We all know that parenthood is exhausting. From those first months or even years of a child waking up every 3 hours, to chasing them around the park, to bath time battles and so on. It’s all so tiring.
It’s not just the big things, though, that suck the life force out of every parent. It’s the simple things. Things that shouldn’t make you run screaming to the coffee pot, but they do. Often. Like, every day. Things like …
1. Smiling. You have to smile at your kids when you’re happy. You have to smile at them when you’re unhappy. You have to smile when they do something right and you have to smile through the anguish of a tantrum-throwing toddler in the grocery store. You’ve gotta plaster that shit on your face 24/7. I know science says it takes more work to frown than it does to smile, but my smile muscles aren’t buying it. It’s HARD to smile all the damn time.
2. Talking. Remember the joys of just talking in your normal tone of voice, a voice devoid of positive inflection every moment of the day? Saying “good job!” every time your daughter goes down the slide or your son puts two Legos together is so taxing. Not to mention explaining actions and consequences and life and plots to movies they’ve watched 81 times. I don’t think public speakers have to talk as much as parents, and they get paid to talk. Where’s my check?
3. Listening. If you’re not the one talking, you’re the one listening. You’re listening to every thought your child has every moment they have one. They have no filter. They have no sense that I want to tear my ears off of my head by 8 a.m. The tongue must be the strongest muscle in a child’s body because it never stops flapping, and you’re the one who has to bear the burden. By the end of most days, I’m so exasperated from the constant listening that I don’t want to hear anything. Not the hum of a car, not the tune of my favorite song, not even the sound of whiskey being poured into my Diet Coke.
4. Affection. Children have magic powers in their body which pull the energy right out of yours. They’re sitting on you, sitting near you, pulling on you, pushing you, touching your hair, touching your face, touching touching touching ALL THE TIME. And then my husband wants to touch me at night? Are you kidding me? All parents should receive a sensory deprivation chamber as a push present because after a day of non-stop affection, floating in darkness sounds mighty nice.
5. Errands. I’m not talking about going to the post office or the grocery store. I’m talking about a 10-foot walk to the damn mailbox. Kids must pick up every pine cone, play in every dirt pile, spin around in circles, find the perfect stick, find the next perfect stick when their older sibling takes the perfect stick away from them, etc. I just want to see if my People magazine has come today, and I’ll find out in about an hour once we finally get there. And then we have to get back to the house. I should start packing a snack and carrying a hydration pack.
6. Chores. Before kids, cleaning my bathroom took maybe an hour, and that’s if I wanted to get down and deep-cleaning dirty. Now it’s a weekend-long event, and that’s if I start during naptime. It’s not that I’m a bad housekeeper; it’s that letting my kids “help,” teaching them how to clean, or retrieving them from the bathroom sink 74 times drains me to such a point that I feel good if all I achieved was sprinkling some Comet in the toilet bowl. It at least smells like I did something.
7. Hygiene. We all know the jokes about how if a mom can manage to shower twice a week she should get an award. And that’s true. But taking a shower is just part of it. There’s shaving, waxing, bleaching, cutting of nails and brushing of teeth that also has to be done, and if you’re pressed for time — which you always are — you try to multitask as much as possible. You cut your nails while your mustache bleach does its thing. You shave your legs while your “gray no more” hair dye works its age-defying magic. If you’re Gwyneth Paltrow, you pluck your chin hairs while steaming your lady parts. Multitasking is the key to getting it all done, but by the time it’s all over, I’m too spent to even admire my handiwork in the mirror.
Just being a living, breathing, semi-clean human being should not make me feel so exhausted, but kids make even the simplest things feel like exercise. So count a hard day as a 24-hour nonstop workout and have some chocolate. Alone. In your sensory deprivation chamber.