I find myself unable to articulate well enough when people ask me about my day so they can fully comprehend what its like. I also wonder if this is just what its like for me, and not for anyone else. I feel wholly unprepared for the stress of this life I lead. Other people carry on with their lives with seemingly much more impressive challenges, and sometimes I find myself hiding in a corner by nightfall, trying to make the thoughts stop cycling inside my head, just for spending the day home alone with my children for 10 hours. I am incapable of escaping the stress mothering brings.
I never realized how much being a mother meant your body and emotions were reduced to collateral damage by the lives of your children. As much as everyone tells you, reminds you, and writes columns in every parenting magazine available about keeping calm and simplifying life to keep down stress, there are just no tips to help you when your daughter has an unscheduled half day and will be coming home on the bus 45 minutes after your son’s dentist appointment starts. Or when at that same dental appointment, your youngest suddenly has a paralyzing fear of the office and refuses to go down the hall so you can be in the room with your son while he’s getting a procedure done. By the time you do get home with only a minute to spare before the bus pulls up to drop off your daughter, you’re so stretched thin and emotionally raw you feel like an exposed live wire. And then you need to spend the rest of the day refereeing the arguments, overseeing the homework completion, redirecting the two year old so he’ll lose interest in stuffing the puzzle erasers in his mouth, and hopefully find some time to plan and prep dinner because you have parent teacher conferences to attend later in the evening. And that’s a mild day compared to some of the worst. There is so much scheduling, and reminders, and deadlines to keep track of that it never all makes it onto the same calendars. I think if I lost my phone at this point, it would set us all back at least six months, since that’s the planner that is the most handy, and therefore the most up to date.
When people insist I need to take time off for myself I want to laugh in their face, because I am never able to turn “off” completely. I don't get 5 minutes to myself in the bathroom let alone enough time to do anything meaningful like exercise or something like that. Going out anywhere involves so much preparation for childcare and bedtime routine setup, coupled with the incessant worrying the entire time I’m away from the house about the health and safety of my kids that it morphs into making me more tense than when I started. To be honest, the best alone time would just be being allowed to lie in on a Saturday morning for an extra hour without being jolted awake by the sounds my kids throwing things off the top of the bunk bed, or crashing their bodies through my bedroom door to announce they’ve pooped. Or want breakfast. Or both of those things. I have hobbies, but I’m never able to pursue more than one at a time, because there just aren’t many, if any, hours in the day I can spend just doing something that doesn’t need to be done by tomorrow morning. Because being needed all day by three little beings takes up all of my waking hours. I haven’t even been able to manage an uninterrupted cup of tea in the past two years, unless you count the one I had while on vacation in Canada when there were five other people around to distract my children for me. It’s sad, really.And I find myself depressed by all of this. Not just the fact that I’m failing at doing a good, sane job of being a mother. I’m disappointed because this is the only chance I’m going to get of watching them at this age, the one shot I have of seeing them through these stages. And both my memories and their perceptions are going to be colored and warped by the stress that is constantly hovering and permeating our lives. Every day I promise myself I’m going to go slower, I’m going to savor my time with them, and every day that promise is broken amidst the dash to the bus stop in the morning, or the hustling to make preschool on time, or the race to make and eat lunch before pickup, and on and on. What I would give to be able to play in the laundry pile with them one morning, and maybe have time to make a hot breakfast without them having a breakdown in the meantime because they NEED to EAT! RIGHT NOW! It makes me wonder who would savor the memory of such a perfect day more? Me or them? They would probably remember most vividly the exquisiteness of such a morning, but I think it would be more sacred to me. A reaffirmation of sorts that I still exist in the remains of myself that have been splintered by motherhood. Not only that I exist, but that I can still be fulfilled by a day well lived. Restored and rejuvenated to try again to lead a life well done.