They say having a child makes you feel young again. Lately, I’ve been feeling like I’m back at 21.
“Hey,” you say. “That’s a good thing!”
I’m gonna come right out and admit it: These past few weeks, I have been in a bad mood. Work stayed busy pretty much throughout the holidays. I came down with the creeping crud just in time for New Years. Our babysitter had a death in the family, which necessitated some juggling, and my toddler is old enough to have figured out how to push all of my buttons—both to charm me and to drive me up a wall. About a week ago, I blew up at my sister when she called to ask about ballet tickets. My husband got the same treatment for doing little more than coming up from the basement and smiling at me. I would have chalked up the irritability to run-of-the-mill stress, except that the chronic, brain-buzzing, just-this-side-of-rational pissiness felt strangely familiar.
I thought about it and realized that this is how I used to feel in college, back before I learned how to deal better with life. I remember juggling long hours as an editor at the daily paper with school work, and a social life that included a boyfriend who was a great guy, just not great for me. I remember feeling resentful of everything for no good reason, overwhelmed in general, and prone to blowing little things out of proportion — “pissy” is the best way to describe it. And I remember not liking myself very much. I thought I’d grown up since then. Even when my daughter was an infant and I worked full time, I prided myself on being relatively “zen.” So you can imagine how disconcerting it’s been to look in the mirror lately and see my 21-year-old self scowling back.
Being a parent, I have found, brings out the best, most giving parts of yourself. It also is incredibly humbling. All the less-than-wonderful aspects of your personality that you thought you’d banished come barging back when you’re tired and can’t crawl into a hole because somebody little and dearly beloved is relying on you. I’m sure moms who stay at home struggle with the same kind of thing, and I suspect I’d go through dark periods even if I didn’t have an office job.
The good news is that, slowly but surely, my good mood is returning. It helps to not be sick. It also helped to have a workload chat with my boss and get a better feel for how to get things done. My daughter has been really, really sweet this week, and that made a difference, too. But I’m still looking for ways to make that old pissiness go away for good. I may have been cuter when I was 21, but I sure wasn’t happier.
What about it, moms? How do you keep your spirits up when you mood needs improving? And what behaviors from your past have unexpectedly come back to haunt you now that you’re a mom? Post some advice, or just a bit of commiseration. I sure could use it!