I went to marriage seminar a few years ago, and every time the seminar turned toward things that were more difficult the speaker would pause and say, "Can we talk?". His way of letting you know that this might not be comfortable.
So. Can we talk?
This post is not actually about carrots. It's about parenting. And frustration. And mental exhaustion. And resentment.
I had had one of those weeks. Long. Stressful. Aggravating. And it was only Wednesday.
The house was a disaster, and no matter how hard I tried to prioritize and strategize the disaster just seemed to grow. One step forward - two steps back. How in the WORLD do three people create such a mess in one weekend?! And one of them is immobile, for crying out loud!
It was raining which means the dogs and cat won't go outside, but they seem to forget that little nugget of wisdom every 10 minutes and start yowling to go out. I ignore the yowling for about 10 minutes which is no easy thing since my neurotic little babies can raise hell with the best of them (I'm looking at you, cat!). I finally take a deep sigh and go open the door. They raise an eyebrow, tuck their tail, and run for the safe haven underneath my bed. And then, 10 minutes later, they reappear, and we repeat the whole thing.
This time of year everyone is busy and/or sick, so there's really no good place to go to get out of the house. I could go wander around a store - not a good idea for my budget. Or I could go push Sam around the block in the stroller - except for the part about the rain.
And, in true baby form, Sam knew it. And he got fussy. And demanding. And irritating. And I got resentful.
There, I said it. I got resentful.
I stood in my living room while my son laid on his back griping at the animals in his Fischer Price Rainforest Play Gym and I was a little pissed. Remember when I could watch Law & Order or CSI instead of Dinosaur Train and Super WHY? Remember when I could run to Sonic for Happy Hour without having to pack a diaper bag and lug the heaviest baby carrier in the history of man out to the car? Remember when I could read a a new book each week instead of spending two months trying to get through one novel in the precious spare moments I allow myself to indulge? And even when I allow myself to indulge in a few spare minutes I don't know what to do - Pinterest, Google Reader (726 unread items - I am SO not kidding!), DVR (approaching full)? And really what business do I have indulging in frivolous stuff when the dishwasher needs to be emptied and the entertainment center hasn't been dusted in a month? Remember my life before a person the size of a watermelon dictated every minute of my day and night?
And then I felt horribly guilty.
I knew about postpartum depression. I knew about baby blues. I knew about exhaustion. I did NOT know, however, that there would be times that I would look at my son and get a little angry when I remembered the freedom I had before he was here. I didn't know because people don't really talk about that part. Or maybe they lump it in with the postpartum stuff and think they covered it. Or maybe people told me and it's just not something you can explain to someone who hasn't experienced it. Kind of like when someone asks "what does a contraction feel like?". Anyway, that feeling of resentment caught me off guard.
Let me be clear that I am not complaining about staying home and caring for my son. I love my "job", and I wouldn't trade it for anything. I spent many years hearing women say things like "I am so jealous that you GET to go to work" and wanting to punch them in their faces because the thing I wanted most was to do what they were doing. I'm not complaining. But I was feeling like the walls were closing in. So I texted a friend. She has three children under the age of five, and she has not yet lost her mind. Well...not completely any way. So she tends to be my go-to when I need a pat on the back mommy-style. Here's how the conversation went:
"Today I resent having to care for this little guy. Just a little resentment, but it's there. I have so much to do, and I can't get it done, and my brain is spinning...Is that horrible thing to say? I feel guilty now."
"Not in the slightest. In fact, it's a Mama Milestone that no one talks about. SAH moms never leave work. We never close the computer for the day, go home, and do something else for 12-18 hours. It's a 24/7 job that's relentless."
"Why is it so taboo? It makes perfect sense!"
"Because we wanted these babies so badly. We prayed for them, planned for them, eagerly awaited their arrival into this world. How dare we resent God's most precious gift?! What people don't understand is that an unending supply of even something perfect eventually get nauseating. Like eating chocolate cheesecake for 24 hours without stopping."And then she said the thing that made me laugh out loud, but also made me think deeper than I had let myself think in awhile.
"You need a break. And a carrot."She was so right. And my mom is keeping Sam on Friday night, so I knew I had a break coming. But what about that carrot? If I spend my break running around like a maniac and trying to catch up the areas I perceive as behind I'll go pick up my son on Saturday and be right back where I started. So what should I do? I know that I need to make sure I'm keeping my focus where it belongs - on the blessings God has given me and the strength he continues to provide - but that's not my point here. I have quiet time most days, and I don't think that a lack of spiritual focus is really what the problem was this time. After some thought, I realized that I rarely take time to do something for myself that doesn't involve some form of multi-tasking (ie. folding laundry while watching SportsCenter). Or if I do try to stop and breathe by taking a hot bath or reading a book my mind is so scattered that I don't really enjoy the break. So I pondered it for awhile and came up with a game plan for my no-kid Friday night and Saturday afternoon - a little work, a little play, a little time to completely shut my brain off and veg with a book and/or the DVR. That's my carrot. A brain break. With no guilt.
And then I decided to write this post. Because I can't possibly be the only person who feels this way. And I want my other SAH mom friends to know they are not alone. This is for my army wife friend who is raising her newborn in Germany a half-world from home. This for my friend who quit her teaching job to stay home with her daughter who has developmental delays. This is for my friend who lives in a tiny little town with three kids and a husband who sometimes has to work crazy hours on the ranch. This is for my friend who just moved half-way across the country to be a mom to several kids who aren't her own. This is for my sis-in-law who is raising two strong-willed kids who are both too smart for their own good. Ladies, we're all in this together!
I don't know what your daily struggles are. I don't know the little mundane things that make you want to pull your hair out. But I know that you have them, and they probably send you on a roller coaster of emotions. These sweet little blessings God has given us can also try our patience and wear our nerves to a frazzle. So I hope that you'll take the time every now and then to take a break and eat a carrot. Or some green beans. Or whatever your "veggie" of choice may be. I know my little family will thank me for doing it, and I'll bet yours will, too.