Tuesday, April 10, 2007

This crying mom's going straight to H-E-double toothpicks

Remember to always be the ideal mom! Success is indicated by the docile, well-behaved child holding steady and ready at mom's calm and in-control side.

Her Bad Mother and Mothergoosemouse were talking about this whole "all moms go to Heaven" deal.

This will probably be a big fat newsflash: I am no saint.

If you ask me, I am more likely to say I am consigned to the fires of hell than to the pleasures of heaven.

This is because---if you ask me again---I'm likely to be far more critical than forgiving of myself as a mother.

I have confessed that I:

* yell at my kids

* frequently lose the upper hand

* often feel inferior to the task

And that's just in the last month. Seriously.

If I am really honest, I probably am near or in tears at least once a week. You try raising special kids. You know, the ones who have teachers who speak of them using A Tone. And lots of Euphemisms

Oh, wait. Your kids are special too?

Sorry. I got caught in my own whirlpool of self-centered miasma. Am I mixing elements there? Sorry. I get my liquids and gases confused sometimes.

Tonight was my big modeling gig. We even got our hair and makeup done. I wore clothes that cost easily five times as much as my current most expensive piece of clothing.

But best of all...I got to Go Out. Leave Home. Drink wine and talk to grown-ups.

Fifteen minutes prior to departure time for The Gig, I poured my protesting and tantrumming children into wrestler style leotards and sent their screaming selves off to gymnastics with my husband. I was glad to see them go, not sorry. I felt relieved. And then I felt guilty. Today was a Not Good day in many ways.

So I allowed myself five minutes to cry over it all. I had to spend the next five minutes with a cold washcloth over my eyes so they looked less swollen and red when I arrived for my last minute wardrobe check and makeup design. I spent five minutes walking to my friend's house, psyching myself into the party spirit---or trying to, anyway. And failing.

I arrived---ready to parade myself in my casual, day-to-evening, and formal couture---looking miserable, like death warmed over.

My friend Cindy saw me plop on my other friend's couch. "Julie!" she called happily, "Hey, so glad...whoa...what's wrong?"

I described Patience locking herself in the pantry, the horrid rest of the day, and ended with details of screaming banshees (including myself). I was miserable with pity and self-loathing for my failure to keep the situation in good hand.

"Sometimes I wonder if I'm up to the task," I confessed, "This whole mommy gig often just feels so...beyond me. I can't believe I cried. Again. What's wrong with me?"

Cindy looked a funny combination of at a loss and sympathetic. Then her face cleared, she gave me a little hug, and said, "What you need is some wine, love." She called out to the hostess, "You got those bottles uncorked yet?"

That small act of care and kindness brought tears to my eyes again.

Crying. That's the thing we just don't talk about too much, isn't it?

That's because there's no crying in baseball...or in mommyhood.

But I have spent more time in the last five plus years of mommying choked up, fighting tears, or indulging in tears than I have the rest of my life combined.

Historically, I am rather stoic and emotionally detached---usually---that way.

I'll get fiery. I'll get motivated. I'll confront.

But I don't cry.

I've listened, over time, to stories of women talking about having a confrontation with a coworker, boss, friend, or boyfriend and speaking with self-loathing about always getting choked up or crying, and hating it.

I've heard men and women alike, personally and professionally, speak openly about detesting Criers.


Why are we so uncomfortable with crying? Open displays of emotion?

What's wrong with grief? Vulnerability?

Our first instinct with any crying by anyone is to Make. It. Stop.

Even if it means invalidating the feeling behind the display.

Crying is weak. Not strong.

And in most things, we prefer strength. The act---the facade---of pulled together, stoic, unemotional, strong, water off a duck's back cool.

I get that.

But there is something to be said for the benefit of indulging in a good cry when you feel the need. And as a mom? I often feel the need.

The responsibility of properly launching well-adjusted people onto the world weighs on me frequently. I'm all too human with expectations of perfection.

Was that a cynical comment I expressed in front of my kids? Did I just mention a verboten topic where they could hear? Oh drat, a curse word? Oh shoot, how Patience talking to Persistence...is that just like I talk to her sometimes? Is it okay I do it like this sometimes? Okay I do it like that? Do more? Do less? Is it okay they do that? Or don't do this?

I get a grip. I get perspective. But some days...it can be overwhelming. And I cry.

