Marriage includes fighting. It's unavoidable. I'm feeling very sheepish today because I quite unfairly - unleashed, I believe would be the correct term - on my lovely husband last night, and again this morning. I realized too late that I couldn't take back the things that I said and he left the house angry. Now that Mt. Linz has fully exploded and I'm left to just sit in the steamy aftermath, I can see what led up to the big blow and I feel pretty badly about it because the things I'm angry really don't have much of anything to do with J. So let's talk about sleep deprivation, how much work it really is to be a stay-at-home-mom and the feminist movement, shall we?
I can hear all the mice and trackpads clicking this tab closed as I write this. I know what they're thinking, those who left us: Not another whining mom who "doesn't work" complaining about how hard her life is, right? Wrong. I work my tail off 24-hours a day doing things that no one respects or values and I have had enough. It's time. I'm saying my piece.
Sleep deprivation is real. I think Christine Skoutelas summed it up nicely in her Huffington Post article, "This Is Why Parents Are More Exhausted Than You Think They Should Be." In a sentence: once you become a parent, you never sleep though the night again. Ever. The infant months give way to the worrying-if-your-baby-has-died-in-their-sleep months. As Skoutelas explains,
At first, parents wake up in a panic when the infant doesn't wake them up, and they check on them, adrenaline rushing, thinking they're going to find something very wrong. They nudge the baby. Nudge. Nudge. Until they hear an audible sigh. Then they either can't fall back asleep because of all that adrenaline or they can't fall back asleep because they woke up their kid.
This gives way to the toddler years, filled with a little person coming into your bed, bed-wetting, or needing a tissue! No improvement in sight. Teenagers keep parents up with worries of sneaking out and when they're in college and no longer at home you lie awake, "wondering if they've been roofied and are lying in a ditch," until finally they're out on their own and you're so old that you're "biologically incapable of sleeping. The end."
Great. It's all too familiar. I woke up in a complete exhausted panic last night, having forgotten that I had put Theo in his crib, and woke J exclaiming, "Where is Theo?! We lost him! He's not here!!!!! We have to find him; the door is open and he is not in this room. WHERE IS HE?!" to which J replied, "You put him in the basket, remember" and, knowing he meant crib, I got back into bed and went back to sleep. So concluded the first 90 minutes of my sleep for the night. I was woken by Theo two hours later, just as confused, wondering if Coco was crying in the distance. I came to, realized it was Theo crying from his basket, and stumbled into his room and brought him into our bed. He proceeded to wake me at regular intervals wanting to be cuddled and spooned just so for the rest of the night until J's alarm went off (and he pressed snooze repeatedly!) in the early morning. My neck is sore from all the cuddling. But, like Skoutelas said, it's not ever going to get better, so I guess that I should just quit worrying about. At least I have chubby baby cuddles right now.
Being a stay-at-home-mom is quite impossible. Literally impossible. I love the kids and I love our house, and I love taking care of all of them, but there is just no way for one person to do all that. No matter what, our house is always a flipping mess. I try to be proactive, I am still working on a traditional housekeeping schedule to keep it all under control. But the fact remains that the mess and the laundry and the dishes are being produced at a rate that will never slow down. Groceries and toilet paper disappear at the same rate. I might be able to find a pace to keep up, but that means never ever having a break and never ever being finished. I am a hamster on a wheel. As much as I want to, I can't ever slow down, because then the wheel will flip. I understand that people who work still have laundry and eat and so on, but it's different. When you're all gone all day, no one is there to make a mess on par with a grenade going off in your living room. When your children are in daycare, you can pop into the store and grocery shop without them in a fraction of the time. And when we were both working, we could afford to have cleaners come every couple of weeks. I had no idea the reality of the workload of the stay-at-home-mom. It is actually quite impossible. But, awesome tip: vinegar in the rinse cycle makes clothes so soft! Try it. :)
And now, to the load of blarney that is the feminist movement. Just hear me out on this one. This is my current reality: Right now, it makes sense for us for me to stay at home. It makes financial sense because childcare is so ridiculously expensive. Additionally, it makes sense for us as Montessori teachers and experts on child development because we want the formative years from 0-2 to be optimized through the security and attachment our children get from being at home with me. That may piss a lot of you off, but that's how we see it, and we are willing to make the necessary sacrifices to do it. The decision for me to be at home is a well thought out, deliberate choice.
And yet, I am constantly at odds with warring ideologies. I feel an insane amount of pressure to be more than just a mom. Women are supposed to have it all! The career, the children, the happy marriage, the vacation photos. Don't forget the sexy figure. But we cannot have it all. We have to make choices.
People love to say that they respect the choices women make, but when women choose to stay home, they don't. Not really. The work I do is not respected or valued. It's a shame, but that's the way it is. And now I'm done complaining about it. It's true that my current reality gets in the way of the creative ideas I have that I would love to devote more time and energy to bringing to fruition, but I'm happy to invest that time and energy into my children instead. I would love it if my life were more in balance, but early childhood is intense. I would really love it if I could get some affirmation for the worthwhile and important things that I do, but I don't. Oddly, J is my biggest advocate and greatest supporter and admirer. He sees what a good job I do with the kids and he notices when I bust out a few pomodori and get the house looking great. More importantly, he never complains when he gets home and it looks as if we were robbed, or a bomb went off, or both. And then I go and get mad at him and accuse him of making my life more difficult when rough houses with Theo and gives him noisy kisses while I'm getting ready for bed. Sure, it wasn't easy to get Theo to sleep after that, but what gives? I'm never going to sleep well ever again. Why worry about it?! J is an awesome, loving, involved dad. That's more than enough; it's wonderful.
I recently heard a woman with an impressive career, in the last trimester of her pregnancy with her first child, lambast a homeschooling mother of four, saying that the homeschooling mother really has no place telling her daughters that they can be whatever they want to be when they grow up. My first reaction was, of course they can't because we all know women have to make tough choices between career and family and fitness and discretionary income and I started in on my response, "No kidding," I sighed, and she jumped right back in and volleyed, "Right?! I mean, she's the worst role model for female empowerment ever!" And then she laughed and I really sighed. It is not fair that we set women like her up to think it's possible to have it all. And it's even more unfair to discount the work of the homeschooling mother of four to being such a failure that she doesn't have any place in encouraging her daughters.
I can see that it's up to me to find a way through this. I am so exhausted I could snap, and yet I have to understand that to most people, it looks like I don't work. I'm not fully clear on my feelings on this far-reaching subject, but I'm getting there. And now, despite the fact that I'd like to edit this and read if over before publishing, Theo has woken up from his nap. We're going to get out of the car where he prefers to nap these days, go inside and change his diaper. I'm going to get a load of laundry in, cook some lunch, eat and feed him, rotate the laundry, clean up, take him for a little walk, come back, rotate the laundry and fold the first load, deep clean the bathroom, change his diaper, go to the grocery store and post office, come back in time to see J off to his class this evening, help Coco finish the bookmaking project she started this morning before school and write a little story together. Then it will be time to make dinner, fold the last load of laundry, get the kids in the bath, read them stories, get them off to bed and then clean up some more. I chose this. I choose this. I am doing valuable, respectable things with my time and energy. It's up to me to believe that it's enough.
(Sweet photo of J and baby Coco circa 2012)