I could feel it creeping in. I started noting my mood and energy a few months prior and realized that about once every 5-6 weeks, for period of a day or so, I hit a wall and was simply overcome by everything that’s asked of you once you become a parent. The point where your house is beyond a disaster, the person staring back at you in the mirror has aged 15 years, and when you reflect back on what you accomplished during the day your mind goes blank. My son, happy and delightful as he is, had turned into a tiny tornado since his first birthday. The moments during the day where I wasn’t chasing him around were devoted to picking up messes, cleaning off sticky little hands, fishing non-food items out of his mouth, dashing across the room to pluck him off of something he’d managed to climb on, diapers, bottles, laundry, dishes, grocery shopping, bills, food prep…over and over again until the days became a blur, and things that individually were no big deal suddenly seemed to require an enormous amount of effort. Don’t get me wrong – I love being at home, I love my life and my husband and my boy…but I was beat.
I still wasn’t sleeping well due to my post-pregnancy insomnia and on this particular day I woke up feeling extra groggy with a mental mountain of things to get through. I dabbed some concealer on the dark circles under my eyes and tried to hop into some pants (stretchy pants again, reminder that most of my pre-baby pants still didn’t fit) while side-stepping my wobbly one year old who was loudly voicing his irritation that the toys he was chucking into the bathtub were not levitating back out. After inching downstairs one step at a time (returning back to the top halfway through to retrieve his blankie), I was greeted by a counter full of…stuff. I swear the mess multiplies overnight. As I cleared the clutter with one hand, I prepared breakfast with the other, which my son gleefully flung onto the floor (and some onto the dog’s head). He knew the sign for “all done”, but this was still his preferred method of telling me he was finished. I let the dog eat the food on the floor as I picked bits of berries out of his fur, turning around in time to see my toddler dump the water dish on the floor and clap wildly for himself.
But no matter, because a nearby department store was having a sale, and since I hadn’t bought any new clothes for myself in a year, I thought I’d get a few things. I drove halfway to the store before I realized I had no shoes on. Turn around, grab the shoes, try again. I went to get my son out of the car and realized he’d used his dexterous little fingers to “milk” his bottle all over his lap. Pants change. I picked out a dozen clothing items and tried them on at record speed while singing “The Wheels on the Bus” to my boy, who was determined to escape the stroller. I was horrified at how I looked in every outfit. The clothes all hung wrong or showed a bulge I’d never had before, and I said out loud, “Wow…well this was a confidence killer”. I was teary eyed by the time I made it to the car, no new clothes today.
I stopped by the park on the way home for our daily play-time there, where he could run and I could take a breath. Only it was now overrun with much bigger kids, let out of school for summer. I spent a tense half hour trying to keep him from getting trampled on the jungle gym before giving up and going home. My boy performed his same food-flinging routine at lunch making me wonder a) why I bother to make him healthy meals anymore and b) how he is apparently surviving off of milk, blackberries and cheese.
When it was finally his nap time, I allowed myself one round of a silly i-pad game (which made me feel guilty for “wasting time”) before cleaning up the backyard, downstairs, and two upstairs rooms. I knew they would be messy again within minutes of my son waking up but I didn’t care, I needed to feel some sense of order in the house. Unloaded the dishes, loaded in dirty dishes. Crap, I needed to do laundry too. Cleaned the bottles, always more bottles. Found out I’d gained a pound after a week on my new exercise and eating program. Shoulders slumped, feeling defeated, I was tired, so tired. I needed to prep for dinner but I just didn’t have the energy. I lay down on the couch with a sigh and closed my eyes to take my own nap, only to hear delighted, “Mama? Mama? Di de daw daaaaw…banana? Banana? Elmo?” over the monitor. Were the two hours really up?? No…no no no, I needed him to keep sleeping, I needed to close my eyes for a few minutes. Aside from being in the car, I hadn’t sat down in eight hours. But I dragged myself upstairs, past the room I hadn’t cleaned (mental note to clean it later), to lift the happy little munchkin out of his bed. Diaper change. Sheet change since he’d peed through. I had to wrap Father’s Day presents. At some point while I was wrestling with the wrapping paper, my son opened the closet and unloaded our entire DVD collection onto the floor. As I wearily said, “OK…help mummy put these back”, I spotted Pizza on a closet shelf. Pizza was my teddy bear from before I can remember. Her head had always been extra wobbly so I never played with her much, but she did have a music box inside that I always liked. Beneath her faded pink dress, I found the little crank. I wound it up and the music began, as sweet as I’d always remembered. My son paused, interested. I’ve been showing him how to cuddle and hug his toys, so I snuggled Pizza up to my shoulder and rocked her side to side. Without meaning to, I closed my eyes and immediately felt tears coming. I didn’t open my eyes right away, but let a few tears sneak out, tears of frustration, of exhaustion, of defeat, and let myself, for thirty seconds, a minute, I don’t know, be transported back. Back to when I was new and young like my son, when I didn’t care how clothes fit or whether the house was clean, when dishes and meals did themselves and diapers were someone else’s problem.
When everything about life was easy, each day a new adventure, where your stuffed animals and dolls were your close friends and a quick snuggle could provide immense comfort. I held onto that feeling for a few more moments, then opened my eyes and offered Pizza to my son. He immediately cuddled and rocked her, imitating me, and I felt a new warmth and energy spread through me. Sometimes you just need a moment…sometimes all you can take is a moment. But allow yourself those moments, whether you need to cry, or sit alone in your car and let out a scream, or just breath deeply and let your responsibilities fade away…even if for only a moment.
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