I could be a much better mom to Jack. I’m aware of this, and while I don’t like it, I think it’s something I need to admit. He deserves for me to continue working toward being a better parent to him, and I’m doing it.
Bipolar disorder complicates every aspect of my life. I don’t have stable moods, even on medication. As I’ve mentioned, my tolerance for frustration and patience is extremely low. At times it feels nonexistent. There’s a razor thin edge between me being in control and out of control emotionally. The inconsistency of my moods and their unpredictability upset me.
Think of the combination of what I’ve described above with a child. A baby, toddler, preschooler, and at this point, Jack’s in Pre-K. Lack of patience with a child doesn’t work well. I have to check myself over and over with him to make sure I’m being appropriate.
Ever since Jack was born I’ve felt inferior as a parent. He attached well to Jason first, and Jason was his primary caregiver from the start. He is arguably still Jack’s primary caregiver.
This makes me sad. And it makes me feel crazy. What am I lacking? That’s been the question over the past few years. What don’t I have for Jack? Because I love him so much. He’s my sweet, sweet child who overwhelms me with joy.
I’m not a nurturing person. It’s not part of me. I wanted to be one so badly when Jack was born, and felt horribly deficient. If it weren’t for some great books about postpartum depression I found on Amazon, I would’ve thought I was the only mother in the world to feel so pathetic.
Over time I learned a valuable lesson. It’s possible to love someone deeply without being a great nurturer. I didn’t believe this was feasible for the first couple years of Jack’s life, but now I can see it’s true.
What I’m learning is that it doesn’t take much at all to “nurture” Jack. In my head I made it harder than it had to be. I don’t need to fawn all over him and cuddle with him constantly. I do like to cuddle with Jack on the couch, but he’s all over the place and climbs on me, so when he chills a bit that’ll be better.
Here’s what Jack needs from me. A smile. Sometimes I catch him looking at me while I’m working on something and I smile at him. He smiles back and comes over to me where I can give him a hug and a kiss. He needs me to acknowledge him and respect him. To snatch him up unexpectedly and give him kisses.
This advice was given to me a few months ago: make sure to give Jack a hug and a kiss everyday and tell him I love him. I do that. More than once per day.
Parenting is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Nothing in my life has ever been so challenging. But to have such a precious little boy makes it all worthwhile.
I’m a pretty unconventional mother, but it’s okay. I am not my bipolar disorder and I won’t let it steal away the things that are most special to me. I’ll do everything I can to keep my emotions regulated. And I’ll make sure my family knows I love them. My affect isn’t always congruent with the way I feel. Hopefully knowing these things and trying to practice some mindfulness will help.