she was being so awful and felt the tears prick the eyes just this afternoon when I picked her up from school and she stood screaming in the middle of the street stomping her feet for no reason at all. I have tried all. I have tried ignoring it too, but it is difficult to not reprimand them for such awful behaviour. I wonder who stole my gorgeous girl. Whoever it was, I want her back.
    But I think I have come to realise that they just go through these phases of testing you and finding their boundries again and again. And this will go on many times over the years. I am just hoping this phase passes soon. It's exhausting for all...We are trying not to shout at her or say anything negative as we feel at the moment all we do is tell her off. It's very difficult not to be negative though when she's refusing to put on a coat and standing screaming on the street...Good luck. And don't worry about what other people think. Most mums are sympathetic as they have all been there! xxxxx

  10. I was going to say what Audrey said, so I'll just second it. He's probably picking up on your stress. He's definitely stressed about something, and if he's anything like one of mine, the trip to England might not help. However, it's something you are going to do and as he grows he will learn how to handle new situations. Just hang in there and don't feel bad about yourself.

  11. PS. I used to do a lot of reading and you really can learn some useful techniques. Ine brilliant book is "How to Talk so Kids will Listen.." by Faber and someone. Worth a read. I can e-mail you a few key points which were just sent from our school if you want.

  12. @TG - Thank you for your honesty too - it;s good to know am not the only one feeling like this. We all need a big glass of wine this Fridday night eh? x

    @Anonymous - Thank you for commenting and you were very honest too about your situation, which takes courage and bravery to admit. I am sending you good luck vibes from Mom/Mum in the hope that all our children turn this challenging corner and let us smile again. We have to keep strong don't we, however many times these little ones try to break us.

    @CTTF - bless you bless you bless you. I promise i will try and curb this behaviour for when we come stay. Not that I wish challenging times on you with biggest girl, but i so often see my friends with daughters who are so sweet and well beahved, that i was thinking it was the testosterone that makes him crazy. But it is nice to know not all girls are angels all the time too.
    Wine and fags are on!!!

    @EM - bless you too for your words. I'd love to have some extra help so email me away. mummomwars@live.com Thanks for the suggestions, I can use all the reinforcement out there.
    Though I'm happier to report, despite it being friday (which is usually a frazzling day here) we've had pretty good behaviour all day....the threat of not being able to play with daddy's old Star Wars toys when we visit Nanna's in England, might just be wroking....

  13. Thats the thing they don't warn you about...the independence thing with boys at 4. Don't worry it passes...and it's normal not to be totally in love at every moment...you are a great mom, don't forget it!

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  15. You are definitely not alone as you can tell. Read my post http://workingmumonverge.blogspot.com/2009/01/mothers-and-daughters.html which I posted earlier this year to see what I had to deal with. Nothing major, just upsetting and difficult like you seem to be going through.

    I think children go through more than just the 'terrible twos' and I found that the advice I got from bloggers with older children who had been through similar phases was very helpful.

    Daughter and I are now back on track - until the next phase ..........

  16. thanks for the honest post.. as i embark on motherhood it's good to read someone posting the realities of motherhood.

    btw, found you via black boxes

  17. Thanks for a really honest post. You totally aren't alone, but a lot of us find it hard to be as honest as you.

    I always found 4 a more difficult age than 2. You can't manhandle them, distract them, or ignore their tantrums, in quite the same way. I think it helps when they start school full time (I assume he's not yet?). That shows them they aren't masters of the universe.

    A wise midwife told me that horrid behaviour is needy behaviour. This was in the context of how older siblings start behaving badly when there's a new baby in the house, but I think it holds true as a principle. The answer is MORE attention (plus all the firm boundaries stuff that others have talked about). Our instincts tell us to withdraw, but that's heading in the wrong direction. Can you try having some special one-on-one time with him? eg after younger brother goes to bed, or when he naps? And go overboard with praise and saying how proud you are of him when he does something nice.

