Jun 26 2017

Today I Forgot How to Be Tough

Today I Forgot How to Be Tough

It’s been a long time since I let myself cry. Months, maybe. I’m not talking about the welling up that happens when your baby does something magical, or the occasional wobbly chin because that sneaky-sad P&G commercial caught you by surprise. I mean a heaving, hearty cry that lasts way longer than a single sob, the kind that makes your eyes puff up by morning.

I cried a lot more often in the beginning, when we first moved — but I was pregnant then, and I got to blame it on hormones, and after the baby was born I told myself to toughen up, sister. Most of the time, I am moderately successful at this: I try to end every day (and every post) with a glimmer of hope; I’m a fanatic about practicing daily gratitude; I never go to sleep without counting my blessings, and there are so many — so, so many. An immeasurable amount. I am deeply, guiltily aware of how much worse things could be, and for that reason I sometimes pretend to have no problems at all.

But here’s the uncomfortable truth: Sometimes, living so far away still feels kind of awful. A general sense of being lost and alone still permeates everything, punctuated by hopeful highs whenever I connect with a new friend or manage to achieve a writing goal.

It’s not the place that’s awful, not really. It’s the physical distance between me and every single person of my past. Not to get all Holden Caulfield on you, but I miss everybody. I’ve met some of my favorite people in the world out here, but at times I just cannot shake the loneliness. Whether that’s something that comes along with stay-at-home mothering or with moving so far away from home, I’m not sure — probably both, and this double whammy sometimes makes me feel as though I’m trapped inside an inexplicable cave of isolation.

When things are fine, they’re not bad. When things are bad, I am desperate to move home immediately, back to the place where my parents are twenty minutes away, back to a life where I was important to people other than my babies. I’m definitely not supposed to say that, though. My babies are supposed to be the only things I need — and a lot of the time, that feels true.

Today I cried.

It’s been an emotional last month-ish. We found out that one of the most important people in our lives will likely need surgery soon — which is, believe it or not, the good news — and we are 3,000 miles away. We’ve also been trying to patch together a trip home, but traveling anywhere with a family of four is mind-blowingly expensive.

And last week, I was alone with the kids while my husband flew away on a business trip. This is a situation I know I need to get used to, but it always causes me immense stress: all the pressure and responsibility you regularly feel as a mom is magnified when you’re the only parent within a thousand-mile radius, and I wind up averaging 1-2 hours of very broken sleep a night, because thanks, anxiety.

What if one of the kids has an emergency? Will I need to rip the other one out of a sound sleep and drag them both to the ER? What if I have an emergency? What if I have a heart attack and die in the middle of the night and no one knows because I’m all alone and the baby is trapped in his crib for three days and my daughter starves to death?

I need to just pause here to kneel at the aching feet of single parents everywhere. That this is your every day (and every night) — not to mention the thousands of things you do and feel that no one ever sees — is beyond my comprehension. I don’t have enough hands to salute you the way you deserve it.

After a little while, I couldn’t wait for him to get home, because I really, really missed sleep companionship. But when he returned, he brought a 104-degree fever and influenza A with him — and shortly afterward, despite my most obsessive hand-washing/quarantining/disinfecting efforts, my daughter had it, too. I have never seen a thermometer read numbers that high.

So today I woke up and found myself responsible for both children, a husband who could barely move or speak, and a dog who snuck into our room while Al was sleeping and gobbled up the chicken soup by his bedside and gave herself diarrhea. Today I was responsible for business-trip laundry and also sick laundry. Today, someone else’s needs were always first, and it was 7 PM before I realized I’d barely eaten.

If you could watch a fast-motion video of today, you would see a frazzled woman running up and down stairs and back and forth between babies — add “Flight of the Bumblebee” for background music, and it would almost be a comedy.

Some days I look around at my life and I think, like a terrified 3-year-old, I just want my mom.

If I were at home, I could have scooped up the kids and taken them to my parents’ for a while, removing them from all the virus particles that have surely settled into every crevice of our home by now. I could have refilled Al’s Gatorade one more time and let him sleep in silence while I had help bathing the children.

Instead I made breakfast for everyone but me in an infected kitchen and leaned over the sink and cried for the first time in months. My son — who has literally never seen me do this, ever — said sadly, “Sowwy, Mommy,” which completely broke my heart, and I hugged him and hugged him even while he smeared peanut butter in my hair.

The weight of all this responsibility is crushing sometimes, the impossible heaviness of it, and I forgot how to be tough today.

What will happen if I go down? Who will be responsible for me?

My mother says I need a mantra — something to repeat over and over when it feels like things are not all right — and I’m trying. I borrowed some of her own words to me from a text she sent: You don’t give yourself enough credit. You are stronger than you think. All of this, too, shall pass.

