I wander through my house like an unwashed ghost, pale and fragile from a lack of sleep and sunlight. Haunting stacks of dirty dishes and piles of unfinished laundry, I settle into the sofa, where I have been so often that at midnight, you can almost see the imprint of my backside. My unfinished business clings to me, one hand in my hair and the other wound around the strap of my nursing bra, daring me to put her down.
Now, let me say this: I am not a particularly social person. My husband and I differ in this widely. He is happiest when entertaining groups of people, ideally on his own turf, where he can provide the menu, the drinks, the activities and generally impress everyone with his awesome host-ness.
Me—I will happily wiggle into a chair or under the covers to reread something or the other, or play Animal Crossing, maybe while sipping a sweet crisp Riesling or a hot ginger tea. Not a plan that calls for tons of participants. Tons of people is generally not something I crave.
And yet, I found myself at home, three, four, five, six days in a row, feeling like at some point the world just kept turning and forgot about me.
My hair was matted after three weeks of no wraps, washes, conditioners, pineapples or even a brush. I could smell my armpits when I moved. My teeth had an angora veneer. Worst of all, though, was that no one knew or cared.
I had the experience of feeling invisible in high school, but not like this. In high school there was a hostility to the silence, so I wore my invisibility like a shield, using it to my defensive advantage and coming out as it suited me. But this wasn’t hostility, it was indifference. In high school I would have been ridiculed for the way I looked, but at home, No one cared, noticed or commented.
Most insidiously, the indifference was laced with need, constant and unrelenting. My daughter fussed and cried and clung to me, nursing and pooping and playing. I love her tremendously. And I’m threatening to disappear under the weight of it.
Moms are often considered to be the glue that hold the family together, but I had never before realized how tough it is being glue. The constant demands and pulls on your attention are disconcerting. Even my husband seems less like a lover and more like an obligation, one more person who can’t be left alone for more than a couple of minutes without needing something. Needing me. And I hate him for his autonomy and his freedom to create, to be part of the world and leave his print on it.
I make the obligatory statement here: I love my family, I adore my daughter and my husband is amazing. Somewhere inside me, though, an aspiring writer, performer, scholar and diva is being choked out by the tangling growth of Motherlove, present in every fiber of who I am the way mutation usually is. I am a greater person but a lesser me as a result of my daughter’s birth. The guilt of motherhood is enormous.
How do you maintain yourself, and your family too? Is it possible to integrate your maternity and your personality?