Why I am a mother who hates children

I hate children. Hate is probably too strong a word. But I have never liked children. I tolerate my nephews from a distance. One of the most excruciating days of my life was when I taught a playgroup for an hour. I am not a misanthrope. I like people a lot. I like talking to people and connecting to people. But I don’t know what to do with little babies and children. I like having conversations with some semblance of intelligence and reciprocity.

I know people who are the exact opposite. Like my husband. He adores babies and children. He befriends random babies in queues and they swoon at him in return.  All our friends’ children know him and love him. Another friend begs to hold new babies. I am not like that. I never baby sat or taught or ran day camps voluntarily. I was never the maternal type. I don’t think I ever played “mommy, mommy”.

I even find my own new-borns foreign. New-borns freak me out. They are so incomprehensible and demanding and needy. They don’t even smile. My daughter is now two years old, and every day I am enjoying her more. Feeling authentic connection to my three-month old baby still challenging. There are moments of pleasure but it’s hard. Being a mother is very, very hard for me.

So, I was understandably baffled when; last night after a particularly horrid bed time with a screeching baby and a tyrannical toddler; an undeniable truth filled my being. I was overwhelmed by the fact that  “I love being a mother”. Now I am not the happy-clappy mother-nature type of person. I am very vocal and honest about the challenges of motherhood. Sure, there are wonderful things. Like huge smiles when my baby wakes up and him melting into my arms at bedtime. My daughter sprinting into my arms when I fetch her from school. And watching her learn sophisticated negotiations techniques and dancing with her. But there are equally, if not more, horrid things. Like never waking up naturally and all kinds of bodily fluids in my bed and never being independent and having no remaining vocabulary and never going to the bathroom alone.

So I did not know where this very enlightened thought came from. Looking back, I was not always how I am now. I consider myself reasonably kind and nice and decent. I am no modern-day Mother Theresa, but I  mostly try to be nice to my circle of family and friends. But this wasn’t always so. I was a hideous teenager & young adult. I was extremely aggressive, angry, hostile and exceptionally cliquey. I struggled to connect to people. I was very outgoing but I was gruff and hard and prickly. I was pretty selfish and self-absorbed. As I got older, I slowly mellowed. I began to shed the hard exterior and became less afraid of my vulnerabilities and others’ feelings. I learned how to access a part of myself which is compassionate and kind. But I still harbour a deep belief that essentially I am a horrible person. I fear that essentially I am selfish and unkind.

And that is why I love being a mother. The cute perks of raising small children do not yet outweigh the challenges.  I love who I am when I am a mother. Because even though I am no longer prickly and hostile and selfish, I still fear that I am. But when I am with my kids, I am undeniably generous. I am mostly (even if I am faking it) considerate and compassionate and caring to my children. I am finding patience I never knew possible when making the bottle just right.  Although I would give a lot to have a decent night sleep, or curl into bed on a rainy Sunday with a book; being a mother does not allow for that. Being a mother demands that I develop a way to transcend my moods, and put aside my desire for chunk of solitary time. And by doing so, I am gaining trust that perhaps I am not essentially unkind.

So while I love my children so much that I want to squash them into pieces; being their mother means I am finally learning to love myself.


How my new baby ruined my plan for a good New Year

Ten days after our little boy was born, Elul arrives. Normally a time of deeper introspection and heightened awareness, the days and nights blur into each other as the all-consuming demands of a new-born rule my existence. I feel far. Far from the dawning year, far from the potential connection that is possible.


Year after year, I sit in shul on Rosh Hashana and pray. I ask G-d for health and healthy children and safety and livelihood and everything that we need to survive. But mostly, I ask him that I fulfill my unique purpose in the world. I am constantly reminded of the absurdity of human existence. Since the first man was created thousands of years ago,  billions of people have been born and people die. Billions and billions of people engrossed in the minutiae of life and mostly are forgotten. I take my own choices of what to make for dinner so seriously, but ultimately it is all irrelevant. So on the New Year, I tell this to G-d. I tell him that I don’t know why I am alive, but if it is so that I am that it must be His will and I trust that it is. And subsequently there must be a purpose for my existence. And so I ask him to please allow me to fulfill my unique purpose in the world as that is all that will make it worthwhile. There must be something which I alone can achieve and contribute.


