Failure.

I feel awful. Perhaps it’s because of how tired I am. I have no idea. But I just feel terrible. I feel like I have failed miserably as a mother because I have no idea of how to calm my son down. That’s supposed to be my job, right? Calming him down, making him comfortable. And I can’t do it.

Last night was rough. He refused a nap and then at 7 he fell asleep after a fight only to wake up 45 minutes later. Toby was home by then and gave it a go. By 9 PM he was having a full-fledged meltdown. He was screaming like I’ve never heard before. He simply could not relax. We tried rocking him and singing to him. He walked back and forth between us looking for comfort, when he couldn’t find it, he’d go to the other one, screaming the entire time.

At 9:30. He finally fell asleep. He woke up a dozen times throughout the night. We did everything we could to make him comfortable and failed.

This morning he woke up at 6 AM. His eyes were puffy and his nose was running slightly. Of course, we immediately panicked thinking he may caught something from the bird we found. (There hasn’t been any contact, but still.) And then we thought maybe his molars were coming in. Perhaps he just caught a cold.

I want to be able to calm him down. I want to be able to make him happy. But I have been failing for 24 hours straight. This is the toughest job I have ever had. There’s no conversation that begins with a simple, “Hey, what’s wrong? What can I do to make it better?” and then working hard to make that happen.

I have failed at the only thing I am supposed to be doing right now, which is making my son’s life easier, understanding what he needs and making that happen.

What a difficult job!

Now, you may laugh at what I’m about to suggest and I’m no contender, but I think it’s high time the MacArthur Foundation grants a million dollars to a stay-at-home mother. Because, while I may be failing at it myself this week, we work our asses off 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at “building a more just, verdant, and peaceful world”.

Among this year’s winners there was an urban farmer, a sculptor, an astrophysicist, and a violinist. You know what almost all of them had in common?

A mother.

Next year, I’m nominating a stay-at-home mother for the MacArthur grant.

Yeah, you heard me. ;]

22 Comments

  1. I’m sorry that I don’t have anything to tell you to make it better (my son is only 3 months), but I thought I’d leave a note here saying that I just read your post and I’m feeling for you, and that this too will pass.

    You are not a failure. I can tell that you are a wonderful mom.

    You are not alone. There is someone you have never met standing here in her kitchen hoping you feel better.

    Reply

  2. Just to warn you, that sounds like how the Howley cousins act with ear infections. A lot of times they have them with no other symptoms besides sleep issues. Give some Motrin and see if that helps (would help with teething pain too). Personally, I’d try and see the pediatrician today so it doesn’t drag on all weekend. Good luck. Call if you need to;)

    Reply

  3. I second what melhow says. Jonah acted exactly the same for a few nights after we came back from holidays. I thought it was readjustment, and just suffered through constant sleep deprivation with him. Daycare suggested an ear infection, so I whipped him to the doctor, and lo and behold, he had raging strep throat. So now..when he wakes up every hour screaming, I know it is his throat or ear, and take him right to the doctor. Once we started antibiotics, he started sleeping again…

    You’re not a failure! You’re a mother with a well-developed sense of guilt, it seems to come at the same time as the positive pregnancy test shows up.

    Reply

  4. Man, I am just so tired, hence posts like this one. I am walking dead. And I have a very cranky toddler to contend with. It’s not a great day, to put it simply.

    I will feel better after some sleep.

    Or maybe some whiskey. ;]

    Reply

  5. Mihow! You’re so hard on yourself! Even though Em is having such a hard time, imagine if you were not there. Your soothing is not calming him down, but I’m sure your loving presence is noted somewhere in his subconscious, and on some level he is made better. You are definitely doing your job. Us parents aren’t supposed to know what to do and when to do it all the time, but we are supposed to be there and to learn what we can. It’s perfectly natural that you are feeling horrible – it shows that you have empathy for your boy. And that is good! As for Em, I hope this passes soon and that it is only a molar or something relatively harmless!

    Reply

  6. I’ve been in the same boat this week with my son. He not only has two molars coming through at once but he caught a cold as well. Talk about miserable.

    I know it’s risky, but stick your finger in his mouth and feel for bumps. I get bit every time I try this, but it’s not like he’s going to say, “Hey ma, these molars HURT!”

    Is Em feverish? You could try some baby tylenol or whatever it is they have in the states. We use calpol, but that has paracetamol and they don’t do that in the states.

