I have this good girlfriend, Renée, who says to me all the time, “I’m so glad you have such a hard time with parenting.” She means it in the best way. You know in that, “Thank god I’m not totally alone and crazy,” sort of way.
You see she knew me before kids. I still remember the first time she saw me get flustered with my kids. I was trying to get my two year-old and my four month-old ready to go to a parade. It was that maddening dance of barely accomplishing one task before the next catastrophe hits—plus trying to think through and pack for all three of our needs for the whole day—amidst the never ceasing action/chaos of my kids plus her family. “It’s amazing to see you getting stressed out,” she said to me totally sincerely, “You’re always so go with the flow. Honestly, it makes me feel better.”
“I’m so glad this is serving you,” I responded in kind—also totally seriously. “At least some good is coming out of it then.”
Fast forward in time, she’s still the one I call when I’m just losing it. Because she gets it. Isn’t it amazing what a balm that can be? (As an added bonus she’s also the one most likely to say something irreverent and smile inducing like, “F%*#ing Kids!”)
I recently posted something on my Facebook feed about my daughter’s crying. I was totally at my wits end.
I wrote, “OMG the child’s crying– it’s running through my nervous system AGAIN! Community torture. It’s been an intense couple of days. That “parenting is a hard job” quote… doesn’t even come close to expressing it. Hard is like using all your strength to power up a mountain. You might be shaky but at least there is a summit…”
One person responded, “Oh Aimée, I hear you. These are sometimes excruciating moments that try our whole bodies. I remember. I am in the toddler screaming stage with the twins and there are days I truly wonder if I will remain breathing. Peace to you, big breaths.”
Of all the responses—of well wishers and “are-you-guys-okay-ers?” that was the one that made me feel the best—the one that made my body involuntarily sigh with relief. It was the one that acknowledged a similar feeling. Simply hearing someone say—“I hear you, and I’ve experienced that before,” actually induces relief.
Truthfully, when I had only one child—I breezed through it. In hindsight, my son slept through the night from five weeks on —giving me access to that necessary for brain functioning full-time sleep. There was also this other important factor: there was only one of him. So during the day, I could pretty much meet any of his needs with ease. And if he needed a little extra, I just gave it to him. It would never go on and on without ceasing—a down time for me inevitably followed. He would happily play quietly by himself, and I could at least have a few thoughts to myself. Not so with two.
Recently I spent 40 minutes playing with my kiddos. I left myself 10 minutes to get ready for a meeting. As soon as I walked away from them my daughter expressed her extreme need to be held, changed, and nursed by me. Right now. It almost made me cry. What I mean by that was, as I was standing there hurriedly trying to cook myself an egg while she started to claw at my pajamas and commence crying, my tears also came to the surface, but in this one instance never made it down my face.
There is a maddening feeling of giving even more than you have of yourself and then realizing that even that is not enough. That actually, even your simplest needs of eating breakfast and getting dressed have no room here.
So, I’m writing this, because I want this to be a balm for you. On the off chance (just kidding—do you have kids!?) that you’ve experienced the maddening pull of motherhood and don’t have a friend like Renee, I’m here to say these words to you, “I hear you, and I’ve experienced that before.” The extra benefit for me is that I also get to remind myself that you are out there. That there are thousands of mothers every day who go through this same experience of unbelievable overwhelm in their own way, in their own kitchens, with their own progeny and fried eggs.
Jeez. Sometimes I think it’s mind boggling that human life continues.
However, I’ve also been playing around with different coping mechanisms—because I can’t stand feeling like this. I’ve got three I’m experimenting with right now. I’ll share them with you soon. Promise.