When Parenting Feels Like Purgatory.

Disclaimer: Make no mistake this is not a blog making claims that I have experienced the real deal purgatory. No near death experiences in my realm of influence to report from, just general common knowledge on the subject which leads me to believe that it is like parenting.

I always knew I wanted to be a mom. A young mom. Have my kids first so that I had the energy and stamina to put them first. At the end of their “neediness,” which I do realize as a child myself does not end, just lessens and changes, I would still be young enough to do the other things I had vaguely dreamed of and more recently crave. The writing and traveling, pursuing personal goals and dreams, exploring the many faces of myself that had been brushed aside for decades. The plan seemed solid. Foolproof even. As do so many plans until they are being lived out in real-time.

Then there are days like this one. Days that so quickly turn into weeks. Like a root upturned, left burnt as it reaches to the sun in search of what only soil can provide.  I end up looking for nourishment in all the wrong places and because of that, I starve.

I imagine my body floating, in purgatory, because its job is not yet finished. Can not peacefully drift off to another realm with invisible strings tied to my heart like a balloon.

You see, my biggest fear is wrapped up in the “less than’s and lack of’s.” What I didn’t do well enough, or finish, or start. What I failed to make come to fruition, inside my own mind or the heart of others. Not leaving a mark. Being that floating body watching every detail and never being seen. If I take a step back it is almost as if parenting fits the bill for all these fears.

My oldest daughter loves theatre. Lord knows she has a lack for drama. Yesterday, while helping backstage during one of their performances one of the other little actresses was getting into costume, with the help of her mother. A pretty common scene in any direction, however it was what I overheard her say that stood out in my mind. As her mother was tying the fuzzy legs of her spider costume around her waist, she said, so non-chalantly, “I love my life!” To which her mother replied, without missing a beat, “I love your life too.”

It was a super sweet moment to have stumbled upon as an onlooker. The mother and daughter duo lost in their connection, reveling in all the glory their relationship brings to one another. A story we would like to read a blog post about because its warm, comforting and inspiring. To me, it stung. My daughter was in the other corner of the room, with a friend. Completely ignoring me and totally elated, riding the pre-performance, let me do your makeup and you do mine, pre-teen hight.

Moments earlier she had no qualms in sharing how angry she was at me due to a Murphy’s law detail. An accident on the interstate caused us to arrive a few minutes late to call time.  Not showtime. Call time, which was an hour and half before showtime. Deep breaths.

Once the performance was over she would tell me that I had ruined her day because I was making her go back to school, at 11am. She argued that she had too much gel in her hair to wear it down and didn’t want to be seen in the sweatpants and sweatshirt she was wearing over her nude colored leo and tights, necessary for all the costume changes. She stood in the parking lot like a toddler refusing to walk toward the front door. Reminding me with each begrudging step that the day was awful and it was my fault.

I mentally got the container of bubbles off the shelf, opened them and exhaled. A technique my sweet seven-year-old learned in Mindfulness, a class they have at school to help them deal with feelings. She had shared it with me as she observed my frustrations one particular afternoon at home. Much like the spider, she created a magic moment amidst the mothering madness.

This tantrum and my retreat to blowing bubbles like a mime in the school parking lot is pretty on par for the parenting of recent weeks. It is like purgatory and like bubbles. It is like miming and being invisible, neither seen nor heard. Transparent. With ironically no relevance to the word parent being tucked snug in there.  The constant ping-pong, back and forth with what to do. Every situation different, each child unlike the other, and therefore new methods are needed to respond effectively to repetitive madness. It all leaves me feeling exhausted, worn down to a see through shell.

Dramatic? Ok, so maybe the apple doesn’t fall far, but I also feel it is taboo to discuss. Let me explain.

I feel lost often when it comes to parenting. I stress and wonder. I call friends and ask for advice and opinions. I text my closest peeps, the ones who won’t judge me when I’m at my darkest, and let loose.  I cry in the shower, where no one can hear, because these are the feelings that are supposed to be hidden. It isn’t something we post on Facebook.  Sharing a candid photo of my mental breakdown on Instagram, is not kosher.

I read so many mommy blogs about how amazing it is to be a mother. About how children fill our buckets and make us better people. I read about the struggle to get out the door in the morning, the wine at night, the endless running around and the humor that some are so eloquent at sharing, making it seem lighthearted and fun. All of this is relatable to me, on one day or another. But for fear of being deemed inadequate, or worse, a failure at motherhood, I read very few transparent blogs. Blogs admitting we may be in parental purgatory when it comes to knowing what is best. Mother knows best, is not a staple statement for my clan. I am willing to shout it from the rooftops, or in this case from the tiny table in Starbucks, that I have no idea what to do half of the time. I am confident only in the fact that I am messing it all up because my child is not randomly smiling in my direction and we have a negative where life loving affirmations spoken aloud into the universe are concerned.

Obviously, by these standards, I am a failure. But my parental purgatory kicks in again at the thought of this statement and back and forth, I hang in the balance of failure and normal growing pains.

When I shared these failure feeling with my one of my tribe, the only who has known me for more years than she hasn’t,  she assured me that I was great. “You work hard at being great and care about being great.”  I am not sharing this to prove to you that I am great, but to point out the weight of her reply. She was right in the fact that I really do try and I do care about improving. Even more than that I care about helping my children understand and own their greatness, even when it leaves me standing alone in the corner. Because one day isn’t that the goal? Don’t we, as parents, as people, hope that our presence will be like a transparent blanket over those we love? Helping them continue in their greatness when we aren’t there to be seen. An invisible string connecting our hearts so they can hear the words we aren’t able to speak. Our presence, mindful bubbles floating overhead.


Sometimes we just have to pause, breathe and be patient. Allow time and space to hold us in parental purgatory, unequivocal and hovering, because, we aren’t quite done here yet.

xo Jenn



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