If I’m Being Honest

As I write this, Cian is in his crib, crying so hard it sounds like torture (for me). I already went in to comfort him once, and he’s trying to settle into his nap.

His settling is loud.

Quinn keeps popping out of her room, telling me she’s finished sleeping (she hasn’t started). Saoirse is in the playroom, playing with her cars, in a way that sounds like she’s actually exploding them more than racing them. David is pacing back and forth on the back deck in his flip-flops, his laptop in his hand, on a conference call. Through the closed doors, I can still hear the business-world catchphrases–“on board,” “launch date,”–bouncing off the walls.

It’s 2:08 p.m. I’m ready to walk out the door. I won’t, don’t worry–as I said, D’s out there. I certainly can’t up and leave the family when he’s on a call. Duh. But I’m going stir-crazy.

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When Saoirse was a baby, and I was sitting here, in this very spot, practically rocking back and forth because I just couldn’t wait for her to wake up so I could see her again, it was so different, in good ways and bad. I didn’t yet have any friends who were also at home with young kids, and much of the time I felt very, very lonely. David was working a ton and, back then, couldn’t quite understand why I called him at 4 p.m. many days, in tears, wondering how soon he could come home (postpartum depression, anyone?). I was bored, and overwhelmed, and overtired, and didn’t have any kind of footing in this new world. Hence the start of One Vignette.

Hang on. Cian’s still crying. I’ve got to get him out of that crib. This boy hates sleep like I hate lima beans.

I say it over and over again–because I have to, and it is the truth–I’m so glad I’m at home with the kids. And I can find joy in the small tasks: driving the kids to and from school means I get to hear their stories (because they’re trapped with me and have no one else to talk to, yes). I actually like washing the dishes–I almost find it meditative (probably because the running water blocks out the sounds of two girls fighting over a stuffed unicorn and I can actually be alone with my thoughts for fifteen minutes). The girls and I made pumpkin ravioli this afternoon, and it was fun, and they liked it, especially because they weren’t the ones to face the dishes piling up in the sink like leftover rice after a wedding. But the day-to-day of it all? Honestly?

The monotony is slowly driving a stake into my soul and digging it out of my body one life-crushing fragment at a time.

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It’s worse now that David is working from home more. And it’s not him–he’s a guy who’s working from home today solely so I can make a kickboxing class at the gym because he knows when I need to go punch at the air for an hour. But having him here, and the constant reminder that he does work for money just sort of, I don’t know, drives it all home (in a car that he’s paying for, not that he ever, EVER says that). He works while I drive the girls from school. He works while I fold the laundry and run to Target and pay the bills. He works while I clean up breakfast and make lunch. Today he sat down with us for ten minutes, ate, thanked me for lunch, put his plate in the sink, and disappeared to work some more. Saoirse complained about why I always have to make the macaroni and cheese and why can’t she just have the stuff from the box.  Me? I sat there and watched David walk out onto the deck with his computer and phone, then I stared at the dishes piled on the counter, and the crumbs scattered under the coffee table, and the baby who wanted breastfed. And then I got up and took care of them.

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I’m still not good at embracing the stereotypical gender role that comes with being a mom at home, even though I have a husband who works his damnedest to make sure we stay on equal footing. And I don’t think it’s the gender role thing, really. I think it’s the holy-crap-I’m-so-numb-I-can’t-function thing. The writing I so love to do? It’s not happening. Too many chores to stay on top of. David’s under an immense amount of pressure at work, and is working overtime at night on his projects. I watch him, working away, all stressed out, as I fold the laundry, and I miss the stress. I miss the deadlines.

I sound like a crazy person. Do I sound like a crazy person? Please tell me you’ve felt like this.

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David was traveling a lot for work this past month. In reality, he was spending his time in cars and planes and hotels, his laptop open more than it was closed. What I focused on, though, was the steak dinners he was having at night, the on-the-house aperitifs, the grown-up conversations with business people from Japan and England. I heard about a VIP reception on the top of the Sears Tower (yeah, yeah, Willis Tower), and instead of thinking about the work talk and schmoozing, I was imagining cocktails and high heels and a reason to carry an actual handbag that didn’t have a separate, antibacterial compartment for used diapers. David came home from that trip exhausted and sick. I’d spent two weeks alone with three kids. All I wanted was for him to take over bath time.