Three am ticks on. I am jiggling and rocking and walking my newborn up and down. I will do  anything to get him to sleep. And to stay asleep. I am resentful and angry. I want to be sleeping. I do not want to be up every two hours pacing my living room. Morning dawns and I am sick with fatigue. And so begins the next day, the same as the one before. I live for the moments of sleep which I know will not suffice. Each day, I look at my list of tasks and wishes. Articles to be written, blogs to be updated and projects to be completed. Yet the accomplishments are limited to being showered, dressed and giving my toddler some attention. I am silently angry. This child is taking me away from what I should be doing. I should be writing and thinking and creating. Not stumbling through the day. I take my daughter to school, excited to be returning to Yoga after all these months. Yet she wont let me leave. Every time I say goodbye, she asks me to stay a mittle-bit. It takes me 30 minutes, and I arrive at yoga bedraggled half way through the class.


I used to dread these days surrounding the New Year. The judgement, the fear, the self-confrontation. Yet slowly without me even noticing my attitude changed. And this year I find that I look forward to them. I get so lost so caught up in the mundane aspects of life. I become lackadaisical in my prayers, my learning evaporates and my consciousness and mindfulness is lost. Lists and lists of doing occupy my days. Doing, doing and more doing. Food to buy, meals to cook, people to call, friends to see, errands to be run.  Even in the rare quiet moments I make more and more lists. And then comes the New Year. We acknowledge that it is G-d who is king. He is in control. For two whole days, we get to practice being. Being in His presence and to take a step back from the repetitious daily life. We can spend two days focusing on nothing except that there is a will which is not ours, and that we do not control our life. And this is both frightening but comforting. I take comfort in this fact of that it is all a result of his will. I cannot control everything. I can do my best, but G-d’s will is what prevails. And I try to internalize that everything which happens, my job the friends my health , is all because he wants it be exactly like so. And even though I may have a different plan for my life at this moment, the reality is that every single aspect of my life is nothing but His will.


Approaching the New Year I am physically in survival mode. Yet this morning, I was nursing my son and I realized that my deepest wish was being realized – I was doing my unique purpose in this world. There was no one else who at that moment could give my baby what I was giving him. Someone else could give him a bottle, and hold him but no one could ever be his mother. And that his non-sleeping habits are what G-d intends. So as  much as every year I spend the entire day in shul on Rosh Hashana, deep in prayer, I realize that this year will not be like that.  Even if I do get to shul I doubt I will have the stamina and concentration of previous years. But it does not mean I miss out on what Rosh Hashana is. For instead of getting angry and being resentful and wishing I was able to daven properly while I am taking care of my children, on Rosh Hashana I give up my will. For now, He wants me to pace the halls and stay a mittle-bit and be a mother of two precious little children.  This year, I choose to relinquish my idea of what my life should be, and embrace His. For that will bring joy and connection to G-d which I desire.

Confessions of an uptight mother

(Ella – two months old)

The sms sends me spinning. I keep seeing it over and over in my mind, those few words spitting their pity at me. It’s from a friend who gave birth five weeks after me. My little Ella is eight weeks old; hers is not even three weeks old. She smses to tell me that she will see me at a barmitzvah we are both invited to. She is leaving her baby with her mother and is excited for the night out. I am reeling.

How can she go out and face the world? At night too! I have just recently been able to move my own bedtime past 6.30pm. For the past eight weeks since birth, I am in bed by 6.30pm. With a baby who barely sleeps in the day, and is up from 3 or 4 am for the day, those four hours from 6.30pm – 10.30pm are my saving grace. There is no way I can leave the house at night, let alone be awake for it.

But more than the physical exhaustion, I am shaken to my core. I am struggling to adjust to  my new existence. The reality of being attached constantly – mentally, physically and emotionally – to another being who demands my full servitude unsettles me. I am missing my inner world, which is now overrun with questions – is my baby hungry, tired, does she need to be changed, is she eating enough.

