I really struggle with my role as a mother most days. It’s not that I didn’t want this job, in fact, I wanted to be a mom ever since I was a little girl. I grew up the oldest of four children, and my mom had an in-home daycare. So I thought I had a pretty good idea of what I was getting myself into when I saw that positive pregnancy test. I read the books I was supposed to read, bought all the right things, wore my babies in slings, made all of our baby food from scratch, read to them every night before bed. I practice gentle parenting as often as my patience allows me to. But it is still the hardest job I have ever had. I live with two tiny little dictators that have as much common sense as a fruit fly. They run and toddle from thing to thing all day, doing what kids do best…getting into things they shouldn’t, alternating between loving and picking on each other and the dogs, demanding snacks 5 minutes after rejecting lunch, picking their nose in the grocery line, pooping their pants 2 minutes before swim lessons, the list could go on forever.
The years after they turn two are so hard. SO HARD. It is such a struggle. My husband is gone a lot these days, traveling for work. My family all lives either 6 hours away, or on the other side of the country. I have a couple mom friends, but it is not the same thing to get together for a play date to commiserate about the trials and tribulations of parenting, as it is to hand off your children to another adult in the same house when you’ve hit your wall for that particular day, so you don’t go screaming into the night.
No one tells you about having to shelve your dreams for years in order to survive parenthood, or watching as your spouse goes off on another adventure, leaving you behind again to keep everything running smoothly, or going days and weeks and months and years feeling invisible and unappreciated. It doesn’t matter how many times my husband thanks me for my service, or tells me I’m “awesome” the nature of this job is that I give everything I have to my family every day, with little thanks in return. It doesn’t matter that I know I am loved, hell, adored by my family. My tank is empty most days, my cup of love hasn’t spilled over for as long as I can remember.
In interior design, they say “hide the magic”. The magic is the wires, the stuff that makes everything work. Most of the time I feel like the hidden magic. I am the wires that makes it all work, but I’m invisible, and the work I do as a mother and wife is invisible.
My five year old has always been a high-needs child, and she is an expert at getting into unimaginable amounts of trouble in incredibly short amounts of time. Just today she has put crayons in the fish tank, made a ladder on top of her rocking chair to try to reach the stars on her ceiling, painted herself, her closet, her bedding and the aforementioned rocking chair in zinc oxide diaper cream, and given her dolly a “shampoo” using my shaving cream, and these are just the things I KNOW about.
My 2-year old is, well, she’s two. She’s fat and happy and jolly and sweet and into everything her sister is, with even less common sense or ability to slow down or stop herself than my 5-year old has.
Every day around 4 in the afternoon, I start counting down the hours: 1 hour until I make dinner, 2 hours until bath time, 3 hours until bedtime. I have lofty aspirations as I begin my countdown, too: today is the day, when they go to sleep, I’m going into my studio and I’m going to start/finish a new felted piece and drink a glass of wine and listen to music and it will be calming and peaceful and lovely.
The reality is that when I begin that countdown at four o’clock, the toddler suddenly needs extra snuggles because it’s been a long day, the five year old is also exhausted, but this is expressed as behavior that makes me want to pull my hair out and punch myself in the face. At 5 o’clock I haven’t gotten dinner done because I am still snuggling the toddler and trying to keep the 5-year old busy so she doesn’t got into trouble. At 6 o’clock we are finally eating dinner, which takes forever because only kid at each meal is willing to eat. They take turns eating on some sort of secret schedule I still haven’t figured out. At 630 o’clock I am dumping plates into the sink and herding the cats kids upstairs for tubby time, then immediately begin 20 minutes of repeatedly saying “please stop dumping water on your sister’s head…stop drinking the bathwater…keep the water in the tub…” until I get them out when the water gets chilly. Get them dressed, go back down for a bottle of milk for the 2-year old, then downstairs again for a banana for the 5-year old. Then I snuggle each child while the other cries about not being snuggled. By the time the kids are in bed, the last thing I want to do is start working on a project in my studio, so I clean up the bath mess, and head downstairs to read a book or watch some netflix and ignore any visible messes.
This is the hardest, most thankless job I have ever had, and will ever have. It’s awful. It’s exhausting, disgusting, and more often than not I don’t enjoy doing it. But I wake up each day snuggled between two of my favorite people and decide to try again, and enjoy the enjoyable moments, cry when I need to cry, and keep on trucking. I’ve heard rumors that it gets easier. I’m not so sure about that, I haven’t caught sight of that yet, but I’ll let you know if its true. Until then, keep a hidden stash of your favorite treats and know you aren’t alone. We all put on a good front in public, no one wants to look like they can’t handle the hard days, but we are all struggling. It’s not easy for anyone, unless they can afford a live-in nanny, and I’m sure even those people have struggles we don’t know about it.
It’ll be okay.