There are three or four days every month when the world is ending. Every month. And because I am still getting back on my monthly schedule after having Emily ten months ago, I forget each month that the world is not truly ending, but merely feels that way.
Mindfulness is impossible during this time, as I pace from room to room of our apartment, obsessing about the mess, the finances, the tantrums, the sleep deprivation. I am overwhelmed. Exhausted. It feels like a tornado in my brain that sucks up every positive thought and replaces it with darkness– I suck. I’m fat. We are poor. I hate my life.
My hair dryer was muffling the sound of Jack’s morning meltdown, and when I turned it off, I heard his howling at my husband, and the baby crying in the other room. I came out of the bathroom to find all of our dining room chairs tipped over– the path of destruction Jack had left in his wake.
To top it off, my husband had made pancakes and the kitchen was a mess. There was no countertop available to make lunches for the kids. So, I set to cleaning up the carnage while my husband wrangled the kids.
I felt really resentful, as I chipped away at some dried pancake batter on the sink’s edge. I gave in to the negativity and left the house that morning furious at the world.
I had a ten hour day before me and wanted nothing more than to slink back into bed and cry while the kids were at daycare and my husband at work. A casual work friend happened to stop by my office. She’s a newlywed and has a really nice pocket book. She owns her own house and is ten years younger than me. In other words, she has her shit together and couldn’t possibly understand my woes. But she sat down and mentioned that her daughter had been giving her a run for her money lately. She was wondering if I had any advice, as I’ve been fairly open about Jack’s terrible twos, traumatic threes, and ferocious fours.
This opened a dialogue between us about the frustrations of mommy-hood, which led to us both declaring our anger. What it boiled down to was a sort of grief that we had to divide our attentions so often and how limited emotionally, financially, logistically we both felt. “I just want to be home and be a mom,” she said. “But instead I am here and then when I get home, I don’t have enough energy to be there.”
Wow. That was it.
It felt so good to confess! It felt so good to hear that I wasn’t the only one who felt this way, and that maybe I wasn’t a terrible mother, wife, and human for feeling so prickled by life. Sure, the ship was still going down, but I wasn’t the only one on it!
Getting this grievance out of my gut was such a relief and I was able to get on with the rest of my life. I was able to finish my day, go home and read bedtime stories to Jack and Emily and then climb into bed knowing that their health and happiness was the only thing that mattered.
As a bonus, my husband had seen how fried I was and did a few chores around the house. I fell asleep feeling like a truly blessed woman.
It has been asked many times if a woman can “have it all.” I have come to the conclusion that we can’t. At least, I can’t. There just isn’t enough time, money, or energy to go around. All I can do is my best. And if I try to stay in the moment, be present with what I am presented at any given time, then I do a little better. I can only handle quelling one tantrum, washing one pan, changing one diaper at a time. Sure, sometimes I have to multitask and nurse Em while helping Jack with homework, but I breathe deep and remind myself to be there with both of them.
Three days later, the reason for my meltdown became evident, and I had to smilie. I guess if I were a little more organized I could plot this stuff into my smart phone and set some comforting reminders for myself on those three days each month– You are not alone. This feeling doesn’t last forever. Look into the eyes of your family and feel how loved you are. It is going to be okay. Be at peace.
Compare those statements with the previous ones and you will get a distinctly different feeling flowing through you. But no one is perfect, least of all me. Some people who have practiced mindfulness for a long time might be able to get to this point without the tantrum, the venting, and the isolating. However, I am a firm believer that the process is just as important as the product, the journey is just as important as coming home.
Maybe next month will be different.