Like today. It's crying with regret for how it was, sorrow for not hitting what you wished it could have been. It's a stress relief. It's guilt. It's emotion so complex it lacks a name, but nevertheless clogs your throat and can only be released via tears, not words.

I say I have tears now---instead of before---only because now I care so much more than I ever have before. I prefer that to the scientific study that says increased crying is related to higher neuroses.

I try not to cry in front of the kids. I prefer to vacuum. The white noise sends me into a zen meditative state and frightens away the small children and pets, buying me a few precious moments of peace. Plus, my floor gets clean.

I'd do yoga, but it simply attracts the aforementioned creatures from whom I am trying to escape.

And there you go; the other rarely mentioned aspect of mommyhood: desire to escape.

That's what else the tears are for. A little grief and self-pity.

Remember how you used to dress, fix your hair, care for yourself? Before any said act was deemed selfish, or denied time?

Mommying is supposed to be chock full of Hallmark moments: perfect idyllic joy---smiling picnics in the park, adorable special moments of revelation, sweet tender loving moments, and so forth.

These moments happen all right, sandwiched right between the challenging moments.

And both bring tears.

I try to feel okay about it. I try to not let it make me feel like I've lost control, am out of control. I try to rebel against that negative message about crying: dry your tears, turn that frown upside down, find the silver lining, make lemonade out of lemons. I try to accept the release and benefits of crying. I let it be a moment, and carry on. I try to allow it, instead of pretending it didn't happen.

I'm not sure that detached stoicism is a good mommy trait, anyway.

If I can be okay with my emotions, maybe my kids can be okay with theirs.

In fact, maybe I've done way too good a job; they seem way too comfortable with their broad emotional range and freely sharing all within. Hence my tears today.

So tell me, truly, do you cry? What do you think about it? What brings tears for you?

P.S. I've thought that next Wednesday, April 18th, can be Hump Day Hmmmmms. We can launch it with all participants writing about their thoughts on justice and forgiveness. Just email me a link to your post once you get it up and I'll master link from here to you. Please, participate. I don't want to look like a jackass. LOL

P.P.S. Please make sure to read the awesome Just Posts that Jen and Mad host.

copyright 2007 Julie Pippert



jen said...

I cry. Oh, wow...do I cry.

And I cry with pride. I cry in front of M and we talk about why I am crying. I cry when I need to and I am ok with it.

I cry when I see people suffering. I cry when I am frustrated. I cry when I feel helpless. And I cry when I laugh my ass off.

Sober Briquette said...


My name is De, and I am a crier.

I'm often asking myself why motherhood is so hard for me. Should it be this hard, or is it some major flaw of mine? Am I the "special" one?

Following up on a comment I made, I was asked to write about confrontation in general, and definitely, oh so most definitely, being a parent (for me) is continual confrontation, something I've gone out of my way to avoid in life.

And yes, a drink at the end (or almost the end, if my husband is really late getting home and I can't wait another minute) of the day does help, but it's just another way of stopping the tears without figuring out if there is a real answer, a new outlook, a change that can be made. It wasn't the time, but I was hoping Cindy had some real answers for you (me).

The Atavist said...

Dads may (usually) be exposed less to the daily kid routine, but we too want to run screaming for the hills on occasion. There, away from curious eyes, where no-one can see our moment of weakness, we too can cry.

Raising kids ain't easy.

Kyla said...

I hate to cry. Hate it. But I don't mind it when other people cry, I even think its a good thing.

I can't remember how long ago I cried last, but I remember the moment. It was nighttime and I was dancing with KayTar in the dark of her room and we were waiting on some test to be done, or the results to be returned, and I was so worried it would be awful news and these nights of night dancing would be over soon...and I cried as we danced. (longest run-on ever *lol*)

I do cry, but it is less frequent now...now that we are out of that initial fearing for her life stage. In the beginning it was so very often.

kim said...

I so love you!

I cry. because I care.

At least I know that I will have good company in hell.

Totally hated my kids this week. Hated myself for hating them, it's not their fault that they are miserable little so and sos, it's mine.

A good cry releases the demons and I can get back in the fight.

I will do my best to get my act together so that you will not look like a jackass--for that comment alone will keep me smiling all day.

Julie Pippert said...

Jen, that rocks!

Now...the question. If you are crying because she has made you feel frustrated (or despairing LOL) do you tell her that?

