A friend of mine recently posted a video on Facebook.
This video seemed to be some kind of veterinarian (Dr. Andy Roark) speaking at a veterinarian conference, about veterinarian things.
Only, those things were applicable to all of us and I found that his message really stuck with me.
He began by speaking about the different between joy and happiness. That joy is fleeting; it’s unsustainable. It’s an amazing feeling, and it’s often why we do the work we do, but it’s just a glimpse. And happiness is “full of pain.” He said, “Buddhist philosophy says that life is suffering.” It made me think of the far more lighthearted quote from The Princess Bride.
But I had heard all this before. The part that got me was that he said, “The best thing that we can do is choose how we suffer.” He went into an example of losing a beloved pet, and how much grief and suffering that caused him. But it was suffering he chose, and would choose again. He said, he could have chosen not to get a dog to avoid the suffering of eventually losing him, but he would’ve suffered a little each day coming home to an empty house.
And that’s when I got it for me.
Right now, I’m suffering. I’m struggling. Sometimes I’m not sure if I’m happy…but, by this guy’s definition, this is happiness. It’s not JOY all day every day, (which is what too many people think happiness should be) but that wouldn’t make for a very meaningful life, for without suffering there is no joy.
There was one time when I was really breaking down about what a shit time I’d been having slogging through mommyhood, and someone said to me, “…but you’ve chosen this. You wanted this.”
Yes, I’ve wanted to be a mom pretty much my whole life. I wasn’t sure I could physically be a biological mom for an entire decade, but miraculously, here I am. I planned this, I actively participated in building this life. And man is it HARD. Did I want all the suffering that comes with this? Of course not. I don’t want it and I don’t like it, but I chose it.
I chose it over the suffering of not having kids. Feeling like there was something profoundly missing in my life. Feeling like my family was incomplete. Grieving the loss of kids not here. Having a house that was too big, too quiet. Too clean? (Maybe there’s no such thing as too clean.)
Make no mistake, though: just because I chose the suffering that comes with raising kids, that doesn’t mean I don’t get to do just that…suffer. Complain. Lament. Break down. Have regrets. Be human. So yes, I did choose this. But I get to own it, too. Just as I get to own the glimpses of joy that peek through. The hugs, wet kisses, sleepy bed-head faces.
I need to keep reminding myself that joy and suffering are not mutually exclusive. And I need to keep reminding myself why I chose to suffer this way.
How do you choose to suffer?
I just experienced the most amazing thing. You have no idea. Or maybe you do. It’s worth its weight in gold, and I think it’s going to end up being my savior.
What is this magic, you ask?
It’s called PRE. SCHOOL.
OMG, you guys. My oldest had his first day yesterday and it was HEAVEN ON EARTH.
He was excited to go and the drop off was a breeze. I squatted down to give him a little peptalk, told him I loved him, asked for a hug, and I got a little choked up for a second and then sucked it back because I didn’t want to lose it in front of him, and then…we left. And he was HAPPY. Playing with the math beans. Preschool has “math beans,” who knew?
I went home dazed. I had no idea what to do. I hadn’t planned this out. Usually I have A PLAN. Well…first things first, I made coffee. And drank it HOT. You heard me. Holy crap, you guys, hot coffee tastes GREAT. It tastes like preschool tuition well-spent. And then I went on FACEBOOK. Because I don’t go on there enough, amirite? I made sure to feed and diaper my youngest, but then…she fell. ASLEEP. And then my head exploded because now I was really lost in mommy fantasyland.
So I did the dishes, put away laundry, and started to pack for my FIRST WEEKEND EVER AWAY FROM MY KIDS (but that’s a whole other post entirely).
I ate lunch. MY OWN LUNCH. It was hot. I didn’t have to share. I still ate standing up for some reason, because hey, let’s not get too comfortable here.
When I picked up the boy after what felt like 20 glorious minutes in heaven, he was still HAPPY. And, ladies and gentlemen, he was still wearing the same shorts as when I dropped him off. Which can only mean (and was confirmed by asking the teacher) that he DIDN’T PEE HIS PANTS on the first day. Angels were singing, my friends.
We came home, he ate the rest of his half-eaten lunch (score!) and then HE TOOK A NAP.
The best part – we get to do this THREE. TIMES. A. WEEK.
Preschool tuition tastes like heaven in this mommy’s mouth.
