Thursday, June 26, 2008

Who knew this blog could get any whinier?

I think Emily may have had it right in her comment on my last post: just fake it. Pretend I have it together at the office, pretend I'm not on the verge of a meltdown at home. There is a tight little smile plastered on my face as I go through my day, with a couple of hours' respite during the long commute. I also think Cass had a big part of it right, so I will bang my head against a convenient wall when I just can't cope anymore, and perhaps lock myself in the bathroom and scream on occasion, as Jennifer suggested.

The days are just hard, and that's the way it is. I get up at seven if I'm lucky, nurse an unenthusiastic baby, get ready for work, pump, pack up all the crap I need to take with me, get the other one up, take her to the potty, dress her, feed her, check work email, dash out the door, drive for an hour, work for ten, pump twice more and drive the hour back home. It is now 8:30 or so. I am then beset by an eager Josh and Olivia, try to make something for dinner while entertaining one or both of them, get Olivia toileted, play with them both for a few minutes, get Josh nursed, get him to bed, get Olivia to bed, pump again and try to get ten minutes' peace before I have to turn in, too. An hour or two later, the crying starts and the nighttime round of hushings and feedings and lullabyes starts up. When something else gets thrown into the mix--illness (frequent), necessary travel, unexpected home repairs, anything--I just start to lose my ability to cope, or even pretend to cope.

I don't want to give the wrong impression here. I am not struggling with half the burden that some people have. Chris asked about resources, and I do have resources--I have resources that the me of fifteen years ago wouldn't have credited. There are people who mow our lawn, clean our house and whisk away our drycleaning. I have two excellent nannies covering different days of the week and a thoughtful, involved, creative husband who probably does more parenting (and more enjoying of parenting) than I. I get to work from home one day a week; Jeff is working from home three days. And yet, with all of the help, with all of the accommodations we have been granted, I struggle to make it to the end of each day.

I always thought of myself as someone who thrived on pressure. I secretly relished an impossible deadline, the adrenaline of a major crunch, the challenge of high expectations. What I didn't realize was that I would eventually wilt, that I can't sustain it. I guess I just hadn't been challenged enough, for long enough, to know this till now.

So I am finding out all sorts of things about me that I never knew--for example, that I am not nearly as mentally stable as I thought I was; that I am completely incapable of any sort of emotional distance from other people's tragedies; that I can get blindingly, irrationally furious over irrelevant things. That I am, in short, a different, rawer, less certain person now than I was before, be it temporary (please) or permanent. And I need to adjust to who I am, and what I am today, and not expect the driven, competent, happy me of old to be front-and-center right now.

I wouldn't change much, even if I could. Perhaps I would have a sane, kindly, helpful old mother who could come and live with us; perhaps I would have a lighter work schedule. But I don't, so I need to deal with my life exactly as it is. And those moments when the kids do something novel, something silly, something sweet, something interesting--those are the moments I live for, the moments that drown out the fact that I am worn down and overwhelmed.

It will get easier. Some part of me know that it will, not too long from now, get easier. For now, I have to accept that I am where I am, mentally, emotionally and physically. Lower my expectations of me for a while.

Apologies for the self-indulgent rambling. With my new, lower standards, though, I don't think I will take the time to edit.


Blogger emily said...

happy or devastated to see someone else is faking it, not sure.

my primary problem is no proof of success. split into two roles, i naturally half-fail at both. marginally good employee, marginally good wife and mother.

it will get easier. until then pains me that i am missing so much of what is the best of my life, blurred by too much life.

in the meantime i am very pleased to see you blogging more...

9:18 PM  
Blogger Cat said...

So... What's Jeff doing in all of this? If he's working from home 3 days/week, can't he get Olivia up, pottied, dressed, fed, etc? And cope with dinner at least half the time? Your description makes it sound like you're a single working mom.

5:28 AM  
Blogger tonya said...

Wow, if that's whining then call me Whiney McWhineypants! Life with small children (especially two under age 5) is HARD.

As the sleep deprivation goes away, the fog will begin to lift. Please be gentle to yourself. You are in my thoughts.

1:54 PM  
Anonymous B. Mare said...

I'm exhausted just reading this. Suddenly my situation doesn't look as hard as all that.

