Play Freebird!

By Beck

“I want to go away for the weekend or something,” I grumped at my husband the other night, which caused him to look at me in some alarm.

We’re surrounded by a lot of families that have suddenly fallen apart, generally because the mother – almost always the mother of young school-aged children – has suddenly left the family, suddenly vanished into a new life far away. When I was a kid, practically everyone I knew got divorced, generally because of Baby Boomer male infidelity – and now everyone I know seems to be getting divorced again, because the lady of the house met someone new online.

When I first became a mother, I spent – well, I don’t know how long I spent. A long time. I spent a long time feeling very, very trapped, trapped by how needed I was, trapped by how responsible I was for other people’s happiness. I remember laying in the bathtub while my gentle husband rocked our wailing baby to sleep in the next room, and as I tried to block out the sounds of the crying and the crooning lullabies, I would make desperate plans to GET OUT OF THERE, to run away.

I could grab a Greyhound out of town. I could get a job at a diner and at night I could return home to a quiet apartment and do some crossword puzzles and watch violent tv shows until I fell asleep. I would miss my child and husband, of course, but with a wistful resignation that they were better off without me. And then I would sigh, get out the tub, get into my pajamas and take the wailing baby from my husband, rock her to sleep. Mama’s here, baby girl. Mama’s not going anywhere.

And I didn’t go anywhere and after a while – not a very long while – the waitress daydreams went away. I was a mother and I could no more walk away from that role than I could walk away from my starring role as Beck, The Person Who Breathes Oxygen. Now, my friends and I make wistful plans for weekend get-aways that never come to anything, because our families need us… or because the idea of going away for even a weekend is complicated and oddly painful. I’m really not going anywhere – not just because I’m needed here, but because here is where I’m happiest – a magic trick that happened while I was sullenly sleeping, my first-born child still a baby and sleeping curled next to me, her fingers wrapped around my hair.

Right now, I’m sick and headachy – stupid cold making the town rounds – and all I want to do is go to bed. Across town, other women are packing up their stuff, rubbing stubborn hands across tears while muttering to themselves “They’re better off without me. I’m better off without them.”

Beck writes at Frog And Toad Are Still Friends.

45 Responses to Play Freebird!
  1. Courtney
    November 20, 2008 | 8:30 am

    I had PPD after my first son and i cant tell you ho wmnay time i had this though that they would be better off without me. They would grow and be happy and my husband would find someone better to be a better mother to my kids. I realzie now that i was just depressed but i still remember feeling trapped by the cries and the bottles. Now i am a happy mother of 2 and wouldnt change a thing. Thanks for the post.

  2. TeacherMommy
    November 20, 2008 | 8:37 am

    It doesn’t “just” take PPD to result in this sort of thinking, gotta say. I never, thank God, had more than the “baby blues,” but there are STILL times, three years later, with a second son unexpectedly joining the first, that I think guiltily, wistfully, of what it would be like to be a mysterious waitress in a diner somewhere off I-75.

    And then one of my exasperating, frustrating, adorable miracles climbs on my lap and gives me a snotty-nosed kiss and I decide it’s worth sticking around for a while.

  3. Nowheymama
    November 20, 2008 | 9:50 am

    Oh, I’m so sad for those other families.

  4. Katrina (Callapidder Days)
    November 20, 2008 | 10:37 am

    When my first was just a couple weeks old, I went out to by diapers, while my husband stayed home with the baby. As I drove home, I remember thinking, “I could just keep driving, just go right on past the house, keep driving and never stop, never go back to the crying and the neediness and the fact that I have no idea what I’m doing.” And that was one of my better days in the midst of PPD. 🙂

    We, too, know a few families where the wife just suddenly leaves. Just leaves. Declares she is no longer a wife or a mom. And the kids aren’t little needy babies anymore. They are big kids who love their mom and who need to know that their mom loves them. My heart breaks for those poor kids.

  5. pam
    November 20, 2008 | 10:37 am

    Thank you for this. I think many, many women feel that trapped, “take me away” feeling often but it is taboo to discuss. Bringing it out in the open brings compassion and camaraderie. Bless you!

  6. Susiej
    November 20, 2008 | 10:42 am

    I had this — sadly, I didn’t see it until most of the symptoms had passed. I still look back on those days, when I mourned everything — even fresh flowers because they would die — and I shudder. Life can be so difficult in Motherhood. Glad you opened the light on this.

  7. Cristan
    November 20, 2008 | 10:54 am

    I remember thinking “One day, I’m just going to check in to a hotel for one night, and sleep as long as I want” that silly little dream kept me going. I finally had the chance to sleep alone in a hotel when I went to a friend’s wedding (when the baby was 2 1/2) and I tossed and turned and got up at the crack of dawn to drive back home.

