I’m just going to say it. Sometimes, being home with the kids? It’s really boring.
Yesterday I was so overwhelmed with how mind-numbing it was to act out Frozen for the 47th time since breakfast, to build blocks and be “doing it wrong,” to empty and load the dishwasher yet again, that I just burst out laughing. I couldn’t stop. I laughed until the kids started laughing, and then I just laughed harder because it was all so absurd.
It’s compounded by the fact that I’m self-employed and work from home. When you factor in grocery delivery, I often have little reason to leave the house—especially in the winter. And while my work excites me, feeling like a contestant on America’s Next Top Shut-In doesn’t. I even feel like I’ve somehow outgrown my favorite place to escape—Target. Wandering amongst $10 t-shirts and rows upon rows of things I really don’t need doesn’t bring me the happiness it used to. And that makes me a strange kind of sad.
The word that comes to mind when I feel this way is ennui. Remember that word from high school English?
ennui: a feeling of utter weariness and discontent resulting from satiety or lack of interest; boredom (dictionary.com)
No one really uses it. It seems most fitting for women in Jane Austen novels, ones who weren’t allowed to achieve much of anything beyond finding the perfect husband. They were bored, too, and it seems to me that their feelings were much more valid.
Except…contrary to the Austen era, I was raised to believe I could go anywhere, do anything, and be anything I wanted (while the world still might not always be so supportive of its girls, I have fantastic parents).
So I did. I went to college, double majored, studied abroad, traveled Europe, worked hard, landed a job at a marketing agency, got my own apartment, danced my way through the weekend, climbed mountains, became a triathlete four times over, met the guy of my dreams, got married, bought a house and…
Had two kids.
And now, I spend most of my days playing Play-Doh and doing endless loads of laundry. Which actually are the tasks involved in the most important work of my life: trying to help two little humans grow into happy, strong, vibrant people. No pressure.
(The rest of my days are spent working and writing and trying to grow a business of my own so again…no pressure.)
Except there’s a lot of pressure. Most of which I put on myself. I’m the person the kids spend the most time with. I’m their mom. We all know people with crappy moms who can’t seem to get out from under that, even as adults—and while I know I’m not a crappy mom, I want so much to be able to look back and say “I always did my best and my best was GOOD.”
But it’s really hard to always do your best, and to always do good, when you’re so damn bored.
Before I had kids, I looked forward to having a reason to do crafts and play with Play-Doh again. Now that I have Play-Doh irrevocably smashed into my dining room chairs, I’m over it.
It’s not that I don’t love my role as mom, it’s just that there’s hardly any break, and I desperately need one. During these first few years, though, it’s hard to find the time. They’re little. They really do need me for all their most basic needs. I make their meals. I brush their teeth. I wipe their butts and their noses. I bathe them. I get them dressed.
I do all this, even as I’m on day three without a shower.
This isn’t a pity party. This is just the reality, the contrast. Sometimes as I’m creating a joyful day for them, I realize it’s not a joyful day for me. I’m trying to find my way through that, to achieve more balance, to give myself what I need, to find peace in the fact that I am allowed to take something for myself and they will not be worse for it.
I get up early to do the things that make me feel happy and whole. Some days they wake up early, too. I stop putting off my workouts until after bedtime, and on some days I fit them in after I get the kids breakfast. Inevitably, someone will sit on me, need something, or suddenly want to be held. I rarely finish a workout uninterrupted, but I flow with it.
There are days, though, when I feel like I’ve painted myself into a corner. My options feel limited to the point of constriction. I’m not at liberty to make decisions freely, nor can I go to the bathroom by myself.
I never knew how much freedom of choice and even of movement meant to me until it all became so restricted. I imagine this gets easier with age, as the kids become less apt to walk right off the side of the playground or toddle off the curb and straight into the road. I stare at the mom in the folding chair, the one who brought a book to the playground (A book! In the day! With her kids playing right there!) and wonder if she can feel the longing radiating off of me. I want to be her and the gap between us feels so huge that I’ll never cross it.
Then again, do I want to? That giant leap forward would mean speeding up this stage of life. And while all the togetherness sometimes makes me feel like I can’t breathe, it is, in so many ways, beautiful.
It’s a gift.
An unrelenting, never-ending, all-encompassing gift.