I admit: I have been known to tell my kids, "You know what? I need to go GRRRRRR just now because to tell the truth, you two are driving me to the ends of Frustrationville!" or "I'm crying because I'm sad. This day/situation is (not what I had hoped)."

Julie Pippert said...

De, that's the million dollar question. It seems like flashbulbs and sparkles and whooping noises should happen just now.

I think the baseline answer for me is: it's so hard for me because I'm an introvert.

I'm at least 50% introvert. For all the chatting and socializing I do (and enjoy immensely) I also need to be Alone. I feel better when I'm alone sometimes.

I don't know that I ever feel lonely, tbh.

I do know I do not get the chance to be alone in my life anymore.

That's a problem. Alone is how I recharge.

My friends know when I am stressed or not feeling my best because I turtle. They know that when I am finished recharging, I will come out of my shell and talk about it (if I need) or carry on (if I'm all done processing). They know that I will tell them if I think it is something to share, or be honest if it involves them. Sometimes they ask, or just remind me, "Hey, I'm here. If you need." They know it's me, not them (or will ask, and accept the true answer). They are okay with carrying on about their business and allowing me the space I need. They understand this.

Children? Do not.

They often want more of me than I can give just then.

This horrifies me. It horrifies me about me, and for them.

It's why I tremble in fear of summer...it's why I start organizing the summer in February.

It's why I am the only mom who never cries when school starts, or loiters in the hall, morose.

It's why I am relatively unscared by the idea of empty nest. (When my kids and I are apart, I miss them, and I find this a REALLY good thing. I know I will always miss them, but as we each grow, I feel more and more okay about the growing individualism too.)

It's why I envy extrovert moms, who---even though they have challenges too---probably never worry that they are signaling to their kids, "Wow, I am SO DONE with being around YOU right now."

I have listened to oodles of well-meaning advice, cried on many shoulders, received support and censure, tried hard to be someone other than who I am etc. etc. and finally accepted this:

* I need space.

* I cannot get space like I need while my kids are this age.

* I will have to make do with what I get and bite the bullet. A lot.

* I will add space in as I can (and I do).

* This aspect of parenting isn't my strength.

* I do have other strengths.

* At least I know the therapy fodder my kids will carry into their expensive sessions when they are adults.

* I'm normal for me, but not like anybody else.

* My kids are normal for them, but not like anybody else.

* We mix together differently than anybody else.

* We're what you might call high-maintenance people.

* That's okay.

* At the very least I am modeling for my kids "know your own limits."

* I am also modeling "find constructive ways to handle it when life bypasses your limits like a semi truck doing 85 mph." This doesn't just mean wine at the end of the day. I also mentioned the vacuuming. I should also mention my activities, friends, and daily declutter show viewing.

I don't have the magic answers, and trust me, all of the above knowledge (and more) doesn't help in some moments.

I don't know your kids ages...but I can say with each passing year, I find more and more pieces of me and my life fitting back in better.

I guess time does wound all heels. ;)

You know, I think motherhood is hard for pretty much everyone. I'm not sure I trust people who say it is a breeze. They are either (a) lying, (b) on some pretty sweet drugs, (c) not raising their children themselves, or (d) Mary Poppins. I admit there are some who make it look pretty easy, but even those have eventually confessed to low moments.

I know our backgrounds, personality, etc. make it feel more or less to each of us at different ages and stages.

I'm dealing with Two and Five, God Help Me. Talk about continual confrontation. All Day Every Day about Absolutely Everything. And the kitchen sink. Geez.

I think even Job would be out of patience by 4 p.m. every day.

ALL of this (and love you if you stuck it out) to say really...yeah, you are special, and I bet your kdis are too, and no, I don't think it's a flaw, although I admit, when it's me in my life it FEELS like a flaw A LOT and hence...the crying.

Do you know? This is why I blog. It's a place where I feel like I do something well, and is a place I can process. It helps heal a little hole that motherhood sometimes opens up inside my heart.

Gosh I hope this answered a little something you were asking.

Julie Pippert said...

Atavist, I'm sure my husband would say AMEN. LOL

He came home last night, took one look and listen and said, "Wow, I feel really sorry for you if this is any indication of your day."

You know what? That helped. LOL It really did. I normally prefer to whack pity out of the park...but yesterday? I took it like a balm.


Kyla, why do you hate to cry? Just wondering (insert nonchalant whistling LOL). I know I used to really hate to cry and I think it was that feeling of being out of control, like an admission that something was THAT big of a problem, that maybe I couldn't fix it, and that'd be the terrible end of THAT.

