You may have seen it before: an adult display of absolutely childish behavior. If you’re a parent, or have parents yourself, you’re bound to have witnessed what can only be described as a Mommy Meltdown. A woman can only handle so much. (Not to say that dads don’t have their fair share of tantrums too, but I’m writing about my own personal experience).
A few days ago I snapped. Although it’s embarrassing to recall now, there was a lesson to be learned, so I’m sharing my experience with you. It seemed to be a perfectly normal evening. I’d returned from teaching one of my fitness classes, was freshly showered, comfy in my pajamas in front of the fire. I picked up the project I’ve been working on- a hat for my toddler. I would like to give handmade Christmas presents to my family this year. It’s probably not a realistic goal since I have difficulty completing craft projects after the initial enthusiasm wears off.
I won a voucher for the local yarn shop and finally had a chance to shop without Blessing. (He pulls everything off of the shelves and it’s a nightmare bringing him in there). The last time I got it into my head to make hats for Christmas I failed. I chose a pattern with cable knitting for my daughter and it was a bit complicated for my skill level. I explained all of this to the patient woman who was helping me. We found a much simpler pattern so I’m less likely to give up this time. She showed me a soft merino wool blend that’s also machine washable. I love the texture and have enjoyed knitting with it.
Within a week I’d made huge progress by my standards. The evening of my meltdown I was seated comfortably on the couch, knitting and feeling content. Suddenly Blessing reached over with devilment in his eyes and grabbed my project out of my hands. He laughed, thinking it was a fun game I guess. Maybe he wanted my attention, was bored, who knows the mind of a two year old! When I managed to pry the hat out of his hands I saw that many of the stitches had come undone. I didn’t know how to pick them back up on the needle, and something inside me unraveled too. I impulsively threw the ball of yarn and walked out of the room. Moments later I returned for another look, saw it was hopeless, and ripped out every single stitch.
By now I was crying. (I can’t remember the last time I cried over something that wasn’t a movie or a book). My reaction might seem disproportionate to what had actually happened, considering I don’t often cry. I really felt devastated. The thought of starting over was disheartening. I have so little free time as it is. How would I make up the lost hours? I felt like giving up on the idea altogether.
I can’t blame my reaction on hormones. As I dug deeper- ignoring my family members’ glances at each other (What’s wrong with her? I could almost hear them thinking)- I had a realization. I love mothering, but sometimes it feels like I’ve given up too much. My days are filled with chores that often seem pointless and never ending. Much of what I do goes unnoticed until I stop doing it. (Why aren’t there any towels clean? Where’s my hoodie? There’s no food in the house…). I miss the sense of satisfaction that comes when something is completed. More than anything, I miss exercising my creativity.
I tried explaining this to my partner. We are both creative people, but I am usually in a supporting role. I think he takes for granted that he has the freedom to pursue whatever he likes, he can throw his full energy into his projects, and he will have the satisfaction of seeing his ideas come to fruition. Until my meltdown, I didn’t realize that I hold some resentment because the same is not true for me.
I often blame myself for not being disciplined enough to complete projects, even if they’re only hobbies such as writing or crafts. I’ve been working hard to change my patterns, to be consistent, to persevere despite my strong inner critic and issues with perfectionism. I’m trying to value my need for creativity and create space in my life for it. The night of the meltdown I felt like everything was out of my control, that no matter what my intentions and actions were I’d fail anyway because my family doesn’t support my efforts. Time and space are major obstacles; the minute I become absorbed in anything, one of my children wants my attention. It’s incredibly frustrating. Years ago, in an effort to preserve my sanity, I decided not to bother trying anymore, but that didn’t work either. Repressing important parts of ourselves only leads to feeling depressed or resentful.
That night I expressed my frustration and let the tears flow. I accepted a hot cup of tea and was comforted by it. I allowed myself to feel what I was feeling without judging. I felt flawed; I felt human. I slept… nature’s best cure for just about anything.
The next day, having made myself vulnerable, I still felt fragile. Eventually I picked up my needles and began again. Ironically, the new hat is shaping up to be much better than the first since my stitching has improved. It seems the hours I spent practicing were not lost after all because they helped me to become a better knitter.
The day I bought my yarn I also signed up for Audible. While I knit I enjoy listening to stories. The first book I chose was Jeanette Winterson’s memoir, which she narrates. Her wise words might inspire you, as they have inspired me:
“I know now, after fifty years, that the finding/losing, forgetting/remembering, leaving/returning, never stops. The whole of life is about another chance, and while we are alive, till the very end, there is always another chance.”
― Jeanette Winterson, Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?
Whatever it is that lights you up inside, whether it’s a creative spark, a dream, or a goal, promise me one thing. Don’t give up.