On playing a losing game…

Gymnastics: U.S. Olympic Team Trials

Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-US PRESSWIRE

I’m not a terribly competitive person. I love to play games, but I don’t really care if I win (well, unless I’m playing Catchphrase. Then, I must destroy the enemy). I just want to have fun. I was an athlete in high school, but it wasn’t a competitive sport…there was nothing to win or lose (except for the spot on the team…wherein I did sort of get crazy).

But with every game I’ve ever played, there’s been the option to win, the possiblity of succeeding. Even if I don’t care about winning, I want to know that my winning is at least possible. 

Life, shockingly, is not as simple as a board game or a soccer match.

Sometimes, it feels like there’s not a snowball’s chance in hell that I’m going to win. It’s like I’m in the Olympics and I have to compete against Gabby Douglas every day, knowing I’m going to lose (and lose hard), but I still have to go out there and do my best. I can’t even somersault, nor can I just quit.

That’s what the last couple months have felt like for me.

It started when I decided to do a workout challenge. I loved every second of it. I was working hard, pushing myself to do things I never thought I’d be able to do. I was eating much healthier and feeling so much better. But despite all the work (and even losing several pounds), I never lost a single inch. In fact, I gained two inches (in my thighs. What kind of sick joke is that?!). All I wanted from this challenge was to drop a pants size. Losing baby weight is friggin’ hard, but I was 15 months post-partum so it was time to start getting healthy again.

Then I went to the doctor for my yearly check-up. Post-partum depression has really kicked my ass, but I’ve been wanting to wean myself off Zoloft for a while to see if I can do life and motherhood and marriage without medication*. So I talked to my midwife and  got a bit of a beatdown. “It’s not really normal to have to stay on medication this long, post-partum.” I didn’t really know what to say. I figured it was perfectly fine to keep taking Zoloft for as long as I felt necessary. So she put me on a plan to start weaning myself from the meds. I’ve done well, but there are definitely days that own me.

The final kick to the lady balls was my daughter. She’s amazing and I love her more than I could have ever possibly imagined. (Don’t all paragraphs about obnoxious, hellion children start this way?) But she’s been so mean to me lately. It’s like she legitimately doesn’t like me. She falls down and screams at me. I change her diaper and she shrieks. I pick her up and she flails to get away from me. I rock her before bed and she slaps my face and scratches my neck. I make delicious food and she throws it. I make boxed macaroni and she throws it. If she gets scared, it’s my fault. She has absolutely no desire to snuggle me or be comforted by me or even be around me. Some days, she looks at me with what can only be described as “contempt” in her eyes. It’s heartbreaking. I can’t even describe how painful it is.

I am playing a game I cannot win right now and yet, I’m required to get out of bed every morning and act as though the last 24 hours have fazed me in no way. I have to wake up, cook for, and clean up after a child that doesn’t (seem to) like me. I continue to eat well and work out. And I have to do all of it knowing that today may very well be just as bad as (if not worse than) yesterday. I can’t just say, “I really suck at this game, so I think I’m going to try another sport.” I have to just accept that I have to stay in the game with the knowledge that the opponents will sometimes get easier, but will most likely get more challenging.

I am not the first mother to experience any of this, nor will I be the last. But I am the mother that is experiencing this right now, in my own head, in my own heart, in my own home.  While I’m certainly not the only person to experience any or all of these things, sometimes I need to feel like it’s all unique to me. I need to be taken care of. And that’s a really hard thing for an intorverted, headstrong woman to admit. When you’re used to putting on a strong face and taking on any challenge life throws at you, it can be difficult to finally say, out loud, “I’m hurt. Please help!”

That’s where my tribe comes in. My crew of mama-friends quickly become my motherhood “alternates.” They take over the game (or, at least, part of the game) for a few minutes. They give me much-needed water breaks, they tape up my wounds (no matter how big or small), and they smack me on the ass, send me back in the game, and say, “Go get ’em, champ!”

Motherhood is a really hard game to play. We need to be on each other’s teams. We need to have each other’s backs. When one of us hurts, we should all hurt. That’s probably just true of womanhood. Choose your teams well. Choose women who will help when you ask, but who will also just show up without any prompting. Life hits us hard sometimes. But we don’t have to play any of life’s games solo.

 

 

*PPD is awful and real and hard. If you’re a woman that needs medication every day for the rest of her life to stay even keel and feel like life isn’t destroying you, stay on the meds. If yoga or running or CrossFit is your jam, do that. If you have PPD, please reach out to your doctors and your tribe…you’re not alone. 

