It all escalated the week my 2-year-old stopped napping. The three-hour naps just collapsed, like a bridge, eliminating my primary connection to silence and solitude each day. I knew it was coming, but I didn’t realize how it would affect me until it happened.
I was too tired to even cry.
Depression is anger turned inward, right? Well, I’ve got my share of that going on, and I totally get it if you do too. When I’m frustrated by something, I don’t know how to deal with it because there is always someone else who has it worse. In those moments, my anger pulls me down like a weight on my shoulders. My guilt silences my cries.
You don’t deserve to cry about this. People have it way worse than you, my guilt tells me.
My 2-year-old daughter quit napping. Big whoop. Some moms don’t even get to be home during their toddler’s nap time. I’m a stay-at-home mom. Still, we’re both a wreck. I already don’t sleep through the night because my infant son is teething like a saber tooth and my daughter gets afraid of the dark or decides breakfast is at 4 a.m. I sleep in until 8 instead of getting up at 6 to write because my body is drained. By nap time, my eyes are burning.
I want to be like those entrepreneurs with success stories that all began with waking up early to chase their dreams. It’s just not happening.
That makes me feel like a failure—like I cannot manage my own life—so I internalize my anger.
The house is almost always a mess. I want so badly for my husband to take a turn cooking dinner and cleaning every once in a while, but he works so hard to provide for us and comes home so tired. Not to mention, he takes care of the cars, the trash, the recycling, and installing the AC window units—all without a garage or a complaint.
That makes me feel bad for getting angry with him when he misses so many goodnight hugs and kisses from the children because of work, so swallow my anger.
I want so badly to have time to myself each day, so I turn on the TV for the children or lay out a game. I sit at my desk for a few minutes, and the kids either crawl on my lap, pleading to be played with, or they start fighting when they get bored. I’m so frustrated that my husband gets time to himself when he gets home while I entertain the kids, but no one is there for me when I need space.
That makes me mad at myself for thinking like that when so many of my friends and family are single parents, and I’m married to a loving, devoted man. Again, I internalize my anger.
I think about my friends without kids who can just hop in the cars and spend an evening reading in the corner of some coffee shop. They can just put on their coat, get in their car, and drive off.
I dream of days like that.
With two kids under 3, I first have to change their diapers; put on their shoes, coats and hats; pack a bag with diapers, wipes, snacks, sippy cups, extra outfits in case of accidents, diaper cream, and books for the car ride; get myself dressed; load each child into a car seat (hopefully without a struggle); run back inside when I inevitably forget something; drive to the sitter; unload the children; chat with the sitter for five minutes; drive away; arrive at my destination for a set amount of time; pick up the kids; pay the sitter; and head home. The entire process takes a minimum of an hour longer than it does without kids.
That makes me think about my friends who can’t have kids or aren’t married, and my desire for a corner booth and a book seems so trivial. Guess where my anger goes? You got it.
I wouldn’t say I’m depressed—at least not clinically. I’m finally unearthing ways to communicate about my guilty frustrations. I’m trying to figure out how to stop punishing myself with other people’s plights. Deleting my Facebook app was a good place to start. I’m also praying more.
I’m trying to communicate my needs to my husband rather than maintaining a resentful grin-and-bear-it attitude. For example, I wrote this article for his eyes first. After an utterly draining day, I sat on my bathroom floor, opened my InkPad app on my phone, and let my internalized feelings erupt. It all came spilling out, like a cry for help more than rage. When I was done writing, I handed him the phone. As he read, I wrapped both arms around his bicep and locked my eyes on the text, hardly breathing. My husband finished, enveloped me in his arms, and said, “Thank you for opening up to me.”
I’m not over this. I’m wedged somewhere in the middle. That’s why I totally understand why so many moms get swallowed up by depression.
When moms talk about the power of a hot shower, or they talk about coffee being their lifeline, they mean it. This parenting thing is tough. It’s wonderful and tough. Moms don’t always need a huge getaway or an extravagant blender at Christmas. Gifts like that rock, but it could be a lot simpler than that. They might just need to jump in the car and go somewhere without kids. They might just need a morning to themselves a few times each month. They might need a hot meal brought in disposable dishes to eliminate cleanup.
Think of a mom in your life. Give her a phone call, email, text or letter (yes, I mean snail mail). Tell her she’s awesome. If she denies it, threaten to get in the car and bring her a milkshake.