While leaving my kids’ school the other morning, I listened to two other moms talk about how busy they always were. One mentioned how she kept waiting for things to settle down, and how she hoped this week would be better than the last. The other woman agreed and lamented how it was always one thing after the other. I silently nodded behind their backs.
The morning had been one shit show after another. Nobody wanted to get up, or get dressed, or eat breakfast. All three of them had cried at some point. I had yelled at them, rushed them, and threatened to throw away their toys. And when my son said he couldn’t put on his winter jacket because he had lost it, I thought I’m done. I don’t want to be a parent.
I have had this thought a lot lately. I feel a mix of guilt and relief admitting it. Yes, parenting is hard and I have every right to complain, ask for help, and take time to myself. But am I crossing a line when I fantasize about running away from home? It feels like more than a fantasy sometimes. I put that shit on a vision board. I make a mental checklist of the things I would pack. I list the places I want to explore, the instruments I want to learn how to play, and the new people I want to meet just to hear their stories. When I am overwhelmed, I let my wanderlust take over. It’s an escape, not an executable plan.
I would never walk out on my kids. But parenting is all consuming. It is a weight adding pressure to our already stressed minds and souls.
Relationships feel strained or lost because there are stretches when it is so damn hard to find time to connect or summon the patience to avoid sharp words and resentment. Our personal and professional goals are at the whim of the number of days we are taking care of sick kids, navigating school breaks, or driving to and from practices. Money is tight, marriage is hard, the house is a fucking disaster, and self-care seems like a punch line.
And if you are like me and paying attention to the state of our nation, you are witnessing and feeling the flames of the dumpster fire that is our United States. Homo and transphobia, mass shootings, racism, xenophobia, and misogyny have been hall passes under this administration. It all feels like too much.
So when my kids, who are 7 and 5, utilize their age appropriate right to be both physically and emotionally demanding—usually at the same time and usually in conjunction with a sibling—I long for more than a break; I long to break free. Someone always needs something: help, answers, food, attention, and comfort. There is nothing wrong with needing these things. But when three small people demand these things all day long, I wonder when my needs will be met.
And please don’t tell me I need to find balance. Balance is bullshit.
We don’t balance the heaviness of life, we juggle it at best. We throw at least one piece of ourselves, if not more, up in the air. We literally and figuratively have to give up a vital part of ourselves, and it is unsettling because sometimes we don’t know when that piece of ourselves will come back down or if we will be able to catch it.
On the really hard days, or during the really hard moments of parenting, I feel trapped. I don’t want to do it anymore. Oh, I still love my kids, not that I should have to say that. I don’t need to qualify my complaints. But the fierceness of my love is what ultimately extinguishes my burning desire to pack my shit and go.
Admitting how hard day-to-day life can be when you are a parent is not crossing a line. It’s necessary to say the dark and scary and selfish thoughts out loud. Juggling shifts the weight and admitting that some days are just about surviving allows us to survive. When we take the pressure off of ourselves to believe that parenting is only about blessings, we become better parents.
Allowing ourselves to daydream about running away from home keeps us firmly planted in the mess of parenthood.