Family of Me

by Daphne
Updates Mondays and Fridays

Scene 133: Managing Motherhood

Twyla (The Parent): Hey Daphne… Can we talk?

Mom (Me): That’s what we’re here for. What’s on your mind?

Twyla: Focus—my focus back when I was regularly discussing things with my child. Or rather, my lack of focus.

Mom: What do you mean?

Twyla: You know how our kid asks random questions sometimes?

Mom (dry): Sometimes?

Twyla: Okay, all the time. Most of the questions they ask are random questions, unrelated from whatever we were discussing a few minutes prior, and they ask questions all the time.

Mom (happy): I remember those days… Not that they’ve really ended, though they don’t change topics quite as fast as they used to. Still, I wouldn’t blame them for that. Kids have a lot to learn and their brains are working overtime to take everything in.

Twyla: I know, I don’t blame our kiddo for that either, but… Well, it takes a toll.

Mom: Your focus?

Twyla: Right. They ask question after question after question, and I have to come up with answer after answer… It’s really exhausting.

Mom (smiling): Such is parenting, right?

Twyla (annoyed): I guess? Does it really have to be that way?

Mom: Our child has to learn somehow.

Twyla: I know that, but maybe I could have gotten them to stick to one topic somehow. Or I could have given them broader answers…

Mom (frowning): I don’t think there’s anything wrong with our kid’s curiosity.

Twyla (reluctant): I guess there isn’t, but…

Mom: You don’t sound convinced.

Twyla (exasperated): I can’t handle it! I can’t handle that mental whiplash, jumping from topic to topic with no connection between the two. It wears through my energy so quickly and then I don’t have anything left for anything else. I know it’s not their fault, but if they could just be a little more considerate…

Mom (interrupting): Okay, let’s slow down and talk through this. We need to deconstruct your thinking a bit so we can reassemble it in a less destructive way.

Twyla: I know it hurts us, you don’t need to remind me!

Mom: It’s not just painful to you, Twyla! That attitude hurts your loved ones too.

Twyla (offended): Oh, and you know how to fix it? This is something you’ve “solved”?

Mom (adamant): Yes it is! It’s still hard sometimes, but I handle our kid’s endless questions much better than you did.

Twyla: And now you’re going to teach me how, I suppose.

Mom: Yes, which requires disassembling your thought process so we can examine the pieces. I know you can manage this; you have advantages this time around that you didn’t have the first time.

Twyla: You mean your guidance.

Mom: No I don’t. That’ll speed this process up, but it isn’t the key.

Twyla (skeptical): So the key is… What, being a woman?

Mom: For us, yes. Transition opened an entire world of emotional capacity that we never had access to before. Whether or not that’s because we’re a woman now or because we’re aligned with our authentic self doesn’t really matter, as far as I’m concerned.

Twyla: And I have that advantage already.

Mom: You do. So let’s start taking your reasoning apart. Our child is asking you all sorts of random questions. Why is that fraying your focus?

Twyla: Well… It’s hard. It’s hard to switch my thinking over to each new topic. In order to properly consider something, I need to wrap my brain around it, and that takes time. I can’t just do it on a whim over and over!

Mom: Okay, that’s reasonable. So why not ask for more time?

Twyla (annoyed): I can’t just ask for more time. Our kid’s not going to respect that request.

Mom: Hold on, what do you mean by “respect”?

Twyla: I mean they always put their feelings first! If they’d just be more considerate with their questions, this wouldn’t be a problem!

Mom: That’s not a reasonable expectation; they’re not even a half decade old during your time. I think you know that.

Twyla (agitated): I don’t know if it’s reasonable or not, Daphne! That’s the problem; how am I supposed to know whether she’s capable of learning to hold her questions until I can answer them?

Mom: You don’t know exactly what she’s capable of learning, but deep down, you know that expecting them to make your life easier isn’t how the relationship between you two is supposed to be.

Twyla (hurt): I… I know. I know that, I feel intense guilt over it. Every time I feel anxiety over not knowing how to respond to our kid, I’m overcome with horrible guilt over how I’m not living up to my obligation as a parent.

Mom (patient): What obligation is that, exactly?

Twyla: I need to be available to my kid. It’s up to me to teach them what I can when they ask me questions. Maybe I don’t have an answer, but I need to at least give it an honest try. Don’t tell me that’s changed.

Mom: It hasn’t, but you’re allowed to have limits. You’re allowed to say “that’s enough questions for now” or “ask me some other time.”

Twyla: Except when I do that, they get upset with me.

Mom: Sure, because they’re not getting what they want. You can still do it. You’re the parent in this relationship.

Twyla (upset): But that’s just arbitrary! Who’s to say that my way is correct just because I’m the parent here?

Mom (firm): Your way? It’s not a question of your way vs. your child’s way, it’s a question of setting a boundary that protects your mental health.

Twyla (anxious): But what if I’m setting the boundary in the wrong place? Any parenting that I refuse to do is parenting that my partner has to handle, so that just makes more work for her. I can’t just throw up boundaries whenever I get anxious, Daphne! If I refuse to engage with my child every time I feel uncomfortable, I’m just pushing all the parenting work onto my partner!

Mom: Twyla, there’s nothing wrong with walking away and taking a few minutes to recharge. That’s a healthy thing to do when you feel overwhelmed. And you don’t really have to worry about your partner taking on too much because if that happens, she’ll tell you.

Twyla (panicked): Will she!? Because I can get pretty defensive sometimes, and I don’t think she always has the energy to deal with that! So we kind of have to figure this stuff out on our own if we’re going to be an equal co-parent!

Mom: You don’t have to work all this out alone. I’m here with you for starters, and…

Twyla (angry): Like you have everything figured out! You’re here trying to convince me that I’m asking the wrong questions, which tells me that you don’t know what you’re talking about!

Mom (careful): Okay, let’s slow down a bit.

Twyla (furious): This is why I can’t believe you have the gall to call yourself “Mom”! Mothers understand how to handle these situations! They know where to set their boundaries, and they take on so much more parental labor than we can even begin to fathom! They’re so much more than we could ever hope to be!

Mom (forceful): Okay. That’s quite enough. Let’s both take some deep breaths to calm down.

(I start taking deep breaths to bring the tension in the room back to a low simmer. Twyla is fuming, but she reluctantly takes a few deep breaths in and out. By the time she’s finished, she seems calm enough to continue.)

Twyla (ashamed): I’m sorry I snapped at you.

Mom (calm): It’s okay. I think I might have taken things a little too fast here. I asked you to deconstruct your thought process and a lot more spilled out than either of us were expecting.

Twyla (embarrassed): Yeah… Yeah, that was a lot.

Mom: I still think this is important to discuss, but I’ll try to take things slower… One chunk at a time. Shall we call it a day for now and try again after a little while?

Twyla: I think that’s for the best. See you later, Daphne.

Mom: Goodbye for now, Twyla.