Going to this function signifies a slight return to the outside world, and implies that I can go out for the night and be okay. It marks a milestone in my world, showing everyone that I am still alive. And here my friend is is, less than three weeks after birth, and able to get up and go out with no fuss at all

I feel assaulted by her seemingly seamless transition into motherhood, and envious at how unscathed her psyche is(granted her baby does sleep for a large portion of the day time). I find myself comparing myself to her. I question why I cannot be as calm and collected as she is, and why I am finding this change so challenging.

The unraveling of self confuses me. I did not expect this. I expected an adjustment and some sleep deprivation. But I did not anticipate this cataclysmic redefinition of self. I mourn my free self. I miss being able to dash off the shops with no pram or car seat or nappy bag in tow. I miss my mind a lot. My independence is shattered, and I am beholden. I question everything about it. Am I loving her enough? I wander if I will have an adult thought again. I question my reaction. Why is this hard for me, I wonder. Will I ever sleep again, I ponder. Why do some new moms get to waltz out the door to a barmitzva, barely three weeks post birth, with not a care in the world? Why do some moms look happy and poised and perfect while I struggle to find myself in this new role?

Then it hits me. I am a thinker. I take life seriously, sometimes a little too seriously. I do not meld into any aspect of it. Marriage, friendships, jobs and interests are things which I delve into with gusto. I question and ponder and posit  I constantly re-examine my motives and my being, to what I want from my life and what I can give to life. I do not suffer, but I do not go gently into this thing call life. There are days and events which shake me up. There are weeks where I feel sad and anxious and lonely and aimless. I love my blessing-filled existence, but no I do not meld into anything.

Some may call me uptight. Some may call me “too serious”. But this is me. I battle through the waves, manoevering the rocky shores in reach of the swells which await.

And being a new mother is no different. With this realization, I am calmed. I own my way of being. I am a self confessed uptight mother. The first time the doctor says my baby is not growing fast enough, I freak out of my wits. I face my guilt and high expectations head on.

Yet despite this calming epiphany, life is not done with me. Another friend tells me nonchalantly how she misses her baby even while she’s in the shower. Another cosmic tidal wave crashes through me. I am not at the stage where I even love my baby authentically. I bump into the father of my friend, who recently gave birth. He tells me how easily she has made the transition into motherhood and how her baby is ‘so, so good’. Why have I not transitioned easily into motherhood? (I later find out that her child barely sleeps in the night or day, and she is literally at her wit’s end)

So here it is. The confession. I am uptight. I am serious. I struggle to find my place in the world. And that does not make me less or inferior or a worse mother. This is who I am, I want to scream out to the world. I am the mother who worries when the nappies aren’t wet. I am the mother who is unsure and uncertain.  I do not demand anything more of myself than what I am. I doubt I will ever waltz off to a function days post birth. I still need to go bed embarrassingly early after a string of bad nights. And on this journey called motherhood, I choose to give myself a break. The mother in me is just days old, and is learning slowly. I doubt I will ever find this journey easy and seamless, but I hope that over time I will learn to show more compassion to myself, to trust my instinct and to embrace the beautiful moments along the way.

Until then, I exclaim with celebration that I am an uptight mother.

