As a hormonal, highly sensitive to the universe, I love me some quiet, Erin person, it was almost more than I could handle. There were times I thought I'd check myself into a little room governed by psychiatrists, nurses, and lots of hand sanitizer but that never came to pass. Believe me, there was this one day I tried. But I wasn't needy sounding enough. That's the thing about moms. We know how to sound very put together when everything in us is falling apart. Such a gift.
Before I go on, I have good news. No, AMAZING news. I made it. Yes, my children still need me and I'm barely at the finish line but I made it through the hardest stay-at-home years of my life, raising my smalls. Again, I wasn't sure I'd still be here to see the light at the end of this tunnel, but I'm here. And you guys, it's the prettiest light I've ever seen. It's worth it.
If you're wondering a few things, I'll try to pre-answer them for you:
Did I have postpartum depression? Nope. I took the survey, all checked out fine. Was my husband deployed? Yes, one time for 10 months. Didn't I have any family nearby to help? Nearby is a misnomer when you're talking Virginia mixing bowl and DC traffic. Even those who tried to get to me got stuck in hours (4 hrs on a Saturday one day!) of traffic going one way. Didn't I have any friends to talk to? Tons. Didn't any offer to help? Yes, many did but I couldn't articulate what I needed myself. And when I realized I needed help raising my children, I didn't know how to word that without sounding like I was 12. People can drop in and lend a hand for a few hours but I knew I had to figure this out for the long haul. Couldn't I hire people? I did. Sometimes it went well, other times not at all. When you are already at your lowest point, hiring a babysitter feels as hard as building a car out of spoons. Plus, all of your spoons are dirty.
You see, when you're someone like me you're very independent,
Because it is, that's why. Who cares about the details, it just is.
I know the details now. Eight years later, I'm a scientist about the details. I know that I need ridiculous amounts of quietude and space to feel normal. I know that I cannot stomach sitting on a floor to play dolls but love kicking a soccer ball in the backyard for days. I know I need music, not just lullabys. I know I have to eat well or my brain goes haywire. I know that structure, sleep, and removing myself from the noise of social media - especially the sensationalized news channels - is not optional for my psyche. I know that I love to sing my babies to sleep in my arms when they're sick. I'm a virtual expert on me, eight years later.
So, for anyone who's been confused as to why the job of raising young children is such a huge one. Stop wondering. You'll figure it out eventually. Right now you have to survive. Right now you have to get through it. Right now your job is to do the hard work, cry sometimes, and laugh so much more.
Here's a quick guide that might help. I'm calling it The Simple Guide to Living with Smalls.
- Go to bed by 9pm. Stop laughing, just do it. Don't scroll Facebook. It'll be there tomorrow. And the same stories will burn on your timeline for days so you're not missing anything.
- Wake up before your children. Yes, even the little
efferlovebug who gets up at 5:30 giggling in his crib just because he just can.
- Sit upright in a chair drinking your favorite drink. Not rum. Trust me.
- Brush your teeth. If you don't do this you will find a dry toothbrush next to your sink at 8pm, which incidentally, is the next time you get to think about yourself. Floss, too. Duh. Always floss or else all the cute people in your life will stop wanting to kiss you. You're welcome.
- Get dressed while listening to music, NOT the TV. Pick something uplifting that you like even if it's from the 80s. Especially if it's from the 80s. May I recommend this one? Rock that tune in your grannie undies all around your room until you find the outfit you can feel comfortable in yet still maybe stop at the grocery store for emergency chocolate. We've all been there. Aisle 5.
- Make yourself a smoothie filled with all the veggies, fruit, and water you'll need for the next 6 hours. This will be the best meal of your day. The younger your children are, the more good sh*t you need to put in that smoothie. P.S. Spend the car payment and buy the Ninja Food System. Add avocado to everything.
- Make eye contact with your kid(s). It's hard because those dishes, that laundry, those dogs, your hair, The Twitter...but look at them. They're here because you worked hard to get them here. They're here and they love you the most.
- Answer their questions. Even the one about babies. My kids recently saw a cartoon of a woman getting ready to give birth and both of them couldn't figure out why her legs were up. They couldn't imagine popping a baby out of her bellybutton that way.
- Love your partner. He/she's freaking tired too. Like more tired than you. Not really but what the hell does it matter? It's not a Tired Competition. Nobody gets a night at the Hilton with oversized body pillows as a prize if they win. By the way, don't worry...you're totally more tired.
- No seriously, love your partner. This is worth repeating. Text them funny texts. Flirty ones. Emoji ones. Communicate throughout the day but about Date Night, not your jobs. Your jobs both suck right now, talk about something fun. Hug them when you see them at night. Kiss too if you took my advice about flossing. Thank them for running the bath, sorting the mail, making the appointment for the AC guy to come, not show up, come, and not show up again. He/she is working two jobs at least, just like you. But don't worry, you're still totally more tired. Way. If there is no partner and you're going this completely solo? Please be extra kind to yourself and reward yourself with positive friends, exercise, and a healthy lifestyle that allows you little glimpses of what keeps you feeling like yourself.
