Confession: I Kind Of Dread Being Left Alone With My Kids

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There was a time when a three-day weekend was an idyll during which I could sleep late, go out to brunch, and get a mani-pedi.  These days, I am convinced that the three-day weekend was invented to torture parents.

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Kids can’t handle all the unstructured down-time (at least mine can’t), forcing me into my least favorite role as cruise director, to figure out how to fill every moment of the day so as not to give them time to get off track.

Long weekends also get everyone out of the regular get-up-and-go routine, thereby making reentry to school and work on Tuesday morning almost as depressing and complicated as it is for astronauts returning from space.

We are currently faced with one such holiday.  Just the thought of it has me contemplating hari-kari.  It is one of those weird holiday that some people have, and some don’t.  I will be home with the children because I don’t work on Mondays anyway, but my husband has to go to work.

Here is the thing:  I kind of dread being left alone with my two kids- Jack, six, and Emily, two.

Just admitting to that sentiment fills me with guilt and self recrimination.

Sometimes I see other moms out and about with a passel of their young, and I wonder, how the hell do they do it?  The mother looks so calm and the kids have all fallen in line, are listening, helping one another out, and cooperating with their mama.

Then I wonder, what the hell is wrong with me?

Nature dealt me two of the most independent, strong willed, and temperamental children known to humankind.  I know my own neuroses has helped somewhat in shaping their characteristics, but I’ve got to tell you, they just sort of came to me this way.  It was crazy humbling to learn I had a lot less control over my children’s personalities than I would have thought.

Right now, at their respective ages, both Jack and Em have a totally different set of interests, needs, and desires.  Jack wants constant attention and help on complicated projects (80 million piece lego set anyone?) and gets squirrely if he doesn’t get enough time and attention.  Emily is hell-bent on jumping off of anything high enough to at least cause a serious concussion, or beating the cat into giving her ginormous welts over her entire body.  She is actually pretty happy-go-lucky and can entertain herself nicely, so the goal with her is basically just keeping her from killing herself.

At best it is draining trying to keep them safe and happy.  At worst, it is a freaking nightmare.  Dare I miss one of Jack’s hunger, tired, or needing-attention cues, and he launches into a five alarm tantrum that triggers Emily and has the neighbors questioning if they should call the state on me.  Dare I turn my back on Emily for five seconds to make a fluffernutter for the Prince of Low Blood Sugar, and she is tumbling head first off the stairs into something scratchy/pointy/angular/hard/etc.

My adrenaline starts pumping as I decide whether to fight (time outs for everyone!), take flight (how much was that ticket to Hawaii?), or freeze.  My body usually picks the last choice and stands there staring at the chaos in mute paralysis, until crisis forces me into action.

I can’t win.  And I know that makes me a mom.  But it also leaves me wanting to whine, can’t we all just get along?  

You may be wondering, what kind of mom dreads being left alone with her children?  Don’t get me wrong, I adore my children.  For every post I write about my confusion and frustration with motherhood, there are ten other posts and poems about how mesmerized I am with the little people I grew in my tummy.  For every moment I am wrangling them in the throes of a tantrum, there are twenty other moments where I am hugging, kissing, and praising them.

For me, acknowledging these thoughts and feelings is important.  My honesty makes me sound at times like a bit of a Debbie Downer, but being mindful of my short-comings as a mom allows me to be and accept the human being that I am.  Through self-acceptance I can work on smoothing out some of my kinks and quirks in gentle, loving ways that don’t cause additional emotional self-mutilation.

It’s simple Cognitive Behavioral Therapy here, folks.  Recognizing that I am having any or all of the following automatic negative thoughts:

  • I’m a failure as a mom.  
  • My children are the worst behaved children in the world which must be my fault.  
  • I’m so overwhelmed I want to pack it in.  
  • I can’t handle all this.  
  • This day is never going to end,  

allows me to also recognize when my brain goes down this path I feel:

  • anxious and panicked
  • hopeless and depressed, and
  • overwhelmed

I then can realize how this set of emotions affects my behavior.  Usually when I am feeling the prickly pins and needles of anxiety, I am not on my A-Game as a mom.  I lose my cool faster, start to obsess over cleaning, and nit-pick until everyone around me is ready to sell me to the gypsies.

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So I have a chance to reassure myself, cheer myself on with some brighter thoughts.  For example, Keep calm it’s almost bedtime, is one of my favorites because it also gives me a chuckle.  Telling myself, they are just kids, also helps.  Sometimes nothing helps and I just feel crummy and overwhelmed, but I guess that is part of life too.

Awareness helps me put a name to the free-floating panic that wells up in me the day before a federal holiday.  Being able to recognize my thoughts and feelings helps me feel more control over what is happening.

It’s all part of the process.

Hopefully I can remember all this during that long-ass holiday.

 

What’s your secret?  How do you manage your children during “down time” on holidays and vacations?  Are you ever overwhelmed?  Please feel free to share in the comments below.  I love to hear from you!  

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20 responses »

  1. @…”Hopefully I can remember all this during that long-ass holiday…” Ouch! You aren’t realizing the SENTIMENT of this very important holiday if thats your mindset..Thankfully majority of Americans DO..As for dreading being home alone with your own children? When they’re grown and gone from home(which happens very quickly..) you’ll miss precious times like today..So many, many things/ways to teach children how to make use of their time..Like reading or discovering a hobby or just one-on-one conversations to see what is on a child’s mind..Hopefully they’re not dreading the alone time home with Mom today(but do keep in mind kid’s pick up , even unsaid things, from their parents..Good luck & Happy Martin Luther King, Jr Day!