 

6 thoughts on “On playing a losing game…

  1. This is, by far, my favorite post you’ve ever written. I’m so grateful that you’re my friend, even if it’s mostly cyber-based. I hope someday I can encourage you as much as you have encouraged me ❤️

    • You’re so sweet! And you have been so incredibly encouraging to me over the last few years! I don’t know what I’d have done without your advice on making the leap from working girl to SAHM!

  2. I can’t tell you how much it helps to actually read your paragraph that starts “The final kick to the lady balls was my daughter….” It just… it… it’s everything that is hard about parenting for me. I wish it was the sleepless nites, the lack of freedom, the bodily changes, the hobbies that don’t exist anymore… it’s not though. It’s living a life where sometimes you’re completely certain that the other life you’re trying to care for, to love, to mold, to grow, to teach, that you give your best to doesn’t even like you. It’s not that they don’t love you or need you. They just don’t like you. They choose somehow else, anyone else. They hit you, punch you, slap you, claw you, scream at you, ignore you, reject you, and you take it… you have to take it. Because, on the one hand, it hurts in such an intense way, but you still know they do love you somewhere inside of them. And, more importantly, they need to know that you’re going to keep loving them no matter what hardship they can throw at you. You’re not going anywhere. Me, I want to scream at him and say “hit me again, yell at me, pick someone else… I’m not fucking going anywhere whether you believe me or not.. I am HERE… now and until my last breath… so fucking yell at me… I’m not going anywhere”. Unfortunately, you can’t always scream vent to them because it scares the living crap out of them. So, I hold him while he rejects me and I say “I love you” until it almost hurts to say it. That’s the part of motherhood that is the hardest for me.

    As your friend, I want to honor your uniqueness. I want to tell you that you’re totally unique and let you feel that pain and uniqueness. But, I also don’t ever want you to think that someone isn’t going to get it when you need to say this is such a fucking disaster and she hates me. Not only do I get it, I hurt for you. Because, as your friend, as part of your tribe, sometimes, especially when I can’t be there to let you take a water break, I can absolutely hurt for you just so you don’t have to hurt alone.

    Yes, motherhood is a really hard game to play. Luckily, it’s not really the solo sport we sometimes suggest it is… It’s a team game. It’s like running on a cross country team to me. We all have our own race and our own goals. But, we are all working together to help one of our teammates run their race. Sometimes, yeh, we need to have another mother running behind us telling us that we’re going to make it through the next mile. Because, we are going to make it through every mile of motherhood whether we believe in ourselves or not.

    • “just so you don’t have to hurt alone.” You nailed it, friend. THAT is mompathy…the empathy that only one mother can offer another mother. I’m exceedingly grateful to have women like you in my tribe…my forever tribe. Because I think it’s been made clear that time and distance mean nothing when you find the right village.

  3. Wow! Excellent post. I am way beyond what you are going through as far as motherhood. My baby is now 30 years old, but I too had my moments. As a single mom with two aggressive, strong-willed children and there were those days when I wanted to throw in the towel as well. I wish I had had a tribe to lean on, but unfortunately I just had my mom and while she was a huge help she had never been a single mom, or a single working mom for that matter so it was hard to her to understand how difficult it was to be a full time single mom, a full time employee and still remain sane!

    Now at the age of somewhere at the end of my 50’s I find myself in the situation of still not having a tribe. All the friends and family members that I have my same age are all married, they have grandchildren and they are retiring. They are stepping into that next phase of life. I’m still not married, never married again in fact after my divorce in 1993. I have no grandchildren and no retirement for me in the foreseeable future, so there is nothing I have in common with the tribe. I feel like an outcast.

    Myself, I am very competitive, I competitive in school and in my job and always wanted to excel and be number one in everything and now in my “twilight years” I feel like I’m losing in the game of life and it’s overwhelming.

    Your comment of “If you’re a woman that needs medication every day for the rest of her life to stay even keel and feel like life isn’t destroying you, stay on the meds” really helped me today and I think I may talk to my doctor next time I go visit her and see about perhaps finding a medication that helps me to handle the frustration and anger that I feel sometimes. Even though motherhood at times sucks, menopause is much, much worse!

    • Thank you so much for sharing your story! Motherhood, no matter where you are in the process, can be incredible and incredibly challenging. Womanhood really isn’t any easier! I really do encourage you to talk with your doctor(s) to see what his/her thoughts are. Medical professionals are a valuable piece of every woman’s tribe!

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