I See Cranky People

As has already been established, contentment is far preferable to happiness in CrankMama Land.  In my view, happiness, like success, is often an illusory experience, based on denial, or insularity, or a determination to ignore all grim things.  It’s like that peppy high school cheerleader raw-rawing as I froze my ass off playing the flute in marching band.   She just didn’t get it.

That same sensation of "huh?" grips me each time I talk to a mom who seems to not only never experience maternal angst and frustration, but whose very existence is seemingly wholly fulfilled by motherhood and its attendant domestic tasks and endless opportunities for craftmaking projects.

When you feel that you’re existing on the parenting edge of insanity, other’s cheerful chipperness and apparent normality make you feel so horrid and totally incompetent you not only suspect, you know you’re in hell.  You’re just the dumbass in the band uniform while all the cute girls are dancing  and laughing on the sidelines in their sweet little cheerleader skirts.

It is only now, five years later, one new husband and one more singleton child into The Motherhood, that I find myself… content.  Not always, not predictably, but frequently content.  I’m not fulfilled solely by these girls and the endless demands of preschooler twin girls (the TALKING the TALKING), but when they tell me they love me "bigger than the world" and my youngest puts her arms around my neck and snuggles her soft chubby face against mine in the waning days of her babyhood, I can finally see what all the fuss is about.   Finally. 

But I haven’t left the snarky, cranky fold of the imperfect.  I’ll never be the put-together PTA president, the Halloween costume making stay-at-home-and-love-it-cutie mom, or the champion of all things mother. 

Like my lovely sister-in-law who was the only person on the Canadian Boat O’ Happiness to pay real attention to the particular hell of chasing a new walker in a crouched position for two days around a small sharp-edged boat, I understand and feel great affinity for those who really get it –the many aspects of motherhood angst. 

At one point, my pretty SIL put her warm hand on my arm, looked into my eyes and said in her beautiful Spanish accent,  "Ahh, Rachael… I see you."


18 Responses to “I See Cranky People”

  1. October 16, 2006 at 2:03 pm

    I have moments of contentment. Some. Occasionally. Usually when I’m in the bathtub, nursing a drink, and can hear my husband downstairs, trying to coax the recalcitrant WonderBaby into eating. Otherwise, I’m pretty fracking cranky.

  2. October 16, 2006 at 3:06 pm

    Yeah, I got pretty pissed at those cheerleaders too when I was wearing that itchy (and smelly) purple and gold marching band suit and my lips were sticking to the mouthpiece of my French horn.

    Many days, I still feel like that girl. Other days…just know that like your SIL, I see you too.

  3. October 16, 2006 at 3:38 pm

    I find solace in, what I think must be the truth, that the “cheerleaders” don’t really mean what they say about being totally fulfilled by motherhood. It has to be an act to cover up what some of us are being honest about … it’s not always a walk in the park to be a mother.

    But contentment, when my 6-year-old daughter crawls in bed with me in the a.m., after hubby has left for the office at his usual, ungodly hour, and she throws her leg over mine and wraps her arm around my head and purrs, “I love you, Mommy,” in that barely-awake, little girl voice, then I know not only is it worth it, but that motherhood can be the best drug in the world.

  4. October 16, 2006 at 4:18 pm

    We so often assume that happiness is a delusion; misery reality but I think we are truest to ourselves when we are happy.

    {I have just re-read that and its sounds like it should be embroidered on a cushion but nauseating though it is I mean it]

  5. October 16, 2006 at 7:39 pm

    HBM – Ahhh yes, baths, drinks and the fathers watching the babies. Now THAT is true contentment

    Paige – purple and gold? Those were OUR colors too 🙂

    PunditMom – you are wise woman…

    Moobs – true happiness IS based on reality…. fake happiness isn’t.

  6. October 16, 2006 at 9:33 pm

    People that are always happy scare me!!!