I’ve had two female acquaintances in the past two weeks tell me how they could never, ever be at home with the kids–that they need to work for their sanity–and all I wanted to say was, “No shit. Really. It would drive you nuts? NO KIDDING HELP ME THE WINE ISN’T HELPING ANYMORE.” I’m lucky we can get by on one income, I know that. And in the mornings, when I can get the kids their breakfast and take my time getting them ready for the day, I’m grateful each time that I don’t have to rush myself. But another woman I met at a local farm market a couple weeks ago–we were both with our babies, she a first-time mom–started a small speech about the joys of being at home, and how very lucky we were to see every. single. moment of our child’s youngest years. As she talked, I saw her wipe away the snot that was pouring out of her son’s nose. She kept talking to him, only to have him grunt back and stare at me with blank, bleary eyes while she took photo after photo of him “for daddy.” And all I could think was, this was one of the few chances during the day I get to talk to somebody over the age of five, and THIS is what you’re discussing?! How you prefer Carters over OshGosh? Can we PLEASE just discuss Obamacare or the fight to stop wolf hunting or the changing shape of Catherine Zeta-Jones’s face? Just something other than patting ourselves on the backs for giving up jobs we probably didn’t like that much (note: I loved my job, hated the hours. That part stayed the same, actually) to become Primary Diaper Changer and Snot Wiper?

One day, when the children are in school, I hope to be able to spend a few hours during actual daylight writing–treating it like the job I hope it will become, when I can actually immerse myself in it and do focused, decent work. Right now, I’m a full-time mom trying to squeeze it in. This blog post will take me five days to write in chunks–which is probably why my posts are so stinking long and include way more typos than any self-respecting former teacher/editor should have (ooh, grammar error right there. And you know what? I’m not gonna change it! Take THAT, establishment!). It’s easier than trying to write or edit a book, because of that. The novel-writing thing takes longer stretches of time–I need to dive into it, stew in it, live in it for awhile, and that’s not going to happen right now, not on a scheduled, convenient basis. I’m supposed to have a new synopsis and first chapter finished in a few weeks. I need to find time to start it. It’s like anything anyone wants to spend more time doing, and can’t. Not when I’ve taken on the commitment of raising my family. Not when that family doesn’t sleep at night. Not when I’m so tired I order a pizza at a restaurant and completely forget to pay for it. But I think about it, a lot. And I miss it when I’m not doing it.

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I’m lonely again. I know this, besides the lack of sleep, is a big part of the issue. I’ve let myself become lonely again. I’ve been so wrapped up in the book and the kids and just trying to stay on top of day-to-day life that I’m letting friendships slide, and not working hard enough to foster new ones. I just stumbled across an email an old friend from high school sent me ages ago, wondering if I’d like to get together. I never responded, and am now too embarrassed to do so. I don’t want this to be happening. The times of my life I’ve been happiest are when I am making time for those friendships. You can’t let yourself become lonely, especially when it’s so easy to not be.

And yet.

I don’t like complaining, honest, not when life is so good, and as I write I’m debating whether or not to just erase this post so I don’t come across as a whiny, whiny brat. But maybe you’re reading this and can empathize. Maybe you’re reading this and saying, “Oh my gosh, YES.” Or maybe not. Maybe I really am just a whiny, whiny brat who most definitely needs to get more sleep.

We passed a daycare the other day as we ran errands, and Quinn asked if she could play there sometime. Saoirse answered for me: “No, Quinn. You can’t play there. That’s a daycare. That’s when both the mommy and daddy go to work and the kids get to go there and have fun.” I could’ve cried if I weren’t so busy trying not to scream. Instead, I went home and made lunch. And then I washed the dishes. Because this is what I chose, and this is what I can do, and because in the small tasks, there is joy.

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Even if sometimes it’s a little hard to make time to find it.

6 thoughts on “If I’m Being Honest

  1. Yes ma’am. All of the above. Working from home right now with sick croupy baby and I feel you loud and clear. Is that a phrase? Hell, I’m making it one. If I’m the old HS person don’t sweat it. I can’t get myself together either. We’ll get together one day. If I’m not, I bet the other person feels the same.

    1. Oh, my gosh, you weren’t the one I was thinking of! Oh, crud. I’m worse than I thought!! 😉 No, we have a tentative date for the next time you’re up this way, for sure.

      And so, so sorry about G’s croup. How’s everybody holding up?

  2. The joys and woes of motherhood. It is SUCH a push and pull. I know it feels like forever, but remember, too, this intense time is temporary. Very temporary, in the grand scheme of a lifetime. When I was pregnant with my second, I read Kristin Maschka’s “This Is Not How I Thought It Would Be: Remodeling Motherhood to Get the Lives We Want.” It opened my eyes in so many ways.

    Hang in there, sister. And know you are NOT alone.

    (And ps – email that longtime friend. It can’t be too embarrassing. Put yourself in her shoes. Would you rather not hear from her at all, or hear from her months later? If she is true-friend material, she will understand. My motto: Always put relationships first. Doing so gives to others and replentishes your own soul.)

    1. Oh, Kate, you always have the best advice! I’ll look into that book. And you know how it is–some days (weeks?) are better than others. And I just happened to sit down to write on one of the not-so-good days. It always gets better–you’re right about that.

  3. Oh girlfriend, we could share a glass (okay, bottle) of wine! Have been there. Am there. That’s probably why enjoy writing so much… we get to escape with our imaginary friends! 🙂 Note- As I write this, my kids are wrestling in the next room, LOUDLY. Someone will definitely start crying soon… maybe me? Homework time.

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