I expected certain things to be hard as a parent.
The lack of sleep. That's hard. Newborn constant nursing lack of sleep, toddlers with bad dreams and potty trips lack of sleep, general trying to get everything done in 24 hours lack of sleep. Sometimes we even achieve the sleep trifecta, where while each individual child sleeps relatively well, they all wake up once during the night. Spaced out every couple of hours, this makes for a difficult night, equaling a rough next day.
With three under three, just the physical demands of taking care of several very small children is hard. I am often trying to feed one, give attention to another, and deal with a bathroom situation with the third (or any combination of the above) simultaneously. They all need me for the most basic of tasks, in a seemingly constant cycle. It's hard.
But the hardest thing that I've found? The emotional component. When something happens that rocks my world - my adult world - and I still need to continue being the parent. To mother.
The first time I remember this struggle was as we determined our next steps before leaving Madison. Where would we go? What are the possibilities? What will we do? Things seemed to change by the week and we had a rough couple of months as Tyson accepted positions, denied positions, minds were changed, and plans were upheaved so many times that it was difficult to keep up. My mind was literally all over the map for a few weeks - Missouri! Oregon! California! - and it made for some desperate Google search sessions for jobs and housing while also ensuring that twin toddlers were loved and entertained.
The next time I remember feeling this emotional tension was this past summer, as we experienced shooting after shooting after shooting. My mind was so fried trying to comprehend and grieve one day that the twins mostly watched PBS and played outside. My ability to interact - to interact well - was minimal.
And now this. This election. It has consumed my thoughts and mind for much of this past year, especially the past few weeks, but never more so than today.
Not being able to process these issues at my leisure is the absolute hardest thing I've found about being a stay-at-home parent. There is very little room to think, to breathe, to have a moment to read or watch or get away to (attempt to) understand and grieve and come to terms with what is happening. And yet it's very lonely. There isn't an adult around to have an uninterrupted conversation with, unless it's early in the morning or late at night. There are immediate needs in my here and now - another nose to be wiped, another diaper to change, more food to prepare - that consume my attention, leaving me with a dull sense of anxiousness that is difficult to assuage. My mind can be so consumed with a train of thought before being quickly derailed as this need and this need and this need are met. Which leaves me back at square one and the cycle starts all over again. It's hard to put my mind at ease when I am so consumed with other duties.
All the thoughts swirling around in my head mostly lead to this: I am so saddened and heartbroken but mostly stunned that this man has been elected the leader of our country. It is beyond belief. That half of this country decided a man whose rhetoric includes extreme examples of misogyny, racism, and pathological lying is capable of running our country is absurd. While neither candidate was perfect, I am legitimately concerned of what a President Trump might do. Not to mention that he and many of his supporters disregard things like logic and actual facts.
I'm not entirely sure what he may or may not be able to do. Republicans fully in control across the board is concerning to me. Whatever he may or may not accomplish, just his basic character and patterns of speech (that he has made "okay" in our country) regarding women, minorities, and others is highly problematic.
Which leads me to this: my children. I truly felt yesterday that a Democratic vote was a vote for my children. That it was leading our country in the right direction both morally and socially. My comfort right now is that at least my children are too young to understand what is happening. They had no idea a presidential election was going on. (Though, yes, they were jealous of my sticker.) Whatever processing I may need to do personally, at least I do not need to explain to them why this man was elected president. Our biggest task right now as parents is to keep upbeat and cheerful, avoid heavy discussions while they are around, and keep the news at a minimum, despite what is going on or what we may be feeling. It's amazing the emotions even small children can pick up on.
But in four years? Caden and Brooklyn will be 6. That's old enough to know who the president is. That's old enough to hear what he is saying. That's old enough to understand some current events and know what is right and wrong. I'm concerned for what I will have to explain to them two, three, and four years from now. My children - our children - deserve better.
Jeremiah 29:11 keeps resonating throughout my head. "'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'" I have to say that is small comfort to me right now. While this election is not a surprise to God, it is certainly a surprise to me, and to so very many in our country. These plans make no sense at all to me.
So here it is. The thing I find the most difficult about parenting. The absolute hardest thing is having all of these thoughts tumbling around and around and around in my head just needing to get OUT...and not being able to. I've had to wait until naptime - hours and hours now - to get most of them down.
I may not be able to process this all as much as I would like today with the kids around, and I'm sure I'll be in for another late night reading and discussing everything with Tyson. Despite how we may feel right now, we will take time to collect our thoughts and get ready to move forward, as a family and as a country.
Despite my confusion and even anxiety, I do know this. Today, as any other day, I am called to love. That's my parenting job today. I am called to love my children. I am called to play and protect and mother and snuggle and discipline them no matter what else is going on. Despite the news blaring this morning, I set the noise aside and made Nolan giggle uncontrollably in his high chair. I got up early (hahaha like I was sleeping anyway) and made a spread of pancakes and eggs and sausage for my family. (Mickey Mouse shaped so you know they were special.) Whatever rhetoric or despair may be spreading, we are called to be kind. My children are watching me, me. Not that man. Not yet.
They don't even know we have something called a president. So today I can turn off the TV, put down the phone and the articles and the statistics, and attempt to set my mind not on earthly things, but on things above.
It's the only thing I am called to do right now.
(One day at a time Sweet Jesus. FIX IT. One day is usually all I can handle anyway.)