The first two weeks: Vanquishing of the iron woman

My little baby daughter, not even two weeks old, is already teaching me.
Little Ella teaches me that I am very invested in being a coper. Not a martyr, but a very capable strong able woman. It is not without a tinge of pride I tell people that right after I gave birth, no pain relief at all, I am up and about, walking around. I silently revel when people tell me that I look so well, and am coping so well.
I worked up till the very last possible day (incidentally),even as my feet were so swollen that I could no longer drive, let alone walk. The shabbas before Ella was born I walked on my tree stump legs to friends nearby in over 30 degree weather (which to me felt like 40 degrees).  I did yoga throughout, carried on my night classes. I rested more, and didn’t have shabbas guests at the end, but never would I say I wasn’t coping. When I felt frazzled or tired, I simply put myself to bed.
And then Ella came. The first two days we were in the comforting and supportive Genesis clinic. I was still on a post birth high, and had reserves of sleep. The incredible nurses were a ring away, and even watched Ella one night while I slept. I was euphoric and feeling physically strong and on top of the world.
Even at home those first few days, she didn’t sleep much, but I handled it. Visitors and families streamed in and out and we were doing great. Until Tuesday morning. On Monday night from 6pm – 2am Ella screamed and screamed and screamed. Her teeny body writhed in pain, her face contorted and bright red and she screamed. My husband and I took turns holding her, rocking her, patting her, and she would calm for a few moments until the screaming began again. Somewhere between the thousandth scream, I start bargaining with the universe. I even offer to be in labour again, no epidural and all rather than tolerate this.
The next day I was shaken to the core. During the screams, I convinced myself that she had colic, and was doomed to months of a screaming unsettled baby. Worse yet, was watching my little baby, so helpless and small and in pain, and unable to help at all.
The next day I am shaken to the core. Every little sound she makes convinces me that the screaming episode is going to start again.  I am terrified of the night, and what it may bring. What will I do if it starts again? I start collecting baby chiropractors numbers, and shake. I eat like a refugee,  shovelling cold food into my mouth, crouched over the dining room table, as if I am not knowing when I can eat next. I try rest while family watches Ella, but I am too wound up. I hear every squeak from my bedroom, waiting for the descent into hysteria. My husband tells me I me I have a crazed look in my eyes, and I look at him with annoyance. Why can’t he see how brilliantly I am coping, as everyone else does? Sure, I am tired, but which new mother isn’t.
And then the cracks. While getting immunizations back at Genesis, we bump into an old classmate from 12 years ago. She has given birth just before me, and I see the joy and pride in her eyes as she shows off her little boy. Me? I fantasize about leaving Ella Rachel there, so I can go home and sleep and sleep and sleep.
 We come home from the immunizations, and the tears come. I am a hormonal ,anxious wreck. I cry and cry and feel better. People say the first six weeks are the hardest, and I can’t imagine getting past this first week. That night, Marc offers to watch her while I sleep. I bath her, feed her and go lie down. But sleep doesn’t come. Every sound startles me, and I hear her moaning and wailing. I stumble into the lounge later, and am told that she has been sleeping soundly all this time.
Finally, I realize that I am struggling. The doula comes the next day for a post birth visit, and my words are heroic and noble. But she senses the rambling speech and crazed eyes. She prescribes rescue remedy three times a day, and tells me to sleep in the day while Ella does. I realize with shock that I am sleep deprived and overwhelmed, all very normal feelings.
I look at other mothers who have their own conversations and thoughts, and wonder – is it really possible that a time will come where a watch doesn’t indicate what time a feed is due, and I will feel half human and maybe even get dressed one day.
My amazingly generous mother- in-law offers to get us a night nurse a few days a week. Initially, I balk at the idea. I have friends with five children who managed without a night nurse. I have domestic help and haven’t cooked a meal since she was born. A night nurse? Those are for spoilt South Africans. Surely I can take care of one new born alone and manage? It feels indulgent and how can I trust a stranger with tiny Ella.
 I read a frum magazine about a woman with 14 children, and how serene and calm she is. I will bet she never had night nurse for her fourteenth, let alone her first. I am neither the first new mother nor the last, so what am I complaining about?
Already, the list of demands I have screams loudly. All these things I should be doing. I should be managing, coping without sleep. I shouldn’t need help. I should be able to do it alone.
Yet after a week of about two hours sleep a night and another episode of weeping and wanting to leave Ella at the clinic for good, I learn. That for Ella to be dependent on me, I need to depend on other people. I can’t do this all alone. I turn to my husband, my family and I advertise for a night nurse. I will accept with gratitude all the support I can muster, and ask when I need more. (Wasn’t it an aristocratic thing to have nurses for children?) I buy earplugs, and when my mom shows up at 6pm I answer the door in my pajamas, and hand Ella to her and off I go to the bedroom with my earplugs.  The next day, my friend Julie comes for bath time. I ask her to bath Ella alone, while I go and take a bath myself.
I start sleeping in the day time, with my ear plugs while Marc watches her.
Yes, little Ella is already my teacher. Not even two weeks old; she has pierced through my armour, showing me that I am so much more fragile than I care to admit, and mothering is definitely not for sissies.