So, I have put off writing about this since it has left me completely devoid of any even miniscule slice of assurance that I was doing a good job as a mom, but I guess it's finally time.
During the dinner with friends (last month - yes, that one), one girl praised another for her depth of knowledge about everything to do with raising children. I asked her to enlighten us; she said she needed a specific question. So, I blurted out, "How about this one: How do I curb the incessant whining of my 8-year old son?" (It's been really bad since we moved for internship one and a half years ago.)
I wondered if she would have any good ideas - I have been desperate for help with him. She immediately started rattling off explanations, asking me more in-depth questions about aspects of my parenting style, listening to my answers, and devising additional follow-up questions and explanations, (and really, I was like: do you have a photographic memory - because I feel like I'm reading a textbook while I'm listening to you talk.)
I was on the hot seat. I was honestly fighting tears. Maybe I shouldn't have asked for advice in a group setting on such a sensitive topic. Before I even asked the question I was struggling to feel like I was doing a good job with raising him. I was feeling smaller and smaller and smaller. I could almost feel myself disappearing altogether, it was almost tangible: my self-confidence about my ability to mother was evaporating before my eyes.
It got worse. The girls ALL started offering to help watch my kids so that I can spend more one-on-one time with my 8-year old. (Even the girl who I hardly knew at all, who works full-time and only has teenagers at home.)
Though the conversation was brief, to me it felt like it lasted hours. I began to see clearly, as if spelled out on a large poster board in front of me, all of the personality and behavioral problems my kids are currently dealing with and I felt totally, absolutely incapable of dealing with any of them.
And since then, well, my insecurities stemming from that conversation remain. A few days ago while talking with my mom she said, "You sound like you are depressed." I told her I wasn't. I gave lots of explanations for why it sounded like I was depressed but wasn't. But when I thought about it later, I could trace all of my feelings back to this dinner conversation with the girls - the one where they thought they were offering help, but really ended up shredding the only existing teensy bit of self-esteem I still had.
Weird how we place so much of our value on our children's successes and failures, huh?
I read this article: Are You a Wimpy Parent? the other day and had an immediate emotional response. I think maybe I am somewhat of a "wimpy parent" - which I do believe can have very negative reverberations with raising kids. (The article has caused quite a stir in my community. I can see why.)