It will (I hope), although for now it feels like a never-ending cycle of wait-and-see contagion. But even when it passes, l’ll still be all the way out here, far away from so many people I love, and I’m not sure if I’m okay with that anymore. I’m tired of pretending that I am.

I don’t know. Maybe I’m just…tired. I haven’t slept in six nights. This is probably my exhaustion hangover talking, and I might legit regret posting this in a haze of sleep deprivation, but for tonight, here I am. If a mom breaks in California, and no one is around to see her, did it ever really happen?

May 7 2017

Sorry I Was in Your Way, but the Thing Is I Have a Baby

Sorry I Was in Your Way, but the Thing Is I Have a Baby

As a parent of small children, you often get the vague sense that you are in the way. You notice the quiet cringes as you enter a restaurant, the looks of crushing disappointment when you board an airplane. You apologize thirteen times in the span of a one-block walk because the kids still haven’t learned (after eight million reminders) to look where they’re going.

Sorry. Sorry about that. Say excuse me, P. Look FORWARD when you walk, please. I’m so sorry.

We’re working on it. And most of the time, people are pretty nice — if not warmly understanding, they’re at least tolerant. I’m sure the people who wince at the sight of kids aren’t even doing it on purpose. It’s probably just an automatic reaction. Subconscious.

I’ve gotten used to feeling in the way, but there’s a huge difference between FEELING in the way and someone straight up telling you that you are — something that, this past week, has happened twice. TWICE. In one week. Continue reading

Apr 24 2017

Babysitters, This Is Why You Didn’t Get an Interview

Babysitters, This Is Why You Didn’t Get an Interview

There is a serious shortage of acceptable babysitters.

We used to have four of them: they answer to Grandma, Papa, Granny, and Papaw. Then we moved to a land far, far away, and ever since then it’s just been…us. For everything.

It’s not that we don’t need the help. In fact, sometimes it feels like we really, really need the help.

I would like to write — or speak — a complete sentence without someone yelling for help from the bathroom. I would like to stay in bed when I have a 101-degree fever instead of figuring out how to entertain two small people while simultaneously trying to avoid them so they do not also catch the plague. I would like to one day have a meal with my husband that does not involve high chairs, coloring books, and frantically cutting chicken into teeny tiny bites before someone implodes.

Even though my children are the very hearts of my soul, once in a while a girl kinda just wants to go on a date. That sort of thing requires a babysitter, but here’s the hard truth: the thought of leaving my children with a stranger has always made me break out into a cold sweat.

babysitter

Quite possibly the most accurate meme ever.

We held out for almost two full years. TWO. YEARS. But finally, a couple months ago, I signed up for a popular nannying/babysitting site and published a “Seeking Help” post.

I tried to ignore my niggling reservations. Some of the most phenomenal women I know have nannied (here’s looking at you, Olivia, Kristin, Jenna, and Kim) — there had to be someone out there for us. How difficult could the process be? Continue reading

Mar 23 2017

Diary of a Dog: Before and After Life with Kids By Beaker

<span class="entry-title-primary">Diary of a Dog: Before and After Life with Kids</span> <span class="entry-subtitle">By Beaker</span>

3 B.C. Diary of a DogJUNE 2010:
Not really sure where I am, but it is GREAT! Definitely digging this place. It checks off several must-haves.

dog's checklist of non-negotiables must-haves diary of a dog

I’ve been here for a few breakfasts now, so maybe this is my new pack. The Two-Leggeds sneak me some gourmet scrambled eggs each morning after my own food, I get snacks just for being cute, and I have my own bowl and everything. My OWN BOWL! Pure luxury.

There are a couple weird rules, though. Here’s one: I’m not allowed on the soft fuzzy floor yet — something about how I need to learn to “go potty outside.” Continue reading

Feb 23 2017

9 Times I Wish I Had a Sanitation Chamber

9 Times I Wish I Had a Sanitation Chamber

When I taught high school, my students always joked that they were going to get me a sanitation chamber for my classroom. “We’ll install it just inside the door right there,” they teased, “so no one can come in without using it first.”

Someone said this every single year, because apparently I am not shy about my aversion to germs. Each time, my first reaction was to laugh with them because teenagers are hella funny. And then my second reaction was to get really, really, unbearably depressed because human-sized sanitation chambers are probably super expensive, and anyway how exactly would one go about getting something like that approved by the Board?

Then I had children of my own. Forget school — I need a sanitation chamber for my HOUSE. Like, yesterday. Yes, yes, I know: exposure to germs builds immunity, blahbity blah blah, but a person can dream. There are so many instances when it would totally come in handy: Continue reading