(I think I’ve lost the ability to complete a coherent thought now, but I think you know what I mean.)
My kid does this thing where he behaves beautifully in public, when we’re in front of other people.
And when we’re at home, or in the car, especially when I’m the only adult around, he’ll completely break down and fall apart. Worse yet, lately he’s been misbehaving on purpose. Taking things from his sister, doing the opposite of what I’ve asked, throwing things, etc.
Let me be clear – overall, my kid is very well behaved. He’s always been quite mellow, a rule follower, compliant, agreeable. It’s great, he’s great, and I know I’m very lucky. While I’d love to take all the credit for his amazing disposition, I know that he was just partially born that way, and partially due to my (mostly) awesome parenting (plus the much more patience-filled parenting job his dad does).
What sucks, aside from me having to deal with the breakdowns (unintentional) and the defiant threenager behavior (intentional), is that my mommy friends usually just see compliant, agreeable Dudeman. This sets up a dynamic where I don’t feel like there’s room for me to complain about my situation.
It’s the little comments and compliments like, “Wow, he’s so well behaved!” or, “I could never imagine D doing something like that!” There’s a mix of emotions that comes with hearing these. On one hand, the compliments are very nice and very well received. There’s a certain amount of mommy pride that comes with the reputation for having The Good Kid. On the other hand, like I said before, I can’t complain about the bad times and feel like I am being believed because no one ever sees them. It makes me want to wear a GoPro or one of those police body cams so I can catch D-man in action and then play it for my mommy friends.
See?! See THAT?! He was just a total asshole to me!
I guess I just want to feel accepted. I want to be part of the club. I army crawl through the trenches and slog through blood and piss and shit just like y’all. Even if you don’t see it.
And now that I type this, I find myself laughing on the inside because I’ve always thought of myself as one of those moms who didn’t care if she didn’t look put together. At least, I care about sleep more than I care about looking put together…because I’m not. But, with D’s behavior, it’s not like I’m hiding anything. He’s just more likely to behave when he’s being stimulated and is around other fun people and kids, which is when we’re hanging out with the mom friends. It’s when we’re alone and sick or bored or tired or hungry that he’s more likely to push my buttons and test boundaries. Totally normal, I keep reminding myself. (More than normal, even, because he’s testing me because he is safe and loved with me) There’s just a part of me that wants to wear some of that blood and piss and shit on my sleeve as proof that I’ve been to war. Maybe a purple heart would be less smelly.
So obviously I’ve realized that, as a stay at home mom, I want a witness to my suffering and my hard work. It’s like when you want your boss to say, Great job, Janice! (if your name was Janice. If not, that would just be weird), but you’re doing the kind of work that when it’s done right and done well, no one notices. This is why, almost every day when my husband gets home from work, I insist on giving him a detailed play-by-play of my entire day. I need him to hear my struggle, see my pain, congratulate me for getting through it and being such a badass.
And now I’ve come full circle, I’ve realized, to my last post. Because I feel invisible, the work I do is invisible, and my struggles are also invisible, I find myself searching for witnesses. Empathy. Validation.
Can you smell the shit?
It’s been really hard trying to adjust to life in Oregon.
People have been telling me that it’ll take time. Like, 2 or 3 years. You know, to find friends and get used to the rain.
Well, it’s been 3.75 years and I’m still waiting. Waiting to feel…adjusted.
I’ve moved before and it hasn’t felt like this. So I’ve been wracking my brain to figure out what is different about this time and this place.
Many things are different: this move is permanent, with no end date in sight. I didn’t move here for a reason of my own, meaning that we moved here because of my husband’s job and not because of work or school for me. We don’t have any family close, not anywhere in state. I moved here 8 weeks pregnant and have been largely housebound raising kids ever since. The weather suuuuuucks.
But all this I’d been over in my mind, again and again, and nothing felt heavy enough to be such a roadblock. Perhaps all of them put together is what is blocking my road?
Of course, there’s more. My life is pretty unrecognizable from what it was 4 years ago. I was working full time, not yet married, not yet a mom (of two). I had friends and family. Hobbies. A brain. A life.
Now I feel like I am getting somewhere – that along with grieving the loss of my homeland (via the move), I am grieving the loss of my identity. Before, I was a therapist. A partner. Active, creative, thoughtful. Productive. Energetic. Mobile. Free.