    • I do humbly apologize if I offended you, but I think you missed the point of my post. My post was not about bashing a holiday or my children, but rather acknowledging my anxiety and frustrations as an overwhelmed mom. If this is something you have never felt, and you have enjoyed each and every moment with your children, then you are lucky and I salute you. I write and process things in my blog so that I can be aware of them so that they DON’T spill over onto my children. My blog is about my experience as a mom, and I can only speak my truth. Sometimes people resonate with that, sometimes they don’t. It is never my intention to offend or alienate people, however I realize that sometimes this may be a by product of being honest and candid. Peace be with you.

  2. Happy holiday, whatever it is! 😉 And yes I too am the terrible mom who sometimes fears being left alone with her daughter, who is sick and don’t know what she wants. I am frustrated because I cannot do anything to help her (once you gave the prescribed drugs, nursed, cuddled, sang, nursed, cuddled, sang…). We had a hard time during Christmas time too, because the schedule totally derailed and it was hard to come back to normal. But, and especially after reading your reblogged post yesterday, I think it is important just to seize the day. I went shopping while abroad before heading home on Friday: according to the size charts, she is not a baby anymore but a kid… So I try to enjoy these moments and acknowledge my negative feelings in order for them to disappear faster. But sometimes it is just so hard!!! (ok, today I am cheating: she is sleeping for 3 hours (one of those on me…))! xoxoxo

    • Hi Elea! Great to hear from you as always. Today in America is one of those bank/federal holidays. Some private companies get it off, some do not. It is a day celebrating a hero from the American Civil Rights Movement, Martin Luther King, Jr. I can totally relate to how you struggle with trying to savor every moment on one hand while trying to be realistic and have a second to yourself on the other. I have a very introverted personality where I struggle with being constantly “on” and interacting with people non stop. So, for me, breaks are important for me to recharge my battery, however not always possible during vacations, long weekends, etc as a mom. During the work week, I use my commute as a sort of ‘me’ time to listen to music, chant, breathe, and just be alone, as strange as that may sound. Being a mom (and being a working mom) has been so much shockingly harder than I ever imagined it would be. But the joys are also so wonderful, and yes, it does speed right by. For me, it is just important to acknowledge the dichotomy I feel because the feelings are still there, and if I try to stuff them down too deeply, it leads to even greater frustration and self-loathing. So, that’s what I was trying to get at in this post. Thanks for stopping by and updating me on your life too. I love hearing from you, my French sister! xoxoxoxo!!

  3. LOL-I feel exactly the same today! Dad left on a business trip this morning and now I have all 5 for the rest of the day until bedtime! As well as the next three days but at least two will be in school! 🙂

    • FIVE kids?? Wow. You are totally my new hero. I hope everything goes well for you over the next few days. Thanks so much for stopping by and chiming in with the conversation here! Momaste!

  4. As a non-parent who hopes to be one someday, I have learned as I’ve gotten older not to judge parents for thoughts like this. For heaven’s sake, kids can be so brutal sometimes and they do have minds of their own. How could anyone be expected to control two little creatures 24/7? I give you mad props for being so open and honest about the frustrating underbelly of parenting, especially since it does open you up to judgement and misunderstanding.

    • Wow. That is really generous and understanding of you, and I am so appreciative. Your words are a great kindness to me. . . parenting can be pretty exhausting, but it is also very worth it. I give YOU mad props for being so non judgmental and understanding, before kids even! I know that before I had kids I was pretty judgey wudgey (well it seems I was a lot younger too?) and parenting came as quite a humbling blow to me at how challenging it can be to balance everything, keep your kids, your spouse and yourself sane, work, and try to put on a brave face for the world. But to see little creatures come out of you and develop their own understanding of the world is also pretty freaking cool. Hugs to you! Thanks again.

      • I just stop and think about how I don’t know what I am doing either, so who am I to judge? Sometimes I do catch myself in judgement, though.
        Hugs to you, too! Hope you got through the weekend ok.

      • We did get through it, just fine, thank you. It probably isn’t the best but sometimes when I expect and prepare for the worst, I am pleasantly surprised when things are not so bad! Thanks again!

  5. Our secret? Drive twelve hours to see the in-laws and shirk parental duties all weekend. The drive is almost worth it (to clarify: 5 there, 7 back)… But man, I could feel this post!

  6. Love it. The first day of summer left me bent over with my hands on my knees saying, “Dear God. No more.” (My blog tagline: four kids in three years. Zoiks.) And for the record, I schedule play dates and activities all the time, which is to say I have multiple play date blocks in the day I coerce my friends into filling. And my kids absolutely, positively have “quiet time” each day for about an hour. Because if they don’t, my spirit will snap. Snap, I tell you! You are not alone.
    Perhaps it’s not so much a sign of how much we don’t like being with our kids as how much we put into those minutes we spend loving and watching and teaching and nurturing those chubby monkeys. Blog on!

    • YES! Thank you so much for resonating here with me on this one. I think my title was a bit strongly worded, but in the end this wasn’t really a post about not liking being with my kids, but as you say, acknowledging the energy it takes and sometimes how much of a failure it makes me feel when I fall short… Thanks again. xo.

  7. Pingback: The Kindness Games– Keeping it Cool During Summer With Children | momaste

  8. Hello, I completely agree with you on the three day holidays. I am a single mother of 5 rambunctious yet wonderfully hyper kids. I honestly feel dread when these holidays approach. Until now I’ve never admitted it to anyone. I always felt I was a bad mom for feeling this way but you’ve given me new insight on it now. So no you are not alone and neither am I sigh of relief

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