How do you know when you are a burned out mama? When you google “burned out mom” during nap, instead of doing one of the other million things you’d rather (or should) be doing during this previous
90 minutes 75 minutes. (I’m not a savage…I used the first 15 minutes of nap to lug a giant basket of laundry to the basement and start a load. Who is wearing all of these clothes??! It’s not me, because I’m still wearing the ones from yesterday!)
I don’t know what I was looking for when I googled that, but I can tell you it produced a LOT of results. So I guess I’m normal. I’m always kind of hesitant to admit that I’m a stay-at-home mom and I have no idea why. I feel like there are all kinds of judgments and assumptions made when one admits that…like I don’t have the education or experience to have a good job, or that my husband makes a ton of money, or that I’m too lazy to work. The “wow, you’re lucky” comment strikes a nerve because yes we are fortunate in that my husband makes enough money to support us, but we worked hard to get to this point. We don’t overspend on things…we don’t carry debt (other than mortgage, his student loan, and our van payment)…we moved to an area that is less expensive than we were before. So we aren’t as lucky as we are willing to make sacrifices. I gave up a job that I like in an office (where I could shut the door), where I could workout at lunch, and take leave time to run to an appointment, or go shopping, or whatever the hell I wanted to do with my leave time. Even after Jenson was born, as long as I was home before the end of the day for the sitter, it didn’t matter if I left work early to get my hair done. But our sitter was raising our son. We were gone 10+ hours a day (9 hours at our jobs, and typically over an hour combined commute because traffic sucked where we lived). It was too hard on my heart.
So I gave up that job for the hardest job I’ve ever had. And I was a social worker for adults with severe mental illnesses. And I was a mental health specialist who worked in a lock-down facility with teens who were in custody of the state, where restraining kids my size or bigger than me was a common occurrence. Ok, after writing this, that job may have been harder, because I didn’t really get breaks there either…and kids were always calling my name…and I literally had to watch my back because someone might try to put a belt around my neck. But I spent the following decade at a nice job in an office where I didn’t have to really deal with many people, so my memories on those other rough jobs may be blunted a bit. But nevertheless, I’m in the dark days of parenting right now.
I have a 3.5 year old and a 15 month old. This is a rough stage. Apparently, 3.5 years old is the new 2. Because Jenson was a DREAM at age 2. Seriously…that is still my favorite time period with him. He is still a wonderful and sweet child who sometimes I look at in amazement and can’t believe that I get to love him for the rest of my life. I’m proud that he is generally well-mannered, though somewhat shy, in public. But at home. At home, Jenson wants to control everything…except his emotions. He has NO control over his emotions. He wants carried, he wants grapes and not strawberries…he doesn’t want his banana peeled (even though he said he did and I verified that 2 times before I peeled it, due to past instances)…he wants me to help him build a tower, but cries when I touch one of the blocks because he wants to do it. Or Boof got in his way where he wants to dance…and he tries to take everything that poor Marlowe has in her hands. He literally cried all through breakfast today, and then some. No matter what I tried to do to help, or what I offered him…he just needed to cry. He didn’t even eat. We just had an early lunch instead. I know that toddlers can have some serious mood swings when they are about to go through a growth spurt or developmental change, and I’m quite certain that’s what we are dealing with here.
And Marlowe. That girl is LOUD. I’ve said it a million times, but that is the best way to describe it. Her screams short out my brain for 2 seconds, every time. Its a sound one can never get used to. She’s incredibly sweet though…she constantly walks over to me to give me kisses – it is awesome. And she’s happy – if she hears music, she has to dance. She loves wearing silly hats, trying to communicate with us with her new words, and playing with Jenson when he’ll let her. She’s just very strong-willed and can switch moods in an instant. She doesn’t sleep well at night still, so I haven’t had more than 5 hours of sleep at a time since she was born (minus one miraculous time that she slept through the night). I’m still regularly up 2-3 times a night with her. I’m ready to give up breastfeeding (3 months ago), and she is not. Don’t tell me to just stop…it’s not that easy. Did you read the part where I said she’s loud? You should hear her when she wants to nurse and I’m not giving in. If we had neighbors, they’d be concerned with those screams. It’s almost not human. Plus, she’s always with me, so I’m easy access and can’t just get away from her. She doesn’t like cows milk (though I’m making a little progress by mixing cows milk and coconut milk). The nurse practitioner at the pediatrician said I was probably going to have to go away (or send her away) for a few days – and Loren or whoever she’s with just won’t get to sleep because she’ll scream all night.
