When Parenting Becomes Too Much
I’m in the car and I realise my breath is caught somewhere high in my chest, stuck there and not moving down into my lungs where it is desperately needed. I am breathing through a straw. I am operating a heavy piece of machinery with three small children in the car and I can’t breathe. But the small children don’t realise, and they ask and they demand and they bicker and they cry. And I scream. I scream because they won’t stop. Why won’t they stop?
I am paper-thin. I am glass. The wheels move so quickly. They spin and spin and it only takes a tiny stone to flick up, hit that sweet spot, and You. Are. Broken.
It’s tough. I used to write about how tough it was quite frequently but I stopped after a while because a/ the kids got older and things were actually okay and sometimes even good and b/ I was so sick of the sound of my own voice that I knew others must be sick of it, too.
Because how long can one talk about how difficult motherhood and the life of a housewife can be before it starts to sound like one long, monotonous bore? An overstating of the bleeding obvious? We all know this gig is tough. Relentless, boring and exhausting. We also know we need to look for the joyful moments. We’re all trying to do that as best we can, aren’t we? Kids are beautiful, complex creatures and the journey they take us on is just that: beautiful and complex.
But also, motherhood can be kind of soul-destroying. It’s no-ones fault exactly. Kids don’t mean to be annoying, demanding and high maintenance. As dependents, that’s kind of their job. They need to get to school or kinder, they have to eat and bathe and have stories read to them so that they can be wonderful and healthy, well-rounded and fresh smelling citizens of the world. It’s just that the job of meeting all these needs so often falls to mums, and it’s hard not to get lost in the chaos.
My family is important to me and I know that if my husband works outside the home all day and I am inside the home all day, that my work is this home. But I have so many other things I want to do – and those things are important to me, too. But they never seem to be the priority. My husband is my greatest supporter and tries to make extra space for me to prioritise those things whenever he can. But by necessity, “me time” tends to be at night or on the weekends – and by that time, I am often falling in a giant heap. Alone time meant for writing just seems to turn into me napping like a little old lady. And by napping, I mean sleeping the sleep of the dead. ‘I’ll just shut my eyes for 20 minutes’ I tell myself and then awake three hours later in a puddle of my own drool. I am weary on a level that I can’t describe. My children are that little bit older now, that little bit more independent and yet, I don’t feel any extra breathing room.
For the record, mothers who work outside the home as well as inside it have my utmost respect. I don’t know how you do it. You are AMAZING.
Sometimes my husband has wondered whether my crushing fatigue is actually depression in disguise. I understand why he thought that. I have a history of depression, and it can affect my energy levels and productivity dramatically. But the thing about depression is that my lack of productivity is usually linked to a feeling of hopelessness. Why try when there’s no hope? But I don’t feel like that right now. I feel on the brink of amazing things. I have so many ideas and dreams I want to bring to life but when you wake up in the morning after 10 hours sleep and feel as though you’ve barely shut your eyes, it’s hard to get motivated.
I was driving the kids to Bunnings on the weekend. It was 10am and I felt absolutely broken. It was Sunday morning, I’d had a great sleep the night before. I exercised on Saturday. I hadn’t touched an alcoholic drink all week. There was no reason for my exhaustion but there it was, a weight I dragged along with me all day. I felt unhappy in that moment but I’m not unhappy. I feel so positive about what is ahead. If I could summon the energy to push through and complete the tasks I set for myself each day, heck, I could really do something with my life!
Why can’t I push through? Maybe I’m lazy. But I know it’s more than that. Day to day functions feel difficult. I am so disorganised and flailing from one thing to the next. My mind is constantly foggy because I am trying to remember so many things at once. When the kids are around, it’s not only hard to complete a task without interruption but hard to finish a train of thought. I am constantly scattered because I so rarely get quiet time to order my thoughts. I spend my days teetering between comatose and frantic. It’s a terrible way to be.
Even when my husband takes the kids out, I feel panicky the whole time I am alone because I have so many things I need to do while they’re gone and I know before I blink, they’ll be back. I rush around, procrastinate, panic and then just as I settle on a task to complete, I hear the front door open and my heart sinks. It sinks.
When I drop my kids to school, I don’t miss them. I don’t. In fact, I dread the time I need to pick them up again because our time apart is never enough to refill what I have lost since becoming their mum. My deficit grows and grows. I wonder when it might ever start to tip back in my favour?
I love my kids. My god, I love them. But I am still trying to find a balance between being there for them and being there for ME.
So, things are messy right now. But this morning, I woke with just the slightest bit more energy. I don’t need to be robustly energetic at all times. I can exist on so much less than that. Mothers are incredible that way. But even a fraction more energy goes such a long way.
So, I’ll grasp the better days with both hands and make the most of them. And on the not so good days, I’ll remind myself that I am stronger than I give myself credit for. This too shall pass.