    Even if it doesn't "work", I've found that it makes it easier for me to cope emotionally if I think "he's needy" rather than "aaargh, he's horrid, I've spawned a horrid child, we'll never have a good relationship, what did I do wrong? it's all my fault..." I prefer the need-to-help-him-through-this role to the need-to-sort-him-out role.

    Hang on in there.

  18. New to your website and just read your post.

    I just want to tell you I went through this phase with my 4 year old daughter it lasted about 3-5 months. I felt terribly guilty about not liking her and wondering what I had done to make her the way that she was behaving. Finally she came out of it - we still have our moments. I also have a 2 year old boy and there are definitely days when he has been off the charts in terms of everything is "no" so it does happen to all of us.

    You are not alone that is for sure.

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  20. Take comfort in the fact that apparently four year old boys have a testoterone surge round about now. How do I know this? Because my five year old has been so incredibly vile of late that I researched to see if perhaps five year olds go through this. It was then - to my horror - that the experts told me that most parents breathe a sigh of relief when their sons turn five as the testoterone levels of the fours balance out. Which might explain things for you, but leaves me wondering if my son is just possessed by devils. I feel your pain.

  21. It is so hard, isn't it? And so hard to admit that sometimes our feelings are not all warm and maternal....

    Kids start to want some independence, and they also want to test how far they can push you while still having you love them. They also don't really have the words to say what they mean, so they resort to "No" and "I hate you" a lot. They scream "I hate you" when they really mean, "I don't want to do what you've asked me to do." They scream "NO!!" when what they mean is "I'm so tired I just need to sleep but I haven't learned to recognize my body's signals about that yet, so I can't even tell you that's what I need." They get demanding and ornery ("I want it. No, I don't want it. WAAAAH I want it!!! NOOOOO I DON'T WANT IT..... ad nauseum) when what they mean is, "I am jealous of my sibling and I want your attention but I also want to be independent and I don't want to admit I want your attention..." and/or "I am so tired I want to sleep but I don't want to say goodnight because I want you here."). Ay yi yi, it exhausts everyone!! The little one included!

    Some things that helped me through my little boy's tantrum stage were (1) giving him reasonable choices sometimes (as in, would you like to take a bath first, or brush your teeth first? Do you want a banana, or some strawberries?) so he could feel a bit more independent, and then enforcing the first choice he made so as not to play the "change my mind 16 times" game; (2) not taking it personally when he threw a tantrum anyway (literally saying to myself, "this is just a stage. he doesn't mean it."); (3) trying to make sure he got enough sleep; (4) finding things to praise him for, so I didn't have to feel like I was constantly scolding him and he could feel like I did love him even though I yelled at him a lot; and (5) telling him before play-dates and shopping excursions that "the rules" are "use your big boy voice, not the whiny or yelling voice, be kind to others, share your toys," and so forth. Then at the store or play date, I would remind him of the rules, as if I were merely the messenger, not the one making the rules -- "oh, we can't hit like that or they'll make us leave!" or (if it were at the store, and he was whining that he *wanted* to leave) "oh, no no, we have to use the big-boy voice or they'll make us sit in the whiny room and we won't be home for *hours*!"

    Sometimes I had to work extra hard on the praise, because it was hard for a while to find anything to praise him for.... For example, I'd send him to put his shoes on and I'd check on him 10 minutes later and he'd have one sock on and be playing with his toys. Tempting though it was to scold him for not having his shoes on, I'd say, "Oh, good job! You got your sock on! Now let's get the other one on, and then we'll do the shoes!" Sometimes he'd comply, other times he'd have a tantrum. If he started a tantrum, I'd say, with a smile, "Oh, you've done a good job so far! Don't ruin it now!" Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't. But sometimes was better than the "no times" I was getting before when I would yell at him for not having both socks and shoes on -- then he'd usually take the other one off, too!

    Some kids really are more difficult than others. And maybe you've tried all these things and nothing has worked, in which case, you will just have to pray he grows out of it soon! Good luck, and hang in there. I hope it gets better for you soon.

  22. How was your trip to the UK? We need an update! Did you survive? Did the children behave in front of friends and family?