I look at the clothes hanging in my closet, and I don’t recognize the woman who wore those clothes. She’s not me, but I kind of remember her, the way one remembers a grandmother who died when you were a child. I deeply miss her.
I feel like becoming a capitol M-O-M has wiped out any identity I had that doesn’t pertain to my relationship with my kids. People no longer ask about me, they ask about the kids. Or they ask about how I am in relation to the kids, as a mom, and not as a person. (Because moms aren’t people, you guys.)
Edit: To be fair, my momfriends very much DO genuinely ask how I am doing. It’s just that most often, I’m unable to answer honestly or with much gory detail because of the circumstances (read: kids running around trying to kill themselves).
Make no mistake, I’ve definitely been making an effort to integrate myself into my new life. This introvert and homebody has forced herself to join a moms club, get to library story times, and go to various playgroups. I’ve made friends and enjoyed some of what Oregon has to offer.
What finally hit me was something my good friend said to me recently. I was bitching about how being a mom gets in the way of making good quality friendships because even when my momfriends and I can get together we’re still always chasing after our kids and can’t have a decent conversation. I can’t remember how the conversation went, but I think I said that my momfriends and I mostly talk about our kids because that’s what we have in common, but we don’t share who we are as people. And she pointed out that none of the people I am meeting and trying to forge relationships with in Oregon knew me before I had kids. I just read back what I typed, and I can see how that may not sound so earth-shattering, but it definitely felt that way to me. Besides my husband and this particular friend, zero people in Oregon knew who I was before children. There’s been essentially no carryover from my old life to the new one, in every way possible. Ugh.
As I take this thought and play the tape through in my mind, I’m seeing another layer of difficulty in trying to make new friends: not only do we lack the logistical opportunities as moms, but I am working blind. I don’t even know who this new me is yet, and no one here knew the old me, and in that sense I feel completely invisible – swallowed up by my children (and then pooped out for me to clean up).
Life is really tough right now.
I knew it would be, but this doesn’t make it any easier.
People ask how I am doing, and what am I supposed to say? I tell them the truth – that it’s hard and that I am doing the best that I can – but if I truly stop and express to them just how hard and just how much I struggle, then I fear I’ll just fall apart.
I need more human contact. My son needs more human contact. It’s good for us. But getting there, getting OUT, is SO. FREAKING. HARD.
Today we got up and tried to get to playgroup. I got up around 7:45. The playgroup started at 10:30. By 11:45 I was still feeding my youngest a bottle. I texted to cancel. We ended up taking a walk, by ourselves, in the freezing cold because it was the easiest and quickest way to get outside. Yes, it was better than nothing, but man, it sucked.
And that’s the thing – I don’t expect perfection, but I feel like I am trying my hardest and that I’m still failing. At some point in the day, I’m always failing SOMEbody. Sometimes it’s me (because I can’t make social contact with friends), or the baby (because she’s screaming hungry and has to wait), or my toddler (because he’s screaming that he wants to go outside but has to wait), or my husband (because he listens to me complain and cry and fall apart).
I usually start the day off trying my best to cope, like today. But the time ticks by and more and more gets in the way of reaching our meager goals (getting to playgroup), when it finally comes crashing down because my toddler kicks me in the jaw and I burst into tears, or my baby won’t nurse even though I know she’s hungry and I burst into tears. These days, it’s rare to get through the day without feeling like the walls are crashing down on me.
I have glimpses of hope and reminders that life gets better. I try and hold onto those. But living in the moment requires breaking down, because the here and now is often unbearable. That’s why I am always on my damn phone – if I can just check out for a minute, maybe I can regroup and reenter my life. Or just pass the time; maybe when I lift my head, things will be different. Better.
So I’m coping. At least I am getting more sleep these days, but I am still choosing sleep over most other things. I choose sleep over chores, over human interaction, over getting out of the house. Because if I am not moderately rested, nothing else matters. That may sound dramatic, but it’s true. Here’s the catch, though: if I’m not a zombie physically (sleep deprived), then I’m a zombie emotionally (isolated). It’s like I can’t win.
Not to mention that this winter, everyone and their mom is sick. Everyone in my family was sick a month ago, including my newborn, and that was pure hell. Less sleep and meeting with other people all mean a higher chance of getting sick again…so perhaps hunkering down is what we just need to do right now, even though I don’t have a whole lot of choice in the matter at the moment. I suppose all these circumstances just mean I super prioritize what get togethers we try and attend.
