I’m a mom. And it’s hard.
You know what makes it harder? Deciding that “no one else can/will do it, so thank you very much I’ll just do it myself. No, I don’t need help. No, you’ll just do it wrong. No, you don’t understand. It has to be done THIS way. Just–I’ve got it.”
This is the gist of many conversations I’ve had with my husband. Sometimes when I’m just venting about something, sometimes when I sort of want his help, but don’t want him to vary from my way of doing things.
Basically, I make it hard on myself by not letting him help. And a little part of him has given up trying (and I’m pretty sure a part of him also says, ‘thank goodness, I don’t have to do it). But I’ve kind of taken it on myself, and not let him help me with it all that much.
It’s pretty much my own fault. And I know I’m not the only one who’s done this. To ourselves.
And there are times all of this just gets overwhelming. On those days when everything goes wrong and coffee can’t fix it and wine at 8:00 in the morning seems like an acceptable solution (don’t worry, I don’t drink at 8:00 in the morning. That sounds AWFUL).
It’s in those overwhelming moments when THAT one taboo thought goes through my mind:
I wish I could just run away.
Just for a weekend, or even a night. I wish I could get away from the constant need to do, be, and go. And to never be appreciated for doing, being, and going constantly. (To my mom, thank you. THANK you!!!)
I know other mothers, other parents, have had these thoughts. Because it all gets really overwhelming. Having someone rely on you that much without a thank you or a second thought. Its all really difficult at times.
But I don’t, because the deep love for my family overrides my need to get away. Because I love them like crazy — they make me laugh (even while I’m crying). Their triumphs are my triumphs. All in all, even though they make me want to scream and run away, they also fill my days with laughter and love.
Because of that, I’m 99% sure I’ll never run away. I would miss them all too much. BUT I’m not making any promises (I need to keep them on their toes!).
Okay, onto the book that started this whole discussion: Gayle Forman’s Leave Me.
“Would it surprise you to learn that one of the top fantasies for women is a prolonged hospital stay?”
“Not if you think about it. The exhausted, multitasking woman. A trip to the hospital, it’s like the ultimate vacation. A chance to be the nurtured one instead of the nurturer. Guilt free, no less.”
–Gayle Forman, Leave Me
Maribeth is frazzled. Working at a women’s magazine in what’s supposed to be a part-time job, she’s also the mother of 4 year-old twins and wife to a music librarian who believes he’s overworked. The worklife/homelife balance just isn’t coming together, and Maribeth feels like she’s just not getting any of it right.
After a couple of days of not feeling quite right, she learns it’s actually a heart attack. A mishap during the stent placement causes her to need emergency bypass surgery. All of this freaks Maribeth out, and she realizes that she needs to take better care of herself and destress her life.
Except her family doesn’t get that memo.
A week after surgery, her husband’s wondering when she’s going to get out of bed and get back to helping him out with the kids, the food, and the house. Her mother, who’s there to help, is one more burden. Her twins want there mom, which is understandable, but no one is playing the buffer between her and the pain. When no one is getting the crystal-clear message that Maribeth needs time to heal, she snaps.
Drawing $25,000 out of a savings account (an inheritance from her father), she hops on a bus, getting rid of her credit cards and phone on the way. She ends up in Pittsburgh, partly by chance, partly on purpose.
In Pittsburgh she rents a cheap apartment and forms a network of sorts with people she that she doesn’t know, and who know and expect nothing of her. She hires a private investigator to locate her birth mother (she was adopted from Pittsburgh). Without everyday pressure and controls, she starts to come to terms with her anger and abandonment issues, and to heal inside and out.
Leave Me was emotionally rough for me. It hit a nerve, big time.
Not that I would I would ever, ever run. But I have felt stretched to a breaking point and unsure if I could keep going. Luckily, my husband gives me time to get myself back in mom-shape, and understands that I need to let loose sometimes.
Forman writes the stress of motherhood believably: Maribeth is pulled 17 different ways all at the same time, and no one realizes that she’s not made of rubber. While the heart attack puts life into perspective for her, no one around her understands at all, and keeps pulling. She finally breaks.
Although she doesn’t remember leaving the house all that clearly, she leaves in her right mind. It’s a hard decision, but one she feels she has to make in order to heal and to get her sanity back.
Forman digs deep into emotion and reality, and gets it right. Maribeth is floundering in a sea of ‘just getting by,’ and doing this seems like the only way she can think of to heal herself physically, spiritually, and emotionally. It’s extreme, but she needs something extreme.
I loved her search for her birth mother. I have an adopted brother and cousin, and I related (as much as any unadopted person could) to Maribeth’s search, as well as her emotions and realizations. That seemed really grounded and real.
Leave Me is a book that was easy to fall into and get emotionally involved in. And I did. I loved it.
But there is the end — specifically the last third or fourth. There was so much in this book, and the end of Leave Me was trying to get them all to work out just right. It was a little too much and a little too contrived. I wish the book was a little longer, so she could delve into the issues a little deeper, and maybe spend some time on what was going on at home while she was gone rather than give it all to readers in one quick read.
But seriously, read Leave Me any way. There are so many good issues (a little too many) and she writes a great story. I was really emotionally tangled the whole book. Maribeth is every woman out there trying to balance marriage, kids, work, home, extended family, and life. Her near death experience makes her realize that she can’t be everything, and she needs to run away to find herself again as well as to show those around her that they don’t need her be everything (not her primary motivation, but it is a side-effect of her actions).
I give Leave Me 4 stars. It’s a perfect book club read.