It’s almost noon and I’m standing at the kitchen counter, where it feels like I’ve been all day, cutting up fruit for lunch. The FedEx truck is here. I forgot that the dogs were outside, and they’re giving the delivery man a less-than-warm welcome. In pajama pants and dirty hair, I run outside to shush the dogs and grab the package. My children, wearing a bizarre hodgepodge of dress-up clothes, squeeze past me to greet FedEx Guy.
I’m corralling two dogs and three kids, trying to keep the chaos of my household from spilling out into the neighborhood. Dogs are barking and children are shoving and FedEx Guy seems determined to give the dogs a biscuit that they don’t want. Thanks dude, but you should probably just run away from here as fast as you can.
When I get everyone back inside, I realize that the neighbors and FedEx Guy just got treated to the sight of me, braless. Great. That’s just super. The nursing tank (which hasn’t been used to nurse anyone in almost two years) under my t-shirt provides about as much support as a strip of toilet paper. My children look like a scraggly gang of homeless orphans, even though I swear I got them washed and dressed this morning. They paw at me to find out what’s in the package.
“What’s the FedEx guy’s name?” asks one child, while her twin sister pulls on my shirt and asks, “Does he have a dog at his house?” and the 2-year-old whines, “I’m SO HUNGRY!” all at the same time. Little hands and loud voices are everywhere. I can’t even think. I don’t want to yell, but if they don’t get off me right this second, no one is having lunch because I have to make it.
“Stop touching me. Stop touching your sister. I have to make lunch.”
I really don’t want to yell.
“Don’t take that knife off the counter. Because it’s A KNIFE. Jesus, do I really have to say that? Please get out of the kitchen so I can make lunch.”
I’m not going to yell.
“You could clean up some toys while I finish lunch. There are toys everywhere. Lunch is almost ready.”
I won’t yell. I will. Not. Yell.
“Did you seriously just hit your sister again? Stop touching the trash! GET OUT OF THE KITCHEN RIGHT NOW AND DO WHAT I ASKED OR NO ONE IS GETTING ANY LUNCH! EVER!”
The kids finally leave, but I yelled. Fuck. I hate this. I’m doing it all wrong. All of it.
I sink down onto the kitchen floor and cry.
I cry because the work of motherhood is relentless.
I cry because I’m tired. And I need a shower.
I cry because it’s taking me half an hour to cut up these damn plums.
And I cry because I love these kids so much. They’re beautiful and curious and funny and complicated and completely exasperating. They deserve my patience, and I want to give it to them, but today it’s buried under a heaping pile of demands and I yelled at them instead.
Dress-up shoes come clacking toward me.
Shit. They found me. I quickly wipe off my face.
“Mommy, why are you sitting on the floor?”
“Oh, I’m just taking a break. Lunch is almost ready.”
But I’m not taking a break.
Days like this, moments like this, when motherhood threatens to break me, are so hard. I feel like everything I do is for other people, and I’m all used up. There is nothing good left. I just want to disappear.
But I take a breath and try to remind myself that all days are not this hard. All moments are not this hard. I try to think about the loveliness of this morning, when the 2-year-old woke up all smiles. I was tired, but I cuddled her softness and inhaled her sweetness. And two days ago, the house was pretty clean. It felt good.
I may be breaking, but I’m not broken. Truthfully, I’m not sure how I’ll get through this overwhelming phase of motherhood. I’m not even sure how I’ll make it through this day. I guess I’ll just start with these stupid plums.
I stand up and finally finish cutting the fruit. Lunch is almost ready.