    I was consoling a neighbor of mine the other day with pretty bad PPD, and I didn’t know what to say, other than “Each day that you make it through, is one day closer to happiness.”.

  8. Veronica
    November 20, 2008 | 11:00 am

    In our family we say, “If you leave, you get the kids.”

    Seems fair.

  9. Becky
    November 20, 2008 | 12:15 pm

    Remember the movie Kramer vs Kramer? It was my first introduction to a mother who did not want to be one. I cried and sobbed for that child. That mother. And finally that father, Dustin Hoffman, who did both jobs and did them well. But mostly, the mama who realized what she was missing and it was all too late. So sad.

    But we all want to escape once in awhile. I think that is normal don’t you? At least I hope so.

  10. Travis Erwin
    November 20, 2008 | 12:19 pm

    I’ve never been a mom but as a dad dof two I’ve had my struggles and feelings of flight as well. Matter of fact I’ve been blogging about my journey into parenthood for the last week and I’ve found writing about it somewhat therapeutic.

  11. Heather
    November 20, 2008 | 1:34 pm

    This made me sad, but I do think everyone has those daydreams at least once in a while. The key is recognizing that while that might sound exciting and better, it probably isn’t. I’m happy right where I am. Even on those days that I’m not.

  12. Julie Bo Boolie
    November 20, 2008 | 1:35 pm

    While I would never leave my family I do confess that a weekend away to be just Julie instead of Mommy or Wife really does wonders for my soul. I wouldn’t do it more than 2X a year and I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t think that my husband could take proper care of the kids in my absence … thankfully I know he can and when I come home it’s always as a much happier Mommy and Wife than when I left.

  13. Cassie
    November 20, 2008 | 1:37 pm

    When things get stressful I still say sixteen years and I can go do whatever I want. I have those fantasy dreams of living downtown in a big city and wearing a peacoat and carrying my warm coffee. I think our fantasies are what keeps us sane sometimes!

  14. Mary-LUE
    November 20, 2008 | 2:04 pm

    I’m glad you stayed! I think it is so hard (whether it is PPD or just other, very difficult circumstances) to see that things rarely stay as they are. The unhappiness you are feeling “now” will go away (usually). Wait. Just wait. Your feelings will often change even if the circumstances don’t. (It is one of the aspects of getting older that I am most grateful for–the awareness of this fact of life.) I don’t know all the circumstances of those families you are talking about. I just would wish for them that they could wait a little longer before leaving. Just wait.

  15. Chantal
    November 20, 2008 | 2:06 pm

    Just like every other person commenting here I can say “I know”. The weight of it all, it can be hard to carry. Especially when it is new on our shoulders. Thankfully most of us get stronger.

  16. Kelly
    November 20, 2008 | 3:33 pm

    This was a really brave post, Beck.

  17. Kat
    November 20, 2008 | 3:39 pm

    I grew up in a strange place where most people stay married. I only knew one girl in grade school whose parents had divorced. Still, I think everyone knows that “I’m outta here!” feeling.
    And also, I was just talking to a girlfriend about getting away for a weekend. It is always so hard, like you said, not only logistically, but emotionally. I like being with my family.
    We are lucky, huh?

  18. Heidi
    November 20, 2008 | 4:56 pm

    Very good post Beck. I like when people are able to show how life is life, and how they find they are happy with life.

  19. SubspaceBeaC
    November 20, 2008 | 7:29 pm

    I use to be jealous of my friends with divorced parents (in grade 6 I was the only girl in my class whose parents were NOT divorced. Oh the stigma). It seemed like sooooo much fun and materially rewarding to have parents who could be emotionally manipulated into buying things.

    And as I’ve mentioned many, many times before, my friend is currently in the midst of leaving town for her on-line lover. She is befuddled that no one is happy for her. Yeah, I wonder why that is? Hmmmm?

  20. Omaha Mama
    November 20, 2008 | 7:58 pm

    So far no one my age, of the people I know, are splitting up. Still, I wonder sometimes who it will be. Because statistically we all can’t make it, right? The idea of a mom taking off, well – I thought that only happened in the movies.

  21. Tonggu Momma
    November 20, 2008 | 8:45 pm

    I loved the transparency of this post, Beck. And I also loved what Cristan had to say: “Each day that you make it through, is one day closer to happiness.” Yes, I’ve been there.

  22. Lisa Milton
    November 20, 2008 | 9:38 pm

    I think that trapped feeling is a hallmark of PPD. I distinctly remembering loving looking at my first baby, and feeling so afraid of failing, thinking she’d be better off without her erring mother, but of course, I came around.

