A lot of us have parents have a secret. We joke about this secret. Casually laugh it off as if we don’t mean it. Sign a friend up for wine club with a silly note. Occasionally post a “real life” photo on social media.
Then we go and lock the bathroom door. We sit in our secret spot. Maybe we take our phone, maybe a book, maybe we sit there staring at the bathroom wall.
There’s water running; we can hear the drops of water hitting porcelain.
Drop, drop, drop.
When the faucet lets out that repressed guttural moan we are reminded it’s our eyes running. Our tears are hitting the porcelain.
If we’re lucky, we’re doing this without hands under the bathroom door, without someone screaming our name, without hearing things break in the living room.
Even while we sit in our bathroom with tears flooding our face, making that sound that only happens when we’re sobbing, we feel our secret.
We’re inadequate. We’re exhausted. Some days we’re fucking broken.
When we’re alone, we walk around the grocery store or Target in this semi-trance-like state. It’s so common other parents recognize it and acknowledge it! “No kids today, huh?” We joke about it. Our partners sometimes say things like, “Why are you so stressed out? You got to go out without the kids yesterday.”
Don’t mistake the meaning of my words. Our partners aren’t inconsiderate or rude. They’re completely sincere. Real because we’ve become so overwhelmed that an hour in a packed retail store is considered solace.
Maybe we joke about it being wine o’clock while all of our friends nod in agreement, like our Facebook status, or heart our Instagram photo — but maybe we also need to start reaching out.
Another thing to do, right? Give me a couple more minutes to explain.
I’d like to be able to simplify this and link you all to research on mental health in tribes without the day-to-day societal pressures we all face. Give you my utopian dream speech, but there are lots of blogs out there saying the same thing.
“We need the tribe.” “We need to bring back the village.” “Back in the day, another woman would wet nurse your baby so that you could sleep.”
Man, do I want all of those things to be possible for all of us. Every single day I envision it. Usually while staring at my bathroom wall, wishing I drank wine.
Instead let’s work with what is possible now, with the resources we have.
Your Online Community
We all have them in some shape or form.
I don’t just mean mental health help. Hire a housekeeper, a doula, a mother’s helper, a dog walker. Figure out what you can do and afford, even if it’s $40 to drop your laundry off and have it returned folded once every two weeks.
Don’t laugh. If you know me, I know that you’re smiling. I rarely sleep. Why? Because I get up when our kids get up, and by the time they go to bed at night, I want quiet. That quiet often ends up taking me to 4 a.m., and then I’m up in three hours. So now I’m not only mentally tapped out, but I also am living on coffee.
Even if you’re not new age or a hippie! Mantras are one minute of your day. Write them out. Color them while you are staying up all night in the quiet. Now tape them on your mirror or on your bathroom wall to stare at later. Humor me and do it for two weeks and then let me know how it went.
I saved this one for last because I think it’s what we need most. If all we ever do is joke about Target trips and wine, we aren’t helping ourselves or other parents.
How many times do you hear a little joke, smile, and then see that person’s immaculate home? Their Pinterest-perfect dinners? How often do you see Matt and Sarah out on their boats with all the kids smiling?
Meanwhile, you’re serving Hamburger Helper, just broke your toe on a master of death Lego, and thinking if you went on a boat that one of your children would go overboard and the coast guard would initiate a rescue aired on CNN.
It is entirely acceptable to say that you are overwhelmed, that some days you don’t want to be a parent, and yes, there are even days you contemplate running away to the city to paint nude in your imaginary loft for the next year (a little too specific? LOL).
If we can start normalizing these feelings, we can start figuring out how to help each other, how to help ourselves, and ultimately, how to help us be better parents for our children.
Back in the day (I know I said I wouldn’t go here, but I can’t help myself), we helped each other. We had people. We had an outlet. We could poop without someone on our lap.
Now? Now we have wine, Xanax, and a false sense of what is and what isn’t acceptable.
What isn’t acceptable is parents burying their feelings so deep that we’re hiding in our secret room, sobbing, and then splashing cold water on our faces to hide it. What isn’t acceptable is that the highlight of our current life is going grocery shopping alone.
So let’s switch it around. Vent, ask for help, offer to help, get your freaking nails done, and then get a massage while you let someone watch over your kids guilt-free.
We have to stop hiding. Our lives depend on it.