Anywho I was talking about you, not me. LOL

Hey I read medical writing. Trust me...that was not the longest run-on. ;)

More importantly, thanks for sharing that.


Kim, the feeling is mutual. Can you imagine how much I loved your current post? I admit "great minds yadda yadda yadda" might have crossed my mind LOL. You will be in very good company I think, LOL.

Yeah, that's the worst part: being all frustrated with them because they are being TOTALLY NORMAL.

Yes, please do not leave me out here, braying like a jackass. LOL

Magpie said...

I used to cry more. Now I take Zoloft.

And I totally hear you on the need to be alone business. It's one of the reasons I don't mind my 90 minute commute.

Queen of the Mayhem said...

I am such a crier. I cry for almost any reason. I absolutely cried like my life was ending (SOBBED) when I got a letter from Junior Mayhem's preschool about his behavior. Then I cried more because I was angry at myself for crying! I am a teacher, so I should understand the need for a child to behave (and not kick at, spit at, or stomp the toe of his teacher). THEN, I cried EVEN more because I can get other people's children to bend to my every whim and can't seem to handle my own!
Don't even get me started on how much I cried the first time I saw The Princess's heart be broken by an evil little girl. ( Oh yes...they are SO EVIL!)
Oh, and what about Mr. Mayhem....the tears I have shed over that stupid man! (hee-hee)

I am with you about a good cry. It is somewhat self indulgent, but is necessary to keep me off the clocktower with a shotgun!

I'm with De. My name is Queen, and I am a crier.

slouching mom said...

What, me cry? All.the.damn.time.

And more so since having kids.

Sober Briquette said...

Mine are almost 2 and just turned 5, and I relate to all that you wrote about yourself like a misplaced twin. (Thanks for such a detailed response/comment. It's like two-for-one day!)

One thing that makes me fret is the idea of "waiting for my happiness" for lack of a better description. For example, I keep thinking, "September is gonna ROCK!" because Fiona will be in school full day. But the flip side is, there will be no more naps for Lorenzo, and God only knows what fresh hell a 2 1/2 year old boy will bring to my days.

Mary-LUE said...

Julie, I finally had a chance this morning to read through your last few posts, ending with the interview. I started to comment and the wireless access here at the hotel disappeared. Arrgghh!!!!

So now, it is the afternoon, the wireless is back up, but I have to reprocess what I was going to write on that interview. I'll start at this end of things and go from there.

On crying:

I don't know how a mom can make it through life without the release of tears.

I cry. I'm a messy cryer. What is it some people call it, crying pretty? I definitely do NOT cry pretty. I'm a snot-flowing, eyeball-swelling, can't get any words out sobber. I hate crying in front of people because I feel out of control emotionally. Now, there are plenty of people, who once I get started, I am fine crying in front of, but getting started, I totally resist that.

Sometimes I know I need a good cry but the waterworks are blocked. Usually when that happens, I'll put in Little Women or Glory or some other movie I know will bring on the tears. I have a good cry and then I feel much, much better.

I get emotional during movies but if I am with someone, I'll just tear up a little. If I watch a moving film alone, I let the tears stream down my face. It isn't a conscious thing, but I think I unconsciously block my full response.

As far as other people crying, I am a great supporter of tears. I think they are very therapeutic and give you an insight into what is going on with you. Sometimes, I am so touched by another's tears that I want to get in there and FIX the problem for a person. I've learned that it isn't always wise to do that, that listening is often the most I need to do.

There are tears that I don't like or don't like dealing with. Those are the tears of the person who has multiple issues in their life but somehow seems stuck in them. I don't know how to describe what I'm talking about, but being involved in lay ministry for so long, I've come across many people who will cry and cry over their situation, gets TONS of attention, but never make positive changes. I'm not talking about a person who finds themselves in difficult situations.

I hope you get more kind gestures like the one from your friend. Friends like that are pure gold.

atypical said...

I DESPERATELY want to respond to this now, but I have to get something done around here. man, did you hit close to home on this one.

Be back later!


P.S. The answers are up

Christina said...

Oh yes, I cry a lot.

Crying is just my way of dealing with a bubbling over of emotion - be it happy, sad, angry, etc. Crying releases that emotion and helps me get back to normal again.

