Sunday, May 22, 2011

Stalling out blues

I've been in a funk these last few days for no good reason, but it's kept me from writing anything on my blog, until now. Those that know me personally may tell you that silence is a heck of a lot better than listening to me whine. This time I know I have no real reason to complain, so I've been making an effort in real life -- no, honest! -- to tone down the unwarranted self-pity.

"I'm sorry I'm in a funk," I apologized to Mademoiselle on Friday, continuing in a cute sing-song voice, "Mommy's in a funk. Oh yes I am! And it isn't your fault, oh no, and it isn't fair to you." She looked at me and smiled her little uncertain tell-me-again-why-I-chose-this-family smile that makes me both melt and feel a bit guilty at the same time.

I know I haven't been playing with her as much as I should. I also don't go pick her up quickly enough when she starts to cry in her crib, so I'll find her flipped over and squished up in a corner, either making what my husband calls 'little prairie dog noises' or out-and-out wailing. Today I actually forgot to turn on the baby monitor when I put her down for her morning nap, and as I was cleaning the kitchen, I heard what sounded like a baby crying somewhere outside. "I can just ignore that," I thought to myself, "It can't possibly be Mademoiselle," and I let a couple minutes pass before I thought, "Gee, I should go check on her just in case" and realized what I'd done. I felt bad, but then I felt worse that I didn't feel as bad as I thought I should. (Some of you mothers out there must follow my twisted emotional reasoning, right?)

Why all this? Because I had one long week last week that I handled somewhat haphazardly. My father and stepmother were in town for a couple of days, a good visit, but one that as usual left me a bit homesick. Then on Wednesday, le Petit had minor surgery to remove a mole from his ankle. Since he's still little, the surgery had to take place under general anesthesia, which made it very scary for a number of family members (but not, against all expectations, for le Petit himself, who handled it with aplomb). I wasn't particularly worried myself, but the long afternoon at the clinic wore me down. During the procedure I left Mademoiselle at home with my in-laws without a sufficient quantity of pumped breast milk. She's a remarkably patient girl but she's nobody's fool, and the look she gave me when I got back said it all: I won't be parking my car in the mother-of-the-month spot in June, I'm afraid.

Speaking of cars, the highlight of the week was my first attempt at passing my French driver's license exam on Thursday. I'm 99.9% sure I failed. They're notoriously picky, you see -- the other candidates from my driving school were all on their second or third tries -- and I managed to be so anxiously concentrated on a maneuvering truck at a stop sign that I started out into the intersection without noticing a second car, a mistake which I'm pretty sure disqualified me instantly. Which is a crying shame, since I otherwise managed to parallel park on only my second try. (Go, team, go!) At least now I can almost laugh at myself while I wait to get the results in the mail, hopefully tomorrow. Then I'll go down to the driving school and write a hefty check for more obligatory hours of driving practice at 46€/hour and wonder just when I'll get this miserable process behind me. I'm upset because driving is something I as a good American take for granted, kind of like breathing, or like being able to find a fast-food restaurant to pull into when you need to use the bathroom. Now, humiliatingly, I can't drive and I'm not sure when I'm going to be able to drive again.

I'm embarrassed to admit that I actually blinked back tears of defeat as I took the train back home. Afterward I loudly moped around my in-laws' house for an hour (they were graciously looking after the kids) before going home to mope some more at my place. Mademoiselle and le Petit were cuddly and adorable as usual, didn't understand what my problem was and to their credit, didn't worry about it much. I've had to ask myself just what lesson I want to teach my kids: a) to give up when it gets hard; b) to give up when you start embarrassing yourself; or c) to stick with it, because after all, it'll make a good story some day.

My husband, who by now knows when to solicitously tiptoe around my wounded pride, found time this Saturday to straighten the house, do the dishes, and cook lunch on in between taking le Petit to the market and to the hardware store while I worked out, napped, and tried with limited success to stop feeling sorry for myself.

"You never know, maybe you passed," he told me hopefully. "Your problem is you don't have my first-hand experience with failure," he asserted. How my husband, who is no failure in anyone's book, had his ego bruised and toughened by the French educational system is a post in and of itself. Suffice it to say that the system forms a tiny, smug elite and teaches everyone else to get used to swallowing their pride. So he can laugh, more or less, when he remembers failing the driving exam on his first two tries, twenty years ago.

Today he decided to drag me and the kids all the way to southern Normandy to visit a garden in the Perche and change my attitude. That (and this blog post) is what finally cured me of my blues.

And the kids, well, they're being themselves, which is the other incentive I have to stop moping and be an adult already. (Kind of step out of myself and, slapping myself a few times in the face, sternly say, "You think you've got problems? Sheesh! Look at these beautiful kids! Now, whatcha complaining about again?")

So, backing up a bit: on Tuesday, Mademoiselle laughed for what I'm pretty sure was the first time. So cute! It may be a warm-up for laughing at her mother, but that's OK. In time, she'll surely help me laugh at myself.

Anyone else got stories of taking yourself too damn seriously, then snapping out of it thanks in large part to your kids?


hush said...

Oh, sister, hugs to you. I totally feel you on the "twisted emotional reasoning" as you so aptly put it. Some days life with 2 small children plus your own needs and other things on your plate there too, is just well, all too much. Give yourself a break. If my kid had surgery and I was not allowed to drive, and those things were happening in the same timespan I'd be in a serious funk, too! Big hugs to you.

Cloud said...

I agree with @hush- you probably just need to give yourself a break.

But.... Is someone keeping an eye on you for post-partum depression? You know that it can hit later, right? My riskiest time is when breastfeeding starts tapering off. I've never had full blown PPD, but I have a week or so of funk every time I drop a feeding. This is why I wean very, very slowly.

I know Mademoiselle isn't weaning yet- but it is something to keep in mind. If she's been changing her eating habits, it can mess with your hormones and therefore your mood.

Parisienne Mais Presque said...

Thank you for your support and empathy. I'm happy to report I'm doing a lot better. Just writing this blog post helped me get out of my funk... So does reading comments from moms who know how I feel!

@cloud - pre-kids I had a couple of bouts of anxiety and depression, so I know that this is just everyday stress and not PPD, though you're right to ask. I did have some mild but clearly hormonal anxiety in pregnancy and immediately postpartum, and of course when you add in sleep deprivation it gets seriously no fun...

Still no driving test results yet! They say bad news travels fast, but apparently not so much if sent via La Poste. At least every day I care a little less!

Sylvie said...

Sounds like a tough week. Glad you took a break at that beautiful garden. Time for more nice things to nourish yourself! Bisous!