  7. 7 karrie
    October 17, 2006 at 5:08 am

    I swing both ways. My son and I have these brief ‘baby moons’ or just a perfect day when he’s a joy, interspersed with the days where I want to sit in a corner, and rock back and forth while muttering to myself and chewing my nails.

    For me, I think it is partly related to image insecurity–I’m the only 6ft tall, 200+ pound giant mom in a sea of perky cuteness or raw hipness, and I stick out. Add the wildest child on the block to the mix and I stick out even more, and start to snark back as a defense.

    Motherhood really does seem to come easy to a few women. Not me. My son is difficult and likewise I’m kind of difficult.

    Great post.

  8. October 17, 2006 at 5:19 am

    people who look like they have a pencil jammed sideways in their mouth worry me deeply. i reckon it’s a kind of denial that’s often a symptom of mild ppd or at least of acute anxiety. there’s too much pressure on parents to make it all look effortless and airbrushed. if you can’t admit that it’s sometimes incredibly hard, you’ve become part of the problem.

  9. October 17, 2006 at 8:31 am

    There are moments, hours evne, of satisfaction, but most of the time it is hard for me to keep on top of it all, the chaos, the tears, the demands… even though they are cute as hell and say the cutest things.

  10. October 17, 2006 at 9:08 am

    I think the source of your contentment comes from being more content with yourself, sister. I find it a nice by-product of getting older!

  11. October 17, 2006 at 9:34 am

    I think the Happy Happy HAPPY moms are on something alll the time. Me? I am having a problem with the co-op moms at Pea’s school. I am one of two working moms at the school and we.get.treated.like.shit. Their philosophy is that working moms SUCK and they RULE cuz they devote their ENTIRE lives to their children.
    It’s bringing me down and makes me not just cranky but downright BITCHY!

  12. October 17, 2006 at 3:26 pm

    Fortunately, I haven’t actually met any of those Stepford type moms, but then again, I would probably look past them and head straight over to the mom with the tossled hair, eyeing the bottle of beer and throwing pixie sticks at her one year old for two minutes of peace. I’ll take the reality over fake happy anytime, because reality has contentment too, and it is that much better that it carries you through.

  13. October 17, 2006 at 3:57 pm

    Happiness is overrated. Contentment is the real deal. And seriously — those shiny happy moms? My private opinion is that they’re on drugs. Or, you know, something got put in the water.

  14. October 18, 2006 at 10:28 pm

    I’m always happy… after I’ve had both bottles of wine. Now, I’m getting too old and fat to have my wine anymore. Now I’m miserable. Well, not really. L.A. Toddler always brings a smile — except when she’s throwing her cup of milk across the room…

    Where’s my wine?

  15. October 18, 2006 at 11:40 pm

    It all comes back to High School.

    I was too busy flinging tortillas at the cheerleaders at Football games. That made me happy…

  16. October 19, 2006 at 10:54 am

    Great post! I love your crankiness.

    I swing both ways too. I was a bouncing cheerleader, but I also froze my ass off in the band – in my purple and gold cheerleading uniform. (Is anyone else seeing a trend in the high school colors mentioned here?) Motherhood is kind of like that for me too. There are wonderful days and there are horrible days. But I’d still rather go talk to the frazzled, cranky mama than the stepford mom who pretends everything is rosy 24/7. Cranky mamas are more interesting.

  17. October 20, 2006 at 12:18 pm

    I have never been (and probably never will be) one of those “put-together PTA moms”. There are times when I get really cranky. Esp. when my autistic son has gone into a headbanging fit or he’s flung his bottle across the room…

    SIGH! Where’s my chocolate martini???


  18. October 21, 2006 at 9:09 pm

    I totally agree with this. It is so well put.

    I feel like I can’t understand the women who always say, everything’s fine. Do they never get tired, upset, frustrated? Is childhood meltdowns and art projects and entertaining small children never challenging?

    I’m with you. I don’t understand those other gals.

    (And I was – briefly – freezing my ass off in the band too. Eh. Those cheerleaders are all liars! : )

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