Ever find yourself Googling how to survive parenting? My girls are past the toddler years and we even lived through the threenager years…twice! We’ve survived the first days of school and those first years of the insecurity of the early years of elementary school and learning to coexist with others. We are falling fast, headlong into prepubescence and the tween years, which as far as I can decipher is basically a much taller, more vocal threenager who has perfected the eye roll so well that she just may injure herself doing so. It nearly gave me whip lash just being on the receiving end of one earlier this weekend. Yet, at the same time, they are my most favorite people.
It seems like forever ago that we were worrying ourselves silly about every single choice we made when they were newborns and even longer since bringing them home that first day and sleeping with the lights on so that we could watch every breath she took to make sure that she was still alive. I remember the overwhelming fear that I was going to somehow break this precious piece of perfection the minute those insane doctors allowed me to leave the hospital with this brand spanking new perfect newborn.
The point is that parenting is overwhelming at every age. It never gets easier it only gets different. That’s why we mothers have this mantra, and you might not even realize that it is yours, “Can’t stop, Won’t Stop.” I wish there was some sort of mom bat signal that we could shine out to other mothers in the dead of night like a bat mom rescue signal, or there was some sort of letter we could pin on our chest to signal to other mothers that we are exhausted and overwhelmed and in desperate need of a moment of silence, a nap, a hug or just an ear to listen. Instead, we’re all like the little mom that could…just chugging along, praying, “I think I can, I think I can” hoping to survive until our partner gets home from work. We mark our days by putting out metaphorical fires and surviving one catastrophe to the next. It’s not really living so much as its survival.
I’ve been a mom for 11 years now and I can tell you, if it gets easier, it’s not in those first 11 years but I’ve picked up some pointers along the way. Being a parent is hard work, especially when you consider what’s at stake; your sanity, your children’s lives and your quality of life. Oh and your partner, can’t forget about him or her because even if you’re in this shit show together, you’re not really. One of you is doing more work. But who’s keeping score?
When the girls were littler, back in the days when I had a 2 and 4-year-old (and honestly, for a few years after that) every 3 months I’d have a meltdown. I needed the release. Those were my limitations; 3 solids months of non-stop doing my best parenting and then I needed a good cry (a sobbing your face off ugly cry.) In retrospect, I’m not sure if I was crying from feeling like a failure to my children, sucking at making time for my husband, the catastrophic state of what was my home or mourning for my life, the one I knew I would never have again.
I know it had a lot to do with being left on my own to figure it out while my husband worked out of state. I never felt so lonely and overwhelmed as I did in those days even though I was never technically alone (little people had attached themselves to me like barnacles and for 97% if the time I loved it but for the other 3% I felt like I was that guy in the Scream painting by Edvard Munch.) I wasn’t even allowed time alone to hear myself think. Not sure if it was from missing someone to help with the parenting, having someone to talk to about it or the feeling like when he came home on the weekends the Big Guy was secretly thinking to himself, what the hell has she been doing all week…this house looks like a tornado hit it. All I know is that I spent a lot of the early years of parenting feeling buried inside myself; unseen, unheard and invisible (well, unless you consider being a human feed machine, booger and ass wiper and always eating cold food while tiny people asked me a zillion questions being visible…ironically, those were the moments when I really wished I could be invisible.)
The thing is I loved every single moment of it and I hated it too. I loved (still do) my children more than anything else but I put myself on the back burner. I lost myself to a mom uniform (mine was yoga pants and t-shirts, for some it’s a pair of jeans and a sweater or a comfy maxi-dress) and a soft body (because who the hell has the time or the energy to work out when they have little kids). I became unrecognizable on the outside, even to myself. I was in survival mode or maybe it was beast mode, “Can’t stop. Won’t stop!” Because when little people’s lives are depending on you, there is no option even when you want to collapse and say you quit (and we’ve all wanted to. You beautiful exhausted mom reading this, you’re not alone and I see you.) It’s okay. We’ve all wanted to tell the boss to take this job and shove it at one point or another.
The thing is, like I said, it doesn’t get any easier but it gets better. My theory is that babies are born so freakishly cute to us so that when they keep us up all night and take us to the brink of insanity we can be soothed by a coo or a smile. As they get a little older, they get even cuter and that is because those are the real butthole years. Oh if those adorable little smiles didn’t melt our hearts, parents would probably be abandoning threenagers on the carousel at the mall at an alarming rate. Then, they settle in at absolutely freaking adorable from the ages of 4- about 10ish; everything they do is sunshine and out mommy/ daddy hearts almost explode. Then one day, we wake up and they are tweens and they are kind of smelly and starting to perfect that whip lash inducing eye roll that I was warning you about. I hear that over the next few years they become heinous back talkers who know everything and go through a rough patch physically, I think this is nature’ way of making sure our parent hearts survive their departure to college. Otherwise we’d all die or follow them. At this juncture, I can’t guarantee I won’t do both.
The secret to surviving these early years is acceptance. Accept that it really does go by at lightning speed and accept that you love them more than you really want to admit so much so that you worry at night that it might kill you dead if they ever leave you or God forbid, something terrible happens to them. The bottom line is that parenthood is minutia peppered with misery and profound moments of bliss and it’s the most amazing, wonderful thing that any of us will ever be a part of but it also kind of sucks and that’s okay too.
Let it go. Perfection is not attainable in parenting. In fact, it’s a moving target. Do your best, love your children, love yourself and love your partner. Don’t worry so much about the house and laundry, they will still be there tomorrow (unfortunately, I know this first hand). Don’t be afraid to share your struggles with other moms, think of it as your own personal bat mom signal. Talking about it really does help. Why do you think I started this blog in the first place? Believe me, your kids are not the only ones bickering constantly, talking back, not sleeping and living on chicken nuggets and good looks. You are not alone!
Make time to hear yourself think because your thoughts are important. Steal moments to catch your breath and every once in a while, lock the door when you go pee, drive alone with the music you like to hear cranked up 10 decibels too loud for your toddler’s ears and just try to remember that you are still a person and you are not alone. We (the other moms) see you. I promise you, one-day sooner than you think, you will be alone with your thoughts again and you’ll be able to take the time to shower, shave and dress like an adult. You’ll even get to eat warm food and talk to adults again and you will most definitely miss these exhausted, overwhelming moments of now. Did I mention that I cried like a baby the first day that both girls were in school all day long?
Of course, that’s about the same time your “babies” will start throwing you major shade and rolling their eyes at you like it was their job but it’s also about the time you can have real, meaningful conversations with them because they are becoming adults. There’s that damn misery profound bliss thing again.
I see you. What’s the one moment in parenting that you really wished you could send out a bat mom signal and have someone come to your rescue? Let’s have a conversation, share it in the comments.