I’m coming up from a four-week low that ended with a week and half of complete burnout. I’ve had parent burnout before — haven’t we all? I mean, parenting toddlers and preschoolers isn’t always easy, and I don’t need to tell you why. Sure, it all has fun moments that almost always outweigh the bad ones. Still, burnout is real, and if you’re going to sit there and tell me that you never, in a million years, have ever experienced any form of burnout after becoming a parent, well, congratulations. Bottle that solution up and sell it to the rest of us because we’ll wait in line for weeks, cash in hand. Also, you’re a big fat liar.
Anyway, this wasn’t just regular parent burnout, the kind that comes from a bad batch of days that I bounce back from each evening at bedtime. This was a series of weeks that threw so much at me that all I could do was stand there and take it. It was like watching a spider struggle against the spray of a hose. When the water stops, the spider uses all it has to get back on its legs. About the time it’s finally standing and beginning to move again, the second round of spray hits it, taking it back down. This goes on until the spider succumbs to the water pressure of the hose and throws in his little spider towel.
That was me: wet, drenched, no will or care left to try and keep standing. I wasn’t interested in weathering the storm; I just wanted to lie on the cement twitching and waving my little white flag of defeat. In six years, I have never experienced a burnout like this. I simply quit on everyone and everything for about a week. I stopped responding to my kids unless they were hungry or bleeding. I didn’t do the laundry. I didn’t do the dishes. I walked by food on the floor for days. I decided other people in the house had hands and could do interesting things with them, like put their own dishes in the sink and feed the cats. I decided I was done caring about anything because I my emotional capacity had hit its limit.
So what happened? It was an accumulation of things in the making — years of stuff, months of stuff, weeks of stuff like:
1. Yelling questions at me from another room.
We live in the same time-zone. You have new legs that are only 5-years-old; there’s no valid excuse for you not to just walk to the kitchen.
2. Asking me the same thing over and over again.
Obviously, I didn’t hear you the first 40 times you asked, so please, ask me 12 more times and maybe you’ll get the answer you want.
3. Arguing when I ask them to do something.
“Please put on your shoes.”
“I don’t need shoes today.”
“You do. We’re going to the doctor.”
“No, we aren’t.”
4. Asking me a question and arguing the answer.
“Mommy, is it going to rain today?”
“No, it’s not supposed to rain all week.”
“Yes, it is. I saw the clouds outside, and they looked like rain.”
“There are no clouds outside.”
“Well, yes there are.”
5. Not listening.
There’s something very frustrating about speaking to someone and having them either not respond, or not look at you, or both. There’s a very good possibility I’m a ghost who can only be seen when someone needs to eat.
6. Repeating myself.
Nothing makes me want to bang my head against the floor like having to be the family auctioneer and repeat myself 60 times in 40 seconds. I’m not trying to sell vintage cars to millionaires. I just want people to brush their teeth.
7. Asking me a question I don’t hear, then re-asking quieter and quieter every time I ask them to repeat it.
This is extremely helpful when they have their face mashed against the screen door, and I am an entire room away.
8. Saying my name every two minutes.
Some days, I don’t think a minute goes by when someone isn’t calling, “Mommy.” My favorite is when I say, “What,” and silence ensues.
This mostly bothers me when it’s everything they ask me. I get it, really little toddlers can’t help this, especially when they’re teething, overtired, can’t talk, or just being little. However, my preschoolers can talk — quite well, actually. If you can argue with me about the day’s forecast, I expect that you can also talk to me with a normal voice.
10. Waking up at night.
For the past month, someone in my house has been up. If it’s not Child A, then it’s Child B. If it’s neither of them, then it’s Child C. If it’s none of my kids, it’s the cats. On the rare and glorious evenings everyone sleeps, I’m waking up from an internal clock involuntarily set by people who usually can’t sleep and wondering why no one is up.
11. Putting dirty dishes into an empty sink.
Despite understanding the science behind loading a fork in the dishwasher.
12. Staying up late to get quiet time.
I do this to myself most nights. I rarely, if ever, get time to myself during the day to watch TV, read a book, or write. The only sure time I get to do anything I want to do is after everyone goes to bed. So, I’ll stay up until midnight working on my stuff. Then, when I go to bed, someone wakes up.
13. Putting off laundry not to do laundry, resulting in mountains of laundry.
I hate laundry. Laundry is the never-ending chore that has to get done. Without it, you’re either spending money you don’t have to buy clothes at Target — you hope are clean — or everyone is running around with a single sock on and nothing else. Laundry can suck it.
14. Trying to cram too much into a small section of time.
There are only 24 hours in a day that none of us dictates the events for. So, even if I only have five minutes of time for myself, I use it for as many things as I can think of. It’s like trying to cram four loads of laundry into the washer in under four seconds.
15. Not paying attention to my kids.
Nothing makes my kids act up more than me trying to do something I want to do. So, while I’m busy trying to cram too much into a small section of time, my kids are busy doing anything to get my attention, including remodeling the house with cracker crumbs, taking apart my pantry, or seeing who can tattle the hardest.
16. My house being in a constant state of clutter.
It’s like crap multiplies overnight all by itself. I haven’t seen our counter tops since we first looked at our home before we bought it. Our counters hold clutter that holds clutter. Our clutter is the matryoshka doll of counter tops.
17. Not having balance.
There is no way to do this, none I have found, yet. It’s possible I won’t have balance until all my kids are in school. So, then on the days they aren’t sick, off from school, have a doctor’s appointment, or sports, I’ll have balance.
18. Rogue socks.
It’s an unspoken rule that socks have to be removed in separate rooms. And, you don’t simply take them off, you launch them off your feet like a catapult. So, in addition to having a million useless pairs of singles hiding around my house like little vigilante, cotton garments.
19. Scattered toy parts.
Also known as: “Twilight Zone of My Life.”
20. Seeing these people 24/7.
I love my family. If I didn’t love them, I certainly wouldn’t be sticking around. I mean, let’s face it, I don’t clean dried spaghetti noodles off the wall for just anyone. Still, like any roommate, when you spend this much time together without any kind of break, you go a little crazy. Everyone needs time to do their own thing. Even if that time is just an hour walk up the street. When you don’t get any space, you walk around the house throwing people’s clean laundry at their faces.
So, if you’re on the verge of parent burnout, be kind to yourself. Remove the things that don’t need to be done today, or even tomorrow. When that hose starts spraying at you full blast, don’t just stand there. Move to the side and try and to dodge the impact. When that’s just not possible, sometimes you have to curl into a wilted ball until the pressure is gone. You’ll have to lay there and wait for the sun to come out and dry you off until you’re strong enough to stand and skitter back into life.