    Don’t feel bad about not being able to comfort him all of the time. Sometimes mine just gets so fed up with everything. When I’m holding him, he wants down and when he’s down he wants to be held.

    You are a good mother. The fact you show concern for your son’s well being and want to take away the discomfort shows you are a good, caring mother.

    I hope you were able to sneak an appointment with a dr if that’s the route you decided on and all is better over the weekend.

    Good luck !! I’ll send you good, restful thoughts.

    Reply

  7. Sometimes mine just gets so fed up with everything. When I’m holding him, he wants down and when he’s down he wants to be held.

    That about sums it up! Talk about feeling useless!

    Reply

  8. Maybe there’s something in the air? I’ve had to deal with the same this week too. It got to the point where she was so tired she didn’t even know what she wanted. At 17 months she does have several words, but it seems like now that she knows we understand some stuff she gets extra frustrated when we don’t understand everything.

    We repeated the following several times: “Pillow!” “you want the pillow? sure hon, here’s the pillow.” “NOOOOOOO!” (she pushes it back at me) “ok, no problem, I’ll take the pillow.” … “Pillow!” (repeat, etc.)

    Also, “do you want me to sing you a song?” “yah!” “rock-a-bye, ba…” “NOOOOO!”

    Argh.

    I don’t have a solution, just wanted you to know that you’re not alone, and you’re doing a great job. Toddlers can definitely be a challenge.

    Reply

  9. WINE! Have some wine! And I second all those who came before me: perhaps some tylenol for the baby?

    Reply

  10. Mihow,

    At some point it will become evident what the problem is. Then you will let yourself off the hook. It might be an ear infection..might be a tooth coming in..who knows.

    You’re a good mom. Give yourself a break.

    Reply

  11. Mihow,

    At some point it will become evident what the problem is. Then you will let yourself off the hook. It might be an ear infection..might be a tooth coming in..who knows.

    You’re a good mom. Give yourself a break.

    Reply

  12. Teething maybe? Ruby had pain with teething, but it was manageable, until that first molar. Holy cow, I had no clue. After two solid days of screaming, and really fitful sleep, I literally thought she just didn’t want to be around me anymore. I had no idea what was going on. We finally tried some baby Ibuprofen , and that seemed to help immensely. And then, after those two days plus another day or two of general crabbiness, poof, our baby was back. She now has all of her first year molars, and each of them caused trouble, although the first and the last molar were the toughest.

    I definitely go through periods like this too, tough times where I just feel like I’m not doing the right things. A good friend (with two kids) always reminds me that “this too shall pass.” And indeed it always seems to, it is just so incredibly difficult to see when you are stuck in the middle of the fog. Right now we are having a really tough time with diaper changes, and I keep trying to remind myself that she will eventually grow out of this, she will eventually be able to communicate with me beyond the crying and screaming and thrashing. I don’t want any of this time to go any faster, but I’ll be happy for some better communication between us.

    You are a wonderful mother, and I bet Emory just loves and trusts you so much that you are the person he turns to when he needs some comfort. Take care, and take a break to just breathe when you get a chance.

    Reply

  13. You absolutely are a great mother! Don’t be so hard on yourself. We went through this about a month ago with our 13 month old daughter. Turns out her molars came in along with a crap load of teeth along her bottom jaw.Nothing would calm her down either. Motrin helped us get through it along with wet wash cloths, anything to chew on. Molars definitely cause trouble (pain for baby, sleepless nights for parents). Hang in there.

    Reply

  14. I agree with everyone who says don’t be so hard on yourself. You are a great and very caring mother who wants to do her very best. It is hard when you’ve been competent at everything else in your life then you’re faced with this little screaming creature and you have no idea how to help them. It takes a lot of trial and error and a ton of patience. You can do it, though. And everything will be ok.

    There is usually a reason if the child is crabbier than usual – teething, sickness of some kind, hitting developmental milestones, etc. For babies his age, there are really only a handful of likely culprits and a lot of it you have to tough out, do what you can to ease symptoms, and focus on the knowledge that it will pass. Sometimes it takes a day or two to figure it out. Luckily, kids move though phases pretty quickly.

    Hang in there. Once you figure it out you can look for things to ease his discomfort. It’s all normal and it will all pass.