I don't have any answers, except maybe look at the division of labour quite carefully (as Cat said, can Jeff maybe do a little more here or there to ease your burden?). More sleep will help, too. I know, I know, we live in hope. God, I miss sleep.

Hang in there.

2:40 PM  
Anonymous Alex said...

I have to say I'm with the other commenters on this division of labor thing. How does it happen that you, individually, are both caring for the kids in the morning and fixing dinner and getting the kids to bed at night? I certainly appreciate that this may be your choice (it is, after all, hard to fit kid time in around work), but it sounds rather overwhelming. Could Jeff take either the morning or the evening shift with the kids, or fix dinner?

Beyond that, yes, just sounds completely exhausting. As you say, it won't always be like this, but short of moving some of the other parts (such as the length of your commute or the number of hours you work, and I realize these may be things you do not want to, or cannot, change, or both), I can't see any solution except the "this too shall pass approach." Though as a new mom I find am a big fan of lowering standards, so you go!

10:58 AM  
Anonymous Anne said...

Another thought: don't discount the huge impact of all the nursing and pumping you're doing. You are not only juggling career and kids and commute and all, you're doing all that while also doing something that's physically depleting and that sets you up for all kinds of hormonal moodiness. I nursed for 15 months, exclusively for the first 6, and I wouldn't change a thing. It was tender & wonderful & I grieved when I stopped. But when I stopped, I also felt miraculously returned to the competent energetic self I remembered being pre-child. So I'm not at all saying not to nurse; I'm just saying to factor the nursing into your self-evaluation, seriously cut yourself some slack, and maintain the knowledge that you absolutely will become your old self again.

9:12 AM  
Blogger Thalia said...

I'm with everyone else. You are doing a lot. Really A LOT. I've been feeling pretty good about my return to work, but my husband makes dinner every night and does the bath before I give the bottle to my one child. And I stopped breastfeeding and pumping over a month ago - and only now does my body feel in any way back to normal. So I agree with everyone else, the first step is to cut yourself some slack and say you are doing an AMAZING job.

3:05 AM  
Blogger Marie-Baguette said...

I read your post when I was feeling particularly low and your life is much crazier than mine. I second the other commenters. At 8:30, your kids should be sleeping soundly. Can't the babysitter bath and feed them? And the pumping is just nightmarish. Nursing does pump all of your physical energy and you are not allowed to have real coffee or a good drink to keep you going. I am also concerned about your sleep deprivation combined with your long commute. Could you work from home more often? I am amazed at what you are doing. You are a star. And yes, things will get better but you are juggling far too many balls at the same time I think.

3:48 PM  
Blogger Muddy said...

The only thing I can offer is to make small adjustments wherever you can (is there anything at all in the routine that you can dump in the name of mental health?) and then just put one foot in front of the other until you get through it.

I will be thinking of you.

6:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That sounds, quite frankly, horrible. I'm sorry, that is pretty rude isn't it. I hate to give assvice since I'm not even a regular but really, you need to drop something from that routine or I think you'll drop from exhaustion.

Your son is almost a year right? Could you drop the morning and nighttime pumping session? Even an extra 30 minutes can seem like a luxury with that schedule. And then you could go to bed a bit earlier. My son just turned 7 months and I dropped the night time pumping session about a week ago. I was pumping 3-4 times a day (once at night, sometimes once in the morning and then twice at work) for 2 bottles. Now I pump 2 times a day at work for about 1.5 bottles and and he gets a few ounces of formula in addition to the breastmilk while I'm at work. I can't even tell you what a huge relief it was to give that up. Now, if I feel like it, I can go to bed at 8:30 when he does. And, I never pump on the weekends anymore either which is a relief.

Hope it gets easier soon. I work full time with one kid and it feels overwhelming. My husband is already talking #2 but I am no where near ready. I kind of want to wait until #1 can dress himself and wipe his own ass...but then I'd be ancient so something has to give. It's hard !!!


10:22 PM  
Blogger kaicevy said...

And I need to adjust to who I am, and what I am today, and not expect the driven, competent, happy me of old to be front-and-center right now

10:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can you cut out part of that commute. Two hours a day a a lot of time commuting. And/Or work 8 hours a day at work and get home earlier for more kid time and then work a bit from home after they go to bed (not that I was ever able to do that, but apparently some people do it).

8:44 AM  

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