I didn’t know last Thursday was going to be the one that broke me. The day that sent me, crumbling at 3:30 in the afternoon, to text a message over Voxer to my friends in pure desperation. I met this scattered tribe of writing mamas through a year-long writing course, a gift from Tyson a couple Christmases ago. This group of women turned out to be more of a gift than the actual gift of the writing workshop itself.
“This parenting thing is no joke. The kids have been so difficult lately and I’m feeling 100% completely drained by the day-in-day-out of life with kids,” I wrote, “ And then my anxiety comes out as anger so I feel even worse. I also feel behind on everything from my writing to the amount of library books on loan to me to picking outfits for our family photos to organizing every single room in my entire house. Maybe that sounds silly. Life is hard.”
The day had started off normal enough. Better, maybe, since it was the first day of the week we didn’t have to be out of the house well before 9 am. At 8 o’clock that morning I had been calm, sipping coffee that was still hot and swatting Nolan’s hand away from my egg-topped avocado toast.
“Go play!” I told him. He scampered off to join his brother and sister, though I knew he’d be back all too soon. I cleared away spoons and bowls, rinsing them off in the sink and watching soggy cereal bits swirl away. I ate my own breakfast as I cleaned; multitasking, the life of a mom. Bite of avocado toast, rinse. Sip of coffee, fill the dishwasher. Bite, sip, wipe, rinse.
My only plan for the morning was to take the kids to the park in a probably futile attempt to burn off their energy. Without a firm schedule, just for the moment, I almost didn’t know what to do with myself.
That lazy feeling was the opposite of the weekly dreams I used to have, far too often, where no matter how hard I tried I just couldn’t be on time. One week it would be the airport and I was about to miss my flight. A few times it was a class at school I could never get to before the bell rang. I would forget a book and go back to my locker, over and over again, or pack a suitcase that never seemed to fill. Every time I would wake up frantic, anxious, panicked, sweating. Growing up as the kid who was always late for everything, these dreams were truly the stuff of nightmares to me. But not this morning. I took another sip of hot coffee before telling them to go upstairs and find some clothes for the day.
No specific thing actually sent me over the edge that afternoon. There was plenty of screaming and sibling battles. There was the house that looked like a hurricane (or, ahem, three) had hit every single one of its 2200 square feet from the master closet to the playroom. There were a couple of writing deadlines I couldn’t get out of my head but also couldn’t get to work on, because: children. There was the several-months-potty-trained toddler who pooped his pants enough to warrant a bath. Not just once but twice, including immediately after I sent off my plea over Voxer. I was resigned to my fate at that point as I wearily dragged him home from the park in the wagon. I wondered how badly his pants were leaking, if I would need to hose down the wagon when I got home, where all my emotions had gone. It was another day in a long series of days with the grind of working, cleaning, disciplining, and attempting to find patience for the most ordinary of things.
I recently read it takes our brains 28 minutes after an interruption to get back on track to what we were doing before we were interrupted with the same level of productivity. Reading that, my immediate reaction was, No freaking wonder I can’t get anything done! Twenty-EIGHT minutes? As a person who feels as though she is frequently interrupted 28 times in a single minute, I’m basically doomed.
Maybe the nightly dreams of my youth are coming back to haunt me now in motherhood. I’m not missing something as momentous as a flight, as tangible as the bell to sit down for history class. Yet the continuous, fruitless repetition that now takes over my days is undeniable. I may no longer be frantically packing that suitcase, but instead corralling the shoes and jackets that take over the mudroom again, and again, and again. I’m not turning around for the umpteenth time in a crowded high school hallway to retrieve a book from my locker, but I struggle to keep my thoughts in an orderly line as my children derail them over and over with requests for the TV to be turned on, by the shrieks of another sibling squabble, to answer the question, “Where is the Earth?”, with small people showing me - “Look mom!” that a T-Rex stomps “like this” and his arms can’t touch “like this”.
My friends rallied, as they do, as I knew they would. It is hard, I’ll be praying for you, they said. I’m right there with you. Sending you love. You’re not alone. It is. So. Hard. Cheering you on! I feel emptied at the end of the day, too. It’s not silly. Being a mother is hard.
The solidarity and love as each little ping alerted me to another message pulled me through the rest of the day. I read through each little message once, twice, three times or more, each one a reminder that I wasn’t crazy, I wasn’t alone, that parenting every day in and out is actually hard, holy work.