I bawled on the way to work this morning. OK, OK, fine, I cried most of today, including in front of my kids, which is pretty much the worst ever. It’s just all so much sometimes. I don’t even know how to make it all work.
There’s the stress of trying to buy the house, which puts me in a terrifyingly massive amount of debt on my own, but is somehow cheaper month to month than renting a space big enough for the three of us in the city where we live. And I completely understand that that run-on sentence is one of great privilege and I should shut up. But also, I’m losing sleep over it. I’m terrible at budgeting, terrible at saying no to things in the moment.
What to cut and where to make it all happen? I have to be organized as heck. I can’t forget my lunch, ever. I need to make sure our meal prep is buttoned up. I need to cancel the cleaning lady and take that work on myself, share it with the kids, which means increase the nagging, which makes me hate myself.
I have to get my house in order. There are piles of bills and school paperwork and laundry. There are mice under the kitchen sink that need trapping and their toxic poop needs cleaning up. The woodpeckers are pecking holes into the shakes on the side of the house and that probably means there’s something to eat up there and I’m praying it’s not termites. The car needs fixing again and now costs as much to maintain as a new car, but my new mortgage is going up as much as a car payment, so I doubt I can even afford a new car, let alone the fixes. I make good money, so all of this is embarrassing, but I have never had a head for numbers.
(Bear with me while I barf this all out so I can stop crying.)
My evenings mean racing home at 4:30, to pick kids up at various places or just rush to get dinner started. Then it’s a mad race to make dinner while they are trying to tell me about their day, or have homework questions, then clean the kitchen and get them bathed, etc. They are old enough to do most of this stuff on their own, of course, but there’s a certain shepherding that comes with being a parent, because kids are adorable self-involved assholes and you have to nudge them to keep them on task.
This is common for lots of parents, and there are many couples for whom one partner consistently works late or travels a lot and the other partner has to sort this all out alone. Or a spouse dies. I get it, I’m not the only parent who is doing this dance. But I suppose I got used to having two parents at home in the evening. I got used to one person cleaning the kitchen while the other wrestles with homework and bath time. It’s become difficult to enjoy the evenings when you are only playing drill sergeant.
Of course there are moments of brilliance in there too, but for the most part, after a busy work day when you have NO time to recharge, the kids suffer. You are not the best mom you can be. And that’s a terrible feeling where I am, right smack in the middle of the intense years of parenting. Because I know it’s fleeting. I know my days are numbered and I want to enjoy the time I have with them before they don’t want to be with me anymore.
Also, the kids are the one thing that forces me out of any funk or trash-talking of myself. I hate when they have to comfort me, I have so much guilt about that, but I’m grieving and I can’t always fucking hide it. I remember my own mother crying when my father had a four-year affair and she finally kicked him out. She would sob and it would terrify me. Now here I am, doing the same thing to my kids. She would talk shit about him, and it would make me uncomfortable. Because even though my dad was a supreme dick, it was confusing. Now here I am, in the same place, and I hate myself for it.
But the kids, they are so forgiving, so resilient. They hold my hand and start skipping down the sidewalk and I too am forced to skip and enjoy life. They have adorable, astute and funny insights on things and it takes me out from the dark place where I live now. I worry that I’m ruining their childhood, imbuing their memories with all sorts of awful. I worry that the happy times won’t outweigh the bad, and that they’ll resent me like I do my own parents. I know they worry about money and how I will be able to afford it all and I hate myself for not shielding them from all this.
I am realizing that I’m stuck in the “poor me” place and I need to crawl out of it. But the weight of it all being on my shoulders is killing me right now. “But you always did it all alone,” friends try to remind me. Yes, partially true, I did do a lot of it. I did not have the most supportive partner, but maybe part of this (which I have to accept) is that I am such a control freak that I was unable to let any of it go.
There is no bereavement leave for those who’ve lost a spouse by any means other than death. There is an equal amount of pain and sadness and paperwork to deal with, but no time off. Suck it up, buttercup, says society. You brought this upon yourself with your feminist thinking and wanting things to be equal and better. You destroyed your marriage, because you couldn’t work full-time, be the primary breadwinner AND do all the emotional labour. You couldn’t be the woman behind the man and coach your spouse to great heights so he could provide and you could be the perfect domestic goddess. You created this situation with your inconsistent expectations, acting like you could do it all until you fucking lost your mind.
If my kids or employees were freaking out like this, I would suggest we make a list. Break it down into manageable chunks. Figure out what the priorities are and what can be delegated. I would encourage them to let go of perfection in place of just plain old “gettin’er done.” I think I am at a point where I need to manage myself that way. And there’s a lot I need to let go or delegate, and admit that I have a LOT of guilt about delegating to my kids. Because none of this situation is there fault.
At the same time, getting them to step up and do more is good for their growth. I just have to find the words and the energy to present it to them that way. There needs to be consequences for when they don’t hold up their end of the bargain. And rewards for when they do. I need to be consistent in my approach, which can be a challenge in a two-parent environment at the best of times, but when the other parent can uphold different rules and attitudes at their home, it presents an added layer of complication.
I have spent the past week isolating myself a bit, limiting my social media and cell phone interactions (I deleted most of those apps off my phone). I’m (not overtly) keeping my family at a distance, same goes for old friends. Because when I post stuff on social, it’s a touchpoint, and people get this general feeling of, “She’s OK.” But I’m not actually OK. I have a lot of emotional baggage to sort through and purge. I have so much of me to excavate and understand. I don’t want judgment, assumptions or unsolicited advice right now. I don’t need the Yaya Sisterhood plying me with platitudes. I need to answer, “Is this true?” about myself.
I need to get real, REAL quiet until I hear my inner voice again. And it’s going to be painful AF. Things are going to get real dark as I withdraw from the distractions and the people who have kept me buoyed up the past nine months. At the end of this withdrawal, after having a Trainspotting moment of seeing a baby with the spinny head crawl along my ceiling, there will be me at my essence. There will be forgiveness. And love.
Just, maybe you can silently, virtually hold my hand while I get through this really tough part, k?