- Pamper yourself like you would your best friend. You bring your bestie Gatorade when she's got the flu, right? Well, you're worth it, too. Stop and get yourself Airborne pills when your little
snotbucketscherubs bring home all the germs. Paint your toes that funky robin egg blue. That color looks cute on you. Take your kid(s) to a store just for you and make them suck it up for 20 minutes while you enjoy your life. They already enjoy theirs because you're an awesome mom, remember? Buy that uplifting card you see... for yourself. You need Maya Angelou quotes. You need the pretty lady made of hemp seeds and butterfly magic that says Spirit Warrior. Get them. For yourself. Then, buy the cup of coffee/tea/flavored water to enjoy on your drive home. When the kid(s) fall asleep? Drive around to get yourself another one. You'd do it for your sisterfriend when she's sick, right? Do it for you because parenting smalls is very much like being sick all the time. You feel like crap while you're making everyone else forget you exist, see? Same thing.
- Play with your kid(s) as much as YOU want. They just got here, they have no idea what's appropriate. If that means 20 minutes a day, then rock that sistermom. Seriously, do you remember your parents playing with you every waking second of the day? I remember a whole lot of meandering aimlessly and happily in my neighborhood and in the woods behind our house. Can't do that today, I realize, but my gawd, the children can still learn to entertain themselves safely within your decided parameters. Plus, I tried playing with Abby all day long one time, not even getting up to get myself another cup of tea, and we were both in tears before 3pm. Nobody was happy because nobody had a mom. I became a 3 year old along with her and we both desperately needed a nap.
- Haha, here's the catch: Play with your kid(s) without a technical distraction. Yes, I know, I love my phone and my camera too. So. Much. But those two will still be here when they turn 18. Our kid(s) won't. This time of raising smalls feels like forever but it couldn't be more of a trick The days are long but the years are short. By the time your kid(s) reaches school age, you will have more time to devote to your distractions. And that's when you're going to need them. Let your children be with you while they're little. More importantly, let yourself be with them. They're your memories too.
- Give yourself a mid-day dance break. Or several. Freestyle is great but hip hop is better. Because how precious is your little one trying to do the running man? It's ok to bust out the camera too. Fine, go get your phone.
- Messes do not make you a horrible person. They are a byproduct of all the fun in life. Take out the paints! Bring out the colored bubbles! Be the master of a Play-Doh Universe! If you just hived out reading this one then do it all outside. But make the messes. It's how your children learn to do things and how you learn to not do things for them.
- Clean up is for everyone. Good heavens, please don't do what I did. Please do not become the only person in your house who knows where everything goes. Ask your kid(s) to help you put things away. Ask them to sort laundry, then put away folded laundry, then help you do the laundry. Your shoulder blades and your spouse/girlfriend/boyfriend will thank you for it. Anyone raising children and trying to keep a clean house is already insane. They need help and your children won't know how to help if you don't
makeshow them. Pretty soon, it'll become a habit for all.
- Give yourself a Time Out. I'm not talking an hour or two at Barnes & Noble on a Saturday. Not even three hours with your friends for Happy Hour. I'm talking two full beautiful wonderful so very necessary days of rest at a hotel when nobody
can find youwill need you. You need nobody to need you for a couple of days. If you don't do this, none of 1-17 will help you one bit. Trust and believe, if you're like me at all, you need time to defrag and reconstitute yourself for the hard week of doing it solo ahead. P.S. Order room service. Turn off the TV. Bring a book you've been dying to read. You guys, I was so tired in this pic. I can remember this day. Abby was sick with a upper respiratory stuff. I threw her a B-Day party where many family members came. Andy was deployed and I wouldn't ask anyone for help because I wanted everyone to know I had it all together.
- Stop yelling. It's not them you're mad at. You're mad because you're sad. You're sad because you feel like a monster when you're this low, I get it. So you yell because it feels like all you have left to gain control. We all do it from time to time because you're so tired you just need everyone to do exactly as you say or you'll drop. But do your guilty little self a favor and stop yelling at your kids. You're a big girl, close your mouth or yell into a pillow if it has to go somewhere. Kickboxing classes are good too, just a suggestion. Personally, I prefer Tae Bo but that's because I'm 40. Your kids don't understand how tired you are. They're new on the scene of life and haven't been that tired yet. Let them live that innocently for as long as they can. You can handle this.
- Let go of guilt. It isn't serving you at all. It's depleting you even more of anything good living inside your tired bones. We all make parenting mistakes. We all expect too much. We all think we have to be perfect at this. We all think they should be able to wash their little bodies by now because your head pounds with the despair of knowing you're not going to sleep tonight...again. Forgive yourself of your mistakes after your kids forgive you. Because guess what? They forgive you right away. They love you the most. Now, you need to love you half as much.
- Write down their sweet words. Draw with them. Wrestle on the floor. Play the board games you like. Who cares if all the marbles fly off the Hungry Hungry Hippo board? We all know it's not about keeping our marbles. It's way more fun when you let some of your marbles go.
There's a light, you guys and it's the prettiest light I've ever seen. I'm here now and I've found my voice. Please don't let yourself think it doesn't get better. It does. Yes, you'll miss them while teachers/administrators/their friends spend their days with them but you need this time apart. You will find yourself again and the best news is that the old you is happy you're back. She's so happy you didn't give up on her. She's so happy she's singing so that others like her will hear her and know it really does get sweet again. Do the hard work, know this season of your life does not last forever, and definitely order room service when you have no more left to give. Having no more left to give is a sign you need to give to yourself. Guilt-free. You deserve it too, sisterfriend.