I love these two more than I can even explain. I’m glad that I get to raise them and make memories with them and take a million pictures of them every day. But it’s hard right now. They both want constant attention. They will literally fight over sitting on my lap. We only know one family within 40 minutes of us who can help – and they are busy and overwhelmed too, as our kids are nearly the same age. Lo is super helpful when he’s at home, but it takes 2 people to feel like we have a handle on the situation right now. So most days I don’t have a handle on the situation for hours at a time.
I play volleyball once a week – often grabbing a drink or food with some of the team afterwards, and I don’t know what state I would be in if I didn’t have that. People have said that I’m “lucky” that I get to do that…that Loren is willing to “handle” the kids and I can get away. Are you kidding me? Lucky that I get 2 hours to myself? And about half of the time I’m able to put Marlowe to bed before I even leave, so most of the time that I’m away is when they are sleeping anyway. Also, Lo is their dad…so I should be able to leave them with him once a week. He realizes that I need some time away so if he gets annoyed by it, he sure as hell doesn’t show it. He gets time away sometimes too, but he also gets to interact with people at work, and stop on the way home or at lunch if he needs to run an errand or go to an appointment. I’m past due for appointments for dental, vision, skin cancer screening, and gyno. It was so easy when I just left work early to attend to these things. I can’t even fathom how to get them done without Lo having to take time off of work for all of that.
Speaking of Lo, we haven’t been anywhere together without kids since September. That’s 7 months, I think (my brain literally hurts from today’s chaos). We know a college student who is willing to watch our kids, but they are both just in such a stage right now that I feel like it would be really hard for a stranger (to them) to come in and handle them, unless we put them to bed first. But what if they woke up and a stranger had to go up to check on them? A former coworker has offered for us to drop the kids off and go out to dinner, and I FULLY intend to take her up on this because I know she can handle it and we will be nearby if something goes horribly wrong. Lo’s mom is going to come later this month and give us a break, so that’ll help. But these occasions are few and far between. I know that we should have a sitter…but don’t know anyone to even recommend anyone around here. I’m just not trusting enough to find someone on care.com. Things are a little different than what we are used to where we live now (that’s a whole diff blog post).
So a lot of the tips that I saw about being burned out is leave the kids with a neighbor (no), get outside (it’s Ohio, so that’s not always an option…plus taking a new walker outside who doesn’t love walking in the grass isn’t relaxing), go places (if Marlowe doesn’t take a morning nap, her afternoon nap isn’t any good), get help (where?!). I know I’m making excuses, but I also know that this is just a rough stage right now, and it will get easier. Sometimes I just have to fake it (and pack up a picnic lunch for the front yard) until I make it.
Do I wish them to be older? No. I wish for me to have the patience to get through this stage. I wish that I could give each of them all of the attention that they need at every moment. I wish I could help Jenson with his emotions so he doesn’t feel so out of control, because I know that is probably scary for him. I wish I could always find activities that would be appropriate for both…ones that would stimulate Jenson, but be safe for Marlowe (as she still puts stuff in her mouth). But I’m a little burned out right this moment. And that’s ok. Tomorrow, Jenson will get up and we’ll snuggle on the couch for a bit while he watches a show. And then Marlowe will have the biggest smile when she wakes and I get her out of the crib. I’ll focus on those moments for now…and look forward to the weekend when it’s all hands on deck around here.