i have discovered the most wonderful book. i haven't gotten very far into it, but thusfar it describes my existence as a mom to a "t." it's called perfect madness: motherhood in the age of anxiety. it is the manifesto that's been going through my head for almost exactly 6 years now. thank God someone has finally put it on paper!

the author, judith warner, calls the general feeling of dissatisfaction and exhaustion that most middle to upper-middle class mothers experience "The Mess." yes, i capitalized. because it is a mess. i'll use my life to illustrate.

i grew up in a small town as an overachiever in a new society of opportunity for women. i didn't have to psyche myself up to be a teacher, nurse, secretary or stay-at-home-mom. i could do whatever i wanted with my talents with regard to a career. this was so different from my mother's generation. their personalities and gifts had to be squeezed and crushed into the box of "women's jobs." i was the first one from either side of my family to get a college degree. in fact, i have 3 of them. i say this not to brag, but to hopefully show you the masochistic drive i have to "be the best i can."

along came marriage. i was lucky enough to marry a sensitive guy who was pretty progressive in his thinking when it came to the division of the sexes. i also lucked out in the fact that he was/is crazy in love with me and vice-versa. we were married almost 5 years when punkin came along. up until that point, the captain and i had been building our respective careers and movin' on up from apartment life to a suburban mortgage. we were living life as it should be - as we planned it - perfectly. after punkin was born, the illusion of our perfect life shattered in a big way.

growing up as an overachiever tends to make one worship control. i was organized. i had it together. i was a "good kid." my bipolar mother and workaholic father left the world on my shoulders, and i carried it. i carried it right into bouts of anxiety and panic that had me housebound for about 3 months in 1991. and now, i had a baby. i was responsible for a living thing - a person. if i didn't do everything just so, i could ruin her life! the blissed out mothers on television had it so together and were doing such a wonderful job! why couldn't i get off of the couch? why couldn't i eat or sleep? why didn't i love my beautiful baby girl?

i decided there and then that i wasn't good enough as a mother. i had to try harder. those women on tv weren't even real and they were doing a better job than i was! the more pressure i put on myself to be perfect, the more immobilized i became. i started fantasizing about leaving punkin in her car seat in a shopping cart in the grocery store. we lived in a nice town. someone was bound to find her and take care of her better than i could. but i couldn't do it. so...if i couldn't leave her that way, perhaps i could find another way to escape. the captain would get my life insurance money and he could go on to marry a woman who would be a good mother.

obviously, that didn't happen either. instead, i started taking little pills that gave me my life back. not the same life, mind you, but a new life in which i could cook dinner, feed and bathe the baby, change diapers, entertain her, enrich her mind, keep the house clean and well stocked with food, work part-time, work out on a regular basis and maintain an intimate relationship with my husband. i was back. i still am back. but i am once again getting tired. i am spending more time on the couch. i haven't been sleeping well. but punkin's birthday party...well, it was perfect.

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