"How are you?"
I find that question annoying these days. How am I supposed to answer? Most one-word answers such as "fine/good/wonderful" are not truthful, yet I doubt anyone who asks that question wants anything more than a polite response. Does anyone really want the truth? (Ready or not, here it comes...)
The truth is that I am exhausted, frustrated, and all too often, I feel lonely in the midst of three kids, two dogs, one husband, and our most recent addition, a fish named Silly Goose.
Certainly, there are moments of pure joy, incredible happiness, and waves of laughter. But the spaces in between those moments are anything but. I have to ask myself if this is the way it will always be. I don't think it is going to get any easier. I think I will just evolve... or maybe not.
Everyone asks in awe: how do you do it? The truth is I don't do it well at all. I stumble every day, many times, and not very gracefully either I might add:
• I wear the same clothes for days.
• I shower twice a week if I am lucky.
• The laundry never gets folded.
• I don't remember the last time I read a book.
• I don't eat well and I am lucky if I find time to cook two or three times a week.
• I am overweight from pregnancies and fertility treatments and I can't get it under control.
• I am going gray early, and I worry about staying young for my children.
• I am tired. Always tired.
• My husband is on the wrong end of my short fuse more often than not, and I'm not proud of it.
• All work and no play is making me uncharacteristically irritable.
• And worst of all, I have been losing my patience with my son.
I don't ever seem to have time to do anything. And when all of a sudden a window of opportunity seems to magically open up, I feel paralyzed. I am unable to hustle to get things done due to sheer exhaustion, feeling overwhelmed, and not knowing what to tackle first. And just as I find the strength to pick myself up and do something, a baby cries and needs me.
I spend what seems like endless hours just sitting and watching the babies figure out how to crawl, grasp, sit, and explore. Sure, it's fun for a bit here or there. But for hours? It is mind-numbing. Yet I can't really take my eyes off them because whenever I do, one inevitably gets stuck under the sofa or somehow gets the other into a chokehold. I can't work while my eyes and ears are trained on them. And phone calls? Forget about it! They instinctively demand food, attention, cuddles, diaper changes, or a venue change as soon as I start speaking to someone other than them.
I write in two-minute increments, which means a piece that should take an hour to write takes days. Or longer. Editing the photos I take, a process I love that scratches my creative itch, can never be done as thoroughly as I want. There is never time to learn new skills. I barely find time to shower and I don't remember the last time I made my hair look nice or wore it down. It's always up to avoid the yanking hands of my kids.
I have no personal space and that makes it hard when some nights, once all of the kids are sleeping, my husband wants to snuggle on the sofa. I run the other way. At 9:00 p.m., after having a child on me for most of the day, I don't want to be touched. I want to stretch out my limbs and breathe the empty air around me. I want to reclaim my sense of self, if only for a little while. And then, when I take my exhaustion and frustration out on my husband, I know that this is not the wife he deserves nor the wife I want to be.
Money is tight and I will probably have to go back to work soon. Sooner than I had hoped. We can't afford childcare to allow me to get things done during the day, much less let us escape for a date night. Most pressing on our minds, we are trying to find a house to buy and put down roots, but nothing nice is in our price range. We can't afford to keep renting where we live now, so we can either move into something smaller (even though we've outgrown our current space), or we can find something affordable far away from the community and friends we have grown to love.
So, I am frustrated with just about everything these days. Yet everyone asks me how I do it all. I simply don't. I am sorry if I made anyone think that I am superwoman or somehow perpetuated the good mother myth. The truth is that I am a normal person in extraordinary circumstances. Don't get the two confused. Because the truth of the matter is I am too overtired, overwhelmed, and overworked most of the time to do anything other than to keep on treading water.