“Don’t ever let me go to another mom’s night! It’s like a prisoner being set free for one day, then being sent back to prison for the next 20 years! I don’t need to see how bright the colors are! I don’t need to see how great the food tastes! It just makes it worse!”
Okay, friends, here’s a truly embarrassing confession: I actually said those words. In the kitchen, to my bewildered husband, while holding a cup of cold coffee. I had gone out a couple nights before with the moms from Penelope’s preschool, and enjoyed an evening of eating and drinking at my own pace, enjoying conversation, and laughing a lot. I felt more alive, free, and myself than I had in weeks. It was glorious. The following two days had proven to be the exact opposite – two sick kids, major behavioral issues, no sleep, extra stress – and too many cups of cold coffee.
These embarrassingly melodramatic words spilled out of me, and I just lost my cool.
“But how am I supposed to put him down when you are screaming? I cannot do both! I cannot be everything for both of you at once!”
I stomped down the hall and yelled these words towards my daughter’s open bedroom door. It was my first night handling bedtime alone with an infant and toddler, and both kids were melting down. Penelope was screaming for me to lie down with her, Felix was screaming to be fed and put in bed, and I just lost it. My voice quavered and I felt the hysterical tears rising in my throat. Why can’t I make them understand?! Why do I have to do this alone?! There are few things worse than looking down at your daughter, who’s face is filled with anguish and exhaustion, and seeing how your freakout has shaken her. I hated myself in that moment. When Felix was finally settled, I went back in to Penelope’s room to find that she had fallen asleep on her own. I laid down and spooned her for awhile, whispering my too-late apologies for how the evening had gone.
“There is no relief. There is no rest. I thought it couldn’t get worse. And it did.”
Standing at the butcher block table in the middle of our kitchen, my voice shook with a desperate, exhausted energy. My top knot had half fallen out and I felt like I had reached a new low. Was it really all supposed to be this hard? Was I really supposed to feel this alone? Would my husband ever understand this feeling? An hour before, I had finally left the house on my own, to salvage my sanity and exist exclusively as a single, adult female – only to have an unpleasant and stressful encounter at the grocery store, which left me feeling even more emotionally bankrupt than before.
Again, I heard myself make these melodramatic proclamations and wondered if this was going to become routine. Would I ever feel better?
“I will not let you hit me. THAT IS ABSOLUTELY NOT OKAY.”
It was preschool pickup, and Penelope had just slapped me in the face for the first time ever. As we were leaving, she kept asking to play with one of the toy cars before we left – something I knew would be extremely difficult to pull her away from, especially with me holding Felix in the carseat. I used my usual tactics – I would love to see her playing with the car, and we will make special time for it next school day – scooped her up, and headed towards the car. The ensuing meltdown was the worst on record. She looked me in the eyes and screamed the loudest screams I have ever heard. They were so intense, the noise of her fury brought tears to my eyes. I took a deep breath and calmly repeated what we were doing. And then she slapped me in the face. I set her down in the car, closed the door, and let her scream until she was done. I stood outside, leaning on the car and trying not to cry.
“Mama, I’m ready to talk about it, I’m ready for huggies…” On the way home, we did talk about it – even as a deliriously rage-filled toddler, her communication afterwards was stellar – but I couldn’t shake my dislike for my child for the rest of the day. I felt stupid for how hurt I was that she had treated me that way. I know toddlers are meant to test limits, and I know Penelope’s behavior is not unheard of, but I found myself coming to terms with the reality that I had been carrying around (somewhere in my head) the belief that my daughter would not do that. I felt heartbroken.
Over the course of the past week or so, I’ve lost my cool approximately a thousand times.
I have felt like a bad mom, a lot. I have felt like a bad wife, a lot. I have not done the requisite ab exercises to heal my diastasis recti, nor have I done the adequate number of high intensity workouts to get rid of my excess baby weight. I tried eating Paleo for two days and then promptly quit because drinking coffee without half & half just won’t work for me in these trying times.
I’ve lost my cool a lot.
I think even in the best of times being a parent can be challenging. And call me overly sensitive, but damn, if the state of the world doesn’t make it that much harder to stay positive and hopeful and have the energy to stay calm while your toddler is behaving like a monster or your baby is howling like a rabid gibbon – it just adds to the weight of it all.
This is not a story about a thirty two year old woman who had a bad week but she perseveres, thus learning the secret to keeping her cool and finding her bliss and losing the baby weight. No, this is the story of a woman who survived her hellish week and doesn’t really know how the next one is going to go so maybe we should just make some cookies?
Dear reader: if you are losing your cool, or are feeling like a bad _______, or are generally feeling at the end of your rope – you are not alone. (Insert emoji of me waving.)
I see you, exhausted and unshowered;
I hear your frantic, freaked-out bargaining with God;
I stand with you in your Paleo-desertion and your lack of cardio;
I send you calm and strength in the midst of your emotional tornado;
and I want you to know: you will be okay.