What I dislike is crying at the wrong moments. Like at work. I've had a few times when I was upset about something and crying at work. Nothing is more embarrassing than trying to look professional with red puffy eyes. I can't count the number of times I've had to lie and say, "Oh my allergies are really bothering me today."

My husband has come to understand that crying is just how I deal with things sometimes. At first our fights always ended badly because he would yell about something, and I would cry as a result, even if it wasn't my fault. He said that made him feel guilty, and he felt I wasn't "fighting fair". He now knows I can't control it, and that's just how I cope.

Thailand Gal said...

I'm not much of a crier and have never been one to cry. In some ways, I'm almost over the top when it comes to being reserved. You know.. probably not in the healthy range.

At the same time, crying can serve a good purpose. It cleanses us somehow. We need to release that stuff or it becomes toxic in our bodies.

In that regard, I wish I was freer with the tears than I am by nature.

If it counts any, I think I cried for 21 hours straight on the flight back from Thailand.

I didn't even know it was possible for a human being to cry that much!

Crying is good though ~ no matter what anyone else says.

Again, (Chani beating the same old drum again) it's the culture that lies, tells people that everyone should be in perfect control all the time, never be emotional, never be frustrated, never need the normal human support that makes all of us what we are...

And it's bullshit. Total bullshit.

Cry away! :)



ginabeaner said...

I am not a cryer. I am one of those people who greatly dislikes crying. Crying is for funerals. Crying, for me, is when I have nothing left. I never cried at the news until 9/11.

In a way, I envy those that can just cry, get it out and move on. I just can't do that.

My kids tried to flush a whole roll of toilet paper first in pieces and then just threw the whole thing in. There was an inch of water in the upstairs bathroom that is still in the ceiling as it is dripping onto the kitchen floor. We are talking about a lot of water. I can think "I want to cry!" but it does not come and we all cleaned up the mess.

Momish said...

I cry all the time, at just about everything under the sun. It is almost a joke in my family to see how long it will take me to cry about something each time we get together.

I think it's great to cry, but here's hoping you are crying over something wonderful more often over something sad.

Mrs. Chicky said...

I'm a crier, too. Well, I'm not a crier usually but when it comes to mommy frustration I'm like a babbling brook. Or more like a babbling idiot. This parenting gig is a lot harder than it seems.

Mad Hatter said...

Yup, I'm a crier. I cry at the news. I cry when I'm overwhelmed. I cry sometimes b/c my body physiologically feels a need to do so. I have cried in front of my daughter on occasion but I am usually a before-bed crier. I think the release of offered by crying is good for me.

And you know what? My daughter cries in front of me all the time. It's how she copes. I can't help but think she finds me kindred in those moments when I cry.

Julie Pippert said...

Magpie, I try to tell my husband to enjoy his commute, but he's not buying it. LOL. Zoloft was my PPD friend, my BFF as a matter of fact.


Queen, I can TOTALLY get that. Oh yeah, and good for the no clocktower thing.


Slouching, yep.


M-L, the usual level of insight and perspective so as usual yep! There is no real crying that is pretty I think. I have my favorite heartstring tuggers too. And plying for sympathy or manipulative tears annoy me at times as well. But all in all, glad to cry as a release when needed.


Atypical, saw them ---great! And no worries about time.


De, delaying happiness. Hmmm, not what I really meant. I really meant "can't quite hit ideal," so it's more like finding workarounds or enjoyment in what I can hit, KWIM? It's a transition. And all of parenting requires these constant changes, when I am one for liking my certain routines.


Christina, that's a good point about husbands, and having to learn that this is just how some people deal with things sometimes.


Chani, I agree about the message. And I can believe you cried that long. I also agree it can cleanse.


Gina, for me it's rarely in the moment. It's more like when I finally get my private time and I let out what has stored up.


Momish sorry to disappoint but I rarely cry happy. It's usually frustration, LOL. But it's okay b/c it's usually a healthy release, the signal okay let it out, let it go.


Mrs. Chicky, yes it is, much harder.


Mad, exactly, that's me too, and I agree. Kindred spirit, I think so. That's the bit about being okay with emotion.

Lawyer Mama said...

I hate to cry too but it seems like I've been doing a lot of it lately. This mom thing is hard. It's hard to deal with little irrational people 24/7.

Thanks so much for your thoughtful comments on my own depressing mom post. Sometimes it helps to just let it all hang out for the world to see and it's good to know that other moms understand. Thanks again.