I just walked through my house and sighed or swore no less than half a dozen times. My partner is at her full-time job. My 5-year-old twins are at preschool. My 7-year-old daughter is at summer camp, and I am walking through my house trying to find my way to my desk so I can start a day of work at home. I am struggling to balance my writing, advocacy work, and multiple side projects. The house is empty but my responsibilities are not.
I sighed because of the overwhelming signs of never having time. We don’t have family members nearby who are willing or obligated to help or bail me out of tight spots. My family is dysfunctional and not in my life; my partner’s family is out of state and her parents are aging. We have friends, but they have kids and jobs too. I am envious of the ones who have parents or siblings who can make the daily grind of parenting a little easier.
I sighed at the pile of school work that came home with my oldest daughter at the end of the school year that I still haven’t gone through, even though she has been out of school for two weeks. I continued to step around baskets of laundry; one is clean and needs to be folded and put away, and the other is filled with dirty laundry and random shit that has moved from upstairs to downstairs. The shit now lives with underwear in my kitchen, apparently.
I rolled my eyes at the to-do lists, a sink full of dishes, bills to pay, bathrooms to be cleaned, and appointments to keep. I swore at the frozen pack of chicken I hope thaws in time for dinner. I forgot to get it out earlier in the day, and my family insists on eating dinner every night even though my kids complain about most things I cook for them. So fingers crossed I can cook this chicken that they’ll turn their noses up at anyway.
I cursed the toys that are everywhere and at the dress-up items spread out all over the floor as if a trail was made so someone could find their way home. Scarves and masks and shields lie throughout the house, so I follow the trail and pick everything up as I go and realize I have just made a circle.
I just keep making circles, and there is no way to get out of the cycle. I am overwhelmed and tired and feel like even though I am always working on something, I just keep chasing my tail. I never get a break.
My partner and I roam around the house like roommates sometimes, annoyed and taking our frustrations out on each other. She can get bitchy and I can get cranky and angry. We blame the kids, our work schedules, and our lack of time together and by ourselves. I hear stories about people who are able to schedule date night every week or at least once a month. How does this happen? Who can afford this? And can I borrow a grandparent to take my kids? The last time my partner and I had a date night was months ago. I can’t even remember what we did.
Paying someone to watch our three kids for a few hours is expensive, so sometimes we ask friends to watch the kids. We watch theirs in return. My partner and I try to connect on the weekends, but even then, movie night or Netflix binging is sometimes replaced with catching up on work, paying those piles of bills, or crossing things off of to-do lists. Sorting through bins of summer clothes for the kids isn’t romantic, but if not done on Saturday night, when will it get done?
Being a parent of three small kids who are physical and emotionally demanding and constantly needing me, having a full-time job, and trying to support a marriage and friendships are hard things to balance. And sometimes I feel like I am failing at all of them. I feel like I am not doing anything well. I feel awful.
When you never get a break, it all feels like too much. I could take a break, I guess. I could leave it all alone for a day or two and take time to myself. I could schedule a massage or a few hours on the couch when my kids are at school and camps and my partner is at work. But that would only make things worse. I don’t have extra money for massages, and I am already irrationally irritable at times because I’m behind on things. I have a hard time believing I would feel good or better about my life by lounging around for hours.
But this is me. I’d rather do. I’d rather try to keep my head above all of life’s responsibilities. I still get jealous of people who have a two parent to one kid ratio. I get jealous of parents who have their parents or family members in town who take their kids for hours a day or for weekend sleepovers. I get jealous of people who schedule time away from the kids and their spouse. I want a night out or weekend away with my buds too, without the guilt of leaving my partner with three needy children.
I also try to remind myself that this time is temporary. I won’t magically have family around to help, but the kids will get older and need me less. The labor of juggling a busy life with three kids will always remain, but I will slowly get a little more time back. I will slowly start to get breaks here and there. Or I will get a break from feeling overwhelmed with all of the things because I will be able to get more done without having to stop to wipe someone’s ass or clean up a yogurt tube that has been squeezed onto the floor. Either way, I will take it because a break is a break. And I need one.