    I get those I need space moments – like 10 minutes ago while I was trying to get dinner underway and I miss my traveling husband – but it passes.

    Those divorces ala Facebook? We will grieve those losses as a generation…

  23. Alison
    November 20, 2008 | 9:45 pm

    Another mom who felt trapped; in fact, that’s the way I knew I had PPD–that I wanted to keep driving and never come back. Oh, I am so glad I stayed. I did get a weekend away last week, and it was SO GOOD. But I was happy to come home.

    Those women who are leaving don’t realize that they are not going to be any happier in the long run, because they are bringing themselves and all their baggage into the new relationships. And those children–it seems to me abandonment by a parent is one of the THE worst things you can do to a child.

  24. t.allen-mercado
    November 20, 2008 | 11:37 pm

    I have a different PPD Perils of Puberty Depression and I can’t wait to drop my son off at college!

    I felt the same trapped feeling when my children were younger, but with more support. Mothers of young children are still excited about the newness of it all. When they start smelling like salicylic acid instead of of sweet mother’s milk, the challenges and the support system changes.

    I guess the dark fleeting thoughts of fleeing, like everything else is cyclical, with many a shiny moment in between.

  25. Mom24
    November 21, 2008 | 12:22 am

    I hope you feel better soon. I’m glad the feeling went away for you. It’s funny how life works. For some women, that feeling of being needed overwhelmingly is too much for them, for me I honestly think it was a lifesaver, even at 18. I needed someone to need me like that. Lucky I guess, since I had someone who needed me, that I needed him to need me.

  26. mimi
    November 21, 2008 | 11:20 am

    STOP MAKING ME CRY. God, this gig is hard, but you’re right, after a certain point that arrives I-don’t-even-remember-when, you can’t imagine life without that hard stuff in it, and you don’t want to.

  27. chelle
    November 21, 2008 | 4:01 pm

    My Mom left. I was one of those kids that everyone looked at with great sadness and pity.

    She dreamed of being a waitress somewhere else, took her two older kids and walked out never to return. I was six months old.

    I could NEVER leave my kids. Yet after my second was born the overwhelming needs on me was intense and scary and I fantasized for 30 seconds then wept and wept.

    I love your honesty Beck. So many mothers have felt these feelings yet we are left with the impression we shouldn’t.

  28. Woman in a window
    November 21, 2008 | 9:32 pm

    Crockies! Who’s leaving now? I can’t keep up with it. And funny enough, I don’t care to.

    How’s about you and me plan some wild weekend? You there with your child’s hand curled around your hair and me here with mine saying, But,but,but eleven-hundred-fifty times. It’ll be a blast!

  29. Karen MEG
    November 21, 2008 | 10:39 pm

    What a post, Beck. I never really had PPD, other than a couple of teary showers where I imagined my life going down the drain with my tears…
    But it didn’t last. It is challenging to be a mom and be all things to all people, without losing your sense of self. I can certainly understand when a woman wants to get away from it all. But to leave her kids, that part I would NEVER get.

  30. Painted Maypole
    November 22, 2008 | 12:24 am

    oof.

    I can’t imagine wanting to leave my child (I’m not judging, I’m justing saying…) all my “I’ll just leave” fantasies post partum included taking the baby with me. And while I know that there are SOME couples who are better off divorcing, I need only to think of what a divorce would do to my child to want to work harder to stay in my marriage. I think more parents need to think that way, frankly.

  31. crazymumma
    November 22, 2008 | 9:14 am

    Oh Beck.
    This was incredible.

  32. Bon
    November 24, 2008 | 8:20 pm

    late…but bawling. touche, and thanks Beck. for reminding me not to feel so lonely in this overwhelmed present.

  33. Jennifer, Snapshot
    November 26, 2008 | 8:47 am

    Beautifully Beck. I just love your heart and how you express it with your words.

    However, now I have a new image of you — I could see you as one of those “where did she come from and where is she going” sort of waitresses in anysmalltown USA (or I guess that would be anysmalltown, Canada unless you dreamed of fleeing to the lower 48).

  34. Michelle & Kayla
    November 28, 2008 | 5:41 pm

    We’ve had a few friends divorce over the last few years and it always shakes me up too…I remember thinking each time, “they’re getting a divorce?!”

    I know I had some PPD after both the kids were born, but I think it hit me harder after Lucas. There were times Joe came home from work and I was at my wits end and I would tell him “I just want to run away somewhere for awhile where I have no responsibilities and no one to worry about except myself!” Of course I wouldn’t do that, but it was nice to dream about it for awhile 🙂

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