    Reply

  15. I agree with everyone who says don’t be so hard on yourself. You are a great and very caring mother who wants to do her very best. It is hard when you’ve been competent at everything else in your life then you’re faced with this little screaming creature and you have no idea how to help them. It takes a lot of trial and error and a ton of patience. You can do it, though. And everything will be ok.

    There is usually a reason if the child is crabbier than usual – teething, sickness of some kind, hitting developmental milestones, etc. For babies his age, there are really only a handful of likely culprits and a lot of it you have to tough out, do what you can to ease symptoms, and focus on the knowledge that it will pass. Sometimes it takes a day or two to figure it out. Luckily, kids move though phases pretty quickly.

    Hang in there. Once you figure it out you can look for things to ease his discomfort. It’s all normal and it will all pass.

    Reply

  16. I think all mothers have this feeling. Please, don’t be so hard on yourself. These things happen again and again and again. I used to get so fustrated that I couldn’t comfort my colicy newborn that I wanted to put him in a cardboard box and slid that box into the far reaches of the closet. At least you didn’t want to do that!

    It’s hard. Expecially when you don’t get a break all day and have to wait for your spouse to get home. I’d call my husband crying, begging him to come home because I just couldn’t deal anymore.

    Oh, and the worse…was Herpangina. A horrible horrible virus that sounded just like your post and went on for two nights in a row. I lost 6lbs because I hardly ate and just spent hours rocking my screaming son against my chest- convinced that I could saw off my finger with a butter knife if only he would be okay.

    You did everything you could- which is be a source of love by responding to your son’s needs. Even if it didn’t stop his crying- you were letting him know you were there for him.

    You’re a wonderful mother. Emery would tell you if he could. He obviously is a kind, gentle little boy. I’m amazed at how good he is with your cats. You teach him that. YOU.

    I hope the little man is feeling better now!

    Reply

  17. You guys are too kind. Em has a full-on cold now. And I’m getting it as well. Par for the course, tho. I always get sick with him. I’m his Elliot, he my ET.

    Thanks again for your support. I hate to admit this, but I love reading your stories. I really do. Email and comments alike. You guys really help me out always.

    Thanks.

    Reply

  18. When all else fails to soothe, I get my 13-month old into a warm tubfull of bubbles – and then get in there with him. Amazing personality shift almost instantly! Between the extra warmth, the happy distracting bathtoys, and the change of focus, this is my go-to solution when I’m at my wit’s end. Lately, we’re racking up alot of tub time…..but at least my snuffly, teething, almost-walking boy is cheerful!

    Reply

  19. I know this was mentioned, but I too battled with my son and ear infections. He didn’t have any signs except the occasional low grade fever. If you haven’t already, try giving Emory some Tylenol and see what happens. It’s not going to hurt him and he may find some relief from whatever it is that’s going on.

    Good luck.

    carrie

    Reply

  20. So sorry for you and Em! The combination of not feeling well and not being able to verbalize are so freakin’ tough. I cannot wait until Amelia can say, mommy this is why I’m not sleeping… You are a great mom, don’t get so down. Try to get sleep yourself, that’s the hardest part.

    Feel better!

    Reply

  21. Oh my goodness – this was us about 2 weeks ago. About a 2 full days of nights of super crankiness, tiny naps and constant night waking. Then, it passed as suddenly as it came. He had a fever briefly during this and the only things I could think of were severe teething pain or perhaps a little 24-36 hour virus. Oh, we were all miserable. I’m sorry! There are days when Anthony (14 mos.) is super cranky and I do honestly weep after he goes to bed. It breaks my heart that all I get is about 3 hours a day with him (I work outside the house) and when those 3 hours are full of tears and frustration it makes me want to throw my hands up and say “I suck at this! I give up!”

    Reply

  22. Amen. Amen. Amen. I’m right there with you. But, then, my little guy (just one yesterday!) has NEVER been a good sleeper. Waking up 3 times a night is pretty usual here. All I can say is that D sleeps even worse when teeth are coming in. Like the THREE that are coming in right now. Making it a grand total of 14 freeeeeekin’ teeth. I kind of wish we didn’t have teeth. I’d give up chewing food if I could sleep for 8 hours. And I’d look into the ear infection idea above. Sounds very plausible.

    Good luck! Hope we some day get to sleep again! sigh.

    Reply

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