Lest I begin rambling, I will simply repeat my point in closing.
Life is really tough right now.
My parents just left after a week-long visit and I’m sad.
The day after kind, helpful company leaves is always tough, for many reasons. One, I’ve just lost a huge help in terms of cleaning and food prep and all the energy it takes to give attention to Dylan. Two, Dylan gets very used to all the constant, undivided attention during the visit and he’s usually more needy and whiny than usual after they leave, and I’m left to deal with that. Three, I’ve just lost rational, adult humans to talk to and eat with every day. It highlights just how isolated and alone I often feel on a daily basis, despite my growing efforts to reach out and meet new people with whom I can meaningfully connect (which is a struggle and a whole other post of its own).
Plus, fourth, the leaving highlights just how far away from family we are and how much that sucks. We’re coming up on second baby’s birthing time, and I’ve had to arrange a phone tree of sorts of local friends who can keep my son alive while we wait for family to hop on a plane and get here once I go into labor. I suppose it’s time to find some babysitters in the area we can call and *gulp* actually pay to watch my spawn from time to time, but that’s just not the same as having grandma and grandpa just across town.
Not long after Bamma and Pa-pa left, I looked at the forecast on my phone. Readers, fellow Psychos, you all know how much the weather affects my mood. The last two days have been mercifully sunny and delightfully warmish for this time of year in the Pacific Northwest, and I did my best to enjoy them. We got outside and went to parks, synthesized some vitamin D and some sanity. Well, wouldn’t you know it, in a few short hours the skies are going to open up again with a series of storms with no end in sight, says my irrational sad brain. Ah, symbolism. You stormy bitch.
So, visits are hard. They are fun and exciting and something to break up the often horribly mind-numbing sameness of my days…but once they are over, the sameness I return to seems to become even more mind-numbing.
The hubs and I are sick.
And, man, it sucks.
Being sick on a regular day sucks, but it sucks harder when you’re a parent. And even harder when both parents are sick at the same time. It’s the suckiest.
Both of us have been coughing and sneezing and hacking and gagging that my toddler thinks this is a new game. Even though he’s still healthy (I have no idea how he hasn’t gotten our viral plague as of yet), he’s started fake coughing because he thinks it’s now the cool thing to do. If this goes on much longer, we’ll have given our son some sort of complex.
We’ve been cooped up for several days now, and I’m not sure how much longer we can hold out. Our produce is almost gone, we’ve dipped into my NyQuil reserves (this is not a joke), and we might be sick of each other.
As a SAHM and an introvert who is prone to self-isolation, the social commitments I make for my son and I each week are crucial to my sanity, and when one of us is sick, we can’t go talk to the other humans. And that makes mommy something-something. So the only silver lining is that, this week, my husband is home sick too. WOO! PLAGUE PARTY!! We can sneeze the Overture of 1812 better than Ferris Bueller’s keyboard. Seriously, it has been nice to have him home with us, because at least I don’t have to sick-parent a well-kid all by me onesie.
However, this situation has also given way to arguments over who is sicker, and thus who gets a free pass from parenting the not-sick, full-energy child. My partner may or may not have said that he’s so sick that he’s not at work and deserves a break. And I may or may not have said that I AM STILL AT WORK EVEN THOUGH I AM SICK AND I DESERVE TO POOP ALONE. And then we agreed to disagree after the argument devolved into a mutual coughing fit.
In related illness news: I discovered that I can now hit Adele’s sexy, sexy low notes. I’d better get this down in the studio before my immune system decides to wake the fuck up. Also, after visually confirming that my voice wasn’t coming from a would-be creepy male kidnapper, the hubs told me that I should start a late night sexy-talk line (that’s what they’re called, right?) and use the alias Bernice in order to earn a little extra cash. You know, for our kid’s college fund. Or so I can buy some more NyQuil.
This year, I had trouble coming up with things to put on my Christmas list. This is because I have a one-year-old and I live in a new house that is largely empty, which means I either want crap for my kid that I am too cheap to buy myself, or I want big-ticket items like sofas and wall-to-wall trampolines.
So what did I end up asking for? I can’t believe I am about to tell you.
