The Side Of Parenting Others Don't See

by Lauren Patterson
Originally Published: 
Lauren Patterson

This is real life.

This was me, two nights ago. My hair is frizzy from being interrupted by a screeching baby mid-blow-dry. This is me wearing a foul-smelling tank that is saturated with spit up. This is me realizing that it’s 8 p.m., and I haven’t eaten anything since breakfast which consisted of coffee and my daughter’s half-eaten Nutri-Grain bar.

This is me shoveling as much mac and cheese as I can directly from the pot into my mouth while it’s still hot. Baby is in the witching hour and has been cranky and crying for hours, so I’m bouncing her on my hip while I eat and shushing her between bites, sometimes sending bits of partially chewed mac and cheese onto my stovetop.

What you don’t see is my preschooler who is upstairs actually defying the natural laws of sound with her screaming and kicking whatever her feet can reach because I told her she couldn’t sleep in the dress she’s wearing for picture day tomorrow.

What you don’t see is the pile of unfolded laundry on my bed that I still need to put away.

What you don’t see are the half-unpacked lunchbox on the counter that still needs to be cleaned up and the half-packed lunch for tomorrow that still needs to be finished.

What you partially see in the lower left corner are bottles and pump parts that need to be washed and sanitized because my baby likes to go on random nursing strikes to test my sanity.

What you don’t see are one middle-aged and one geriatric dog who have made it their mission to destroy my spirit by leaving me presents made from their own bodily fluids on the carpet in the morning.

What you don’t see are the panic attacks that occur when this all becomes much too much; the rush of adrenaline that triggers a fight-or-flight response when the baby is inconsolable and the preschooler is screaming and defiant and I can’t de-escalate the chaos in my mind, so I escape it in a frantic and dissociative state.

What you don’t see is the pile of recently ordered books on babies, books on toddlers, books on parenting, books on anxiety, and books on postpartum depression that are stacked on my coffee table, none of which have been read much less opened because sleep is always prioritized first.

What you don’t see is the dark purple ring stain on my cherry wood nightstand where I set my glass of pinot every night.

What you don’t see are the tears. Tears from a mom who at all times feels overwhelmed. A mom who thinks she’s failing. A mom who has no idea how to stop the hitting and kicking and screaming. A mom who has no idea how to help her baby learn to sleep. A mom who needs to know that every other mom has been exactly where she is and has survived it because some days survival does not feel possible.

This is hard. Everything about this is hard. Soloing with one child while my husband travels for work has its challenges, but soloing with two is a completely different beast.

Motherhood is a beast. It is a beautiful, amazing beast, but a beast nonetheless.

We’re learning and adapting and figuring it out day by day, but holy hell, this is hard.

Some days I get my hair blow-dried and straightened. Some days I realize I’ve been in the same nursing tank for the third day in a row. Some days we get out of the house and have a blast. Some days I cry more than my children. Some days I smile and laugh and snuggle my babies, and some days I feel cornered, trapped inside a cycle of nursing and changing and cleaning and calming and negotiating and shushing that never ends and breaks my sanity.

Some days I’m not entirely sure if it all really will be okay. Some days I want to break into the bourbon before 10 a.m., but instead opt for a bowl of mac and cheese — a carbo-load that powers me through to the next hour.

Thank god for cheese-covered carbs.

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