I lost myself recently. Kind of in the way you lose your car in a parking lot. You know you parked it somewhere; how else could you be standing in the middle of a shopping center, juggling kids and a cart full of groceries? But until you find it, you feel like you’ve lost your mind as well as the mini-van that got you there. You doubt your faith in ever finding it again.
That’s how I felt in our kitchen a couple of weeks ago: Lost in the parking lot of parenting.
The joy of motherhood had sucked the joy out of my life. I was overwhelmed with commitments I was not fulfilling. I was disgusted that the bathrooms hadn’t been cleaned in over a month. I was remembering that my partner had called me a grump earlier in the day. I was making my daughter’s lunch for the next day, trudging through one task so I could get to another. I felt lost.
My kids are little — my daughter is three and a half and my twin boys are a year old — and because they are so little, some days feel like an absolute grind. Between the babies’ crying and whining, the amount of times I change diapers or wipe someone’s ass, and the number of meals I make each day, I crave time. Time to get stuff done that doesn’t involve catering to my children. Time to sit. Time with my partner. Time alone. I crave time.
Parenting is the most selfless thing I have ever done. Yet, because of the nature of having young kids, it also makes me selfish. After a day of being talked to, talked at, touched, climbed on, and cried on, I want to find a place to crawl into so no one can find me. I don’t want to communicate with anyone. I don’t want anyone to ask me for anything. And I don’t want anyone to touch me.
My friends and partner get the brunt of these selfish feelings, and my kids get the selfish thoughts. When my boys are fighting sleep before a nap or bedtime, all I can think is, Shut up! Go the fuck to sleep! And when I’ve had enough of playing with my kids or enough of watching them play, I can’t help but think how goddamn bored I am. Then I think of all of the other things I rather be doing than being right there with them.
Them. My kids. The three beautiful beings I couldn’t be happier to have. The three amazing people that have made my life perfect. I wanted them more than anything, but sometimes I want nothing more than to be away from them.
I don’t ever hide my emotions, yet it’s rare that I am pushed to the point of tears. I cried that night in the kitchen. My partner was much better than I am when she cries. She listened, and unlike me, she didn’t try to fix anything. What we did instead was talk about ways for me to find some balance between being a work at home and stay at home mom. She reminded me that it won’t always be this hard. She helped me restore faith in the fact I’m not really lost.
The person I was before I had kids is still there. She’s just harder to find on some days. What keeps me going are the everyday things that make having kids so much fun. A tea party with my daughter. Giggles from my boys. Our first family hike. The before and after of those blissful things are usually exhausting, stressful, or even mind-numbing, but the during is where I am found.
My kids will be young for many more years, but as they get a little older we are able to do more with them and less for them. This gives me faith. This is the optimism I need to remind myself to breathe. This near future ability to do more for me and less for them is intoxicating. It’s not quite tangible, but it’s certainly there. The very real possibility of losing myself again is there too, along with the feeling I have lost my mind and the mini-van that got me here.
It’s there, though. It’s all there.
Related post: Motherhood: The Big, Fat Fuck You