- Money for a mattress
Yup, I have become that person. The one who asks for money. It’s just that we’re trying to save up to furnish our home and saving is hard. And our current mattress is decidedly not. I’m tired of waking up with a hurtee back.
What this says about me: I’m old and cranky.
2. A dustbuster
Oh dear. I actually cringed when I saw my fingers typing the letters that make up that word. But…I need something smaller than my hugeass vacuum to suck up the 763728294 messes that my kid and cat and husband make everyday. I can’t drag out my vacuum because my back hurts from our damn old mattress and I’m lazy.
What this says about me: I have become my mother.
3. Infinity scarf with pocket
So, I saw these on The View (maybe I should stop typing right there) and I thought they looked cute and practical!
What this says about me: I am the caricature of a SAHM.
4. An electric toothbrush
I have been meaning to get one of these for myself, because I do the Type A thing where I brush super hard and I need to not do that. But then I looked, and these things are fucking expensive. And Christmas is right around the corner! On the list it goes.
(Fun fact: My family exchanged lists, and I saw that my dad had the exact same item on his list. And then I swear I could hear my brother roll his eyes all the way in California.)
What this says about me: I am cheap. I have also become my father, apparently.
And this, my Psychos, is why alcohol flows freely during the most wonderful time of the year, to cover up the shame.
What embarrassing things do you have on your list?!
My two kids kinda hate each other.
Well, the younger one ADORES the older one, and he follows her around, chases her, wants to play with her…..and she’ll have nothing to do with him. She even hides from him.
I guess it makes more sense that my oldest is a six year old cat who was an only child for the first 5 years of her life.
She’s been careful to give Dylan a developmentally appropriate-wide birth. For example, when he was just a poopy blob, she would venture a sniff to the head. But now that he’s starting to WALK, ladies and gentlemen, not only will she not touch him with a ten foot pole (if she had opposable thumbs), but she displays a look of pure panic at this recent development (which I translate to: holy shitfuck!) and runs like I do when I’m running from zombies. Which is probably a good thing, because her hanging tummy waddle could use a little slimming. Mine could, too, now that I think about it.
My cat’s also not too bright. To her credit, she has identified areas of the house where Dylan can’t go and she’s learned that those places are sweet, sweet havens of peace (notice I didn’t say “and quiet”). Two such places are the staircase (where she sits and waits in an attempt to trip us, ideally making us fall to our deaths) and the downstairs bathroom.
See, we keep the cat’s poo box in the bathroom, and so we had to figure out a way to let the cat into the bathroom, but keep the boychild out. Child gate! You say. Yup, that’s what we thought, too. We installed one, and it definitely kept the wee lad out. Unfortunately, it also kept the feline out as well. I tried to train her to jump the gate like a normal cat would, but she was uninterested and actually threatened to go poop in an undisclosed location unless the gate came down.
Long story long – I was lamenting about my son who loves to eat cat litter and my cat who can’t jump, and my dad suggested rigging up some sort of string that allowed the bathroom door to open just wide enough for my fatty catty to get through, but not wide enough for the child who ripped through my vag (my words, not my dad’s). It was brilliant, it was cheap, and it worked.
And that’s how the bathroom became a toddler-free cat haven…until a human has to use the facilities, that is.
So twice now this week when I’ve had to use the potty, I will unlatch the bathroom door and the cat will scamper in. I don’t know what she’s expecting…a pooping party, perhaps? Each time I warn the cat in plain English, “You know Dylan will be in here before you know it and you’ll be cornered. You hate that.” And each time I waste my breath.
So in comes Dylan, because mom clearly needs moral support to do her business.
And then, in an effort to give mom some privacy from the rest of the house which is now empty (either that, or in an effort to hold us hostage for promises of extra chunks of cheese at lunch), Dylan pushes the door shut, turns toward us, and cackles manically.
This is the cat’s cue to lose her shit.
WE’RE TRAPPED! WE CAN’T LEAVE! WHAT DO WE DOOOO? I’ll go this way- no this way- no, on top of the toilet- nay, behind the toilet!!!!! AAAGGHHHHH!
Cue boychild to squeal with delight while he bears witness to the cat’s manic panic attack.
And I can’t do anything to let the cat out until my personal business transaction has been completed.
Sometimes I feel like I run a zoo.
…maybe I should start charging admission.