I was feeling frustrated the other day and I couldn't exactly put my finger on why, but then it hit me:
I am the dumping ground.
I knew it, but I didn't really know it. You know?
Life completely changed the moment we brought our second child, Ciro, home and I mean that in all of the beautiful ways life changes with a new baby. It also brings to light some tricky instances, sure, like making sure your first born doesn't feel threatened, that her needs are still met with love and attention, that she is gentle with the new baby. I think about all those times I could just place our first child, Penelope, down on top of the rug with some blankets and her toys around her, and never have to worry that a toddler was going to come running through the room and trample all over her.
Life changed in other ways too right when Ciro was born, because my husband Greg took a giant leap of faith in his career. He left the finance industry after 17 years, got his real estate license, and is now a full time realtor. This probably sounds insane to some of you but believe it when I say it wasn't a decision we took lightly or did on impulse. Greg is a smart man and a go-getter in every sense of the word, and although it was (and is) scary, I fully trust what he's doing.
Maybe that sounds naïve of me or maybe it's just my self-preservation reflexes kicking in because I just don't have the resources to worry about it. I don't have space in my head right now.
And Ciro. Ciro is... opinionated. I love that about his character but right now it does not make things easy. He doesn't do well in the stroller, so a casual "stroll" to the park hardly ever happens. He is what I call a "car seat screamer," which I think tells you everything you need to know about that. He also doesn't like to be put down very much, so any time he is in his jumper long enough for me to get breakfast on the table for Penelope in the morning is an accomplishment, but he's usually on my hip which means I'm stuck making eggs with one hand and keeping him away from the stove with the other, and suddenly I understand how easily it happened that I have that scar under my chin from the "hot soup incident" when I was a baby.
My alarm clock is the sound of him yelling for me from his crib (either that or the not-so-subtle poking of our toddler who is usually standing next to my bed staring at me like she's an extra who wandered off the set of The Shining).
Someone always needs something. They are both at tough stages right now where everything - every bite of food, every bodily function, every nap or bath or bedtime - is dependent on me. Everything feels like a fire drill.
I know it won't always be this way. And that's a fact that makes me both happy and sad at the same time.
And while Greg now technically works for himself, and certain things have become somewhat flexible -- meaning he is no longer on a 9-5 schedule -- it's not any easier because whatever schedule we had has gone right out the window. He is hustling, all the time, and he is also at the mercy of his clients, which means I can no longer anticipate concrete times and days of the week that he'll be home. He now works Saturdays, and works lots of nights as well, and as any realtor knows, showings and listing appointments come up frequently and last minute.
So, everyone is running around and needing things and scheduling things and all sorts of shit is hitting all sorts of fans and I am literally sitting here catching everyone's shit. That's my role. I'm the default person. And I'm just now coming to terms with it.
That probably sounds terrible, because I'm always supposed to be that default person, that anchor, expected to be here to catch it all, right? That's my job. And the thing is, I'm happy to do it and I think it's an honorable thing, something to take pride in.
But it's also a little bit maddening sometimes.
I realized that no one else is going to sit me down and make me drink a glass of water. Or tell me to take a walk, or hand me an hour to work on my book, or write in a journal. I need to take the reins and walk out the door and hand over the baby monitor and make myself a priority once in a while, because it's no one's fault, but no one else is going to do that. My kids certainly can't. I am lucky in that Greg is fantastic and devoted father and husband, but he is also working to launch a new career. He's stretched to max capacity, too.
Let me back up. Take what happened over the past few weeks, when we started feeding Ciro solid foods.
He became "backed up" for a while, then got a crazy rash because he kept trying to push a poop out. I had to keep him diaper-less for days to let the air get at his rash which was... interesting. I tried so many things: prune juice, then stopped feeding him foods altogether aside from breast milk (doctor's orders, to get him back to soft poop). Then they prescribed a steroid cream for the rash (which I hated the idea of and it did nothing anyway, so I stopped it pretty quickly). Then back to the prune juice and suddenly, it worked. He finally became "uncorked." I've never seen so much poop, EVER.
When it finally started coming out, it just kept coming. I was helpless, sitting there with a pack of wipes and shattered hopes because the wipes stood no chance in containing the Vesuvius-style eruption that was pouring out of him. All I could do was sit there and yell OH MY LORD WHAT IS HAPPENING until it was over.
And the eruption happened atop all the afghans my family members lovingly knitted for our babies, which if you can see past all the poop, was a beautifully poetic moment illustrating how the woven threads of family will always be there to catch your shit. (I'm pretty sure that's a Shakespeare quote. Also, sorry Grandma.)
But anyway, back to the parenting of small children. I feel like I don't have space in my head for anything else, which sounds so silly because no one outside of another in my shoes truly understands what I mean. What could be so hard?
Everything. Everything about this is hard. I'm a hard worker, I've been a hard worker my whole life, and this is the hardest I've ever worked. Ever.
Then there's the straight up stoopid stuff like trying not to lose your dignity while standing there holding out Minnie Mouse underwear in front of a toddler who is deliberately ignoring you and has no intention of assisting you in putting them on her.
But there is so much awesome in all of it, things that are beautiful, transformative, incredibly amazing -- and yes, they take every shred of your energy.
This morning in particular was intense and all I wanted to do was get outside, because that usually calms everyone down. But then I looked out the window and saw the guy who takes care of our lawn spraying a weed-killer all over it. I can't even get into all the reasons this bothers me, but I didn't know this was going to be happening and the damage was already done. We couldn't go out on our lawn for 24 hours.
With Ciro on the verge of losing his mind, I needed to get out of the house, because if he loses his mind then I start to lose my mind and the whole thing turns into a shit-show. I try to avoid going out with the two of them because it's always such a production, but you have to know how bad it was this morning that I needed to just leave with them for a little while. So we drove to get lunch, I popped Ciro in the soft carrier (one of his few happy places), we ordered, and sat down.
I really thought getting out would help make it better. But of course, Ciro lost his mind while Penelope and I tried to have lunch.
I was doing everything I could to quietly calm him down (bouncing around a little in the booth, offering him my teething bracelets, standing up) and was also taking care of Penelope, never mind contorting my body to try to squeeze in a few bites of my own lunch (which was a laughable and futile effort), when I felt the searing glare of the guy in the next booth over. I could tell immediately what he was thinking, and I knew right there what was happening: we were ruining his lunch. I felt my cheeks get hot and I was embarrassed. I contemplated leaving.
But I couldn't leave because Penelope was mid-lunch and she was actually eating it, and I was starving too. And we were almost finished.
But the real reason I couldn't leave is because fuck that guy. I was trying my best.
My phone was on the table so I hit 'record' for a few seconds to capture the madness, and thought about sending the clip to my friend later, one who I know understands all-too-well what was going down. The thought alone made me laugh and feel a little bit better about the situation. Because even though it's a mundane, uncomfortable moment, I have to see it for what it is, and I have to be able to laugh. I must FORCE myself to laugh because laughter is a gift, and without it, we would go mad.
The guy was still shooting me daggers with his eyes. Because I like to mess with people I thought about ordering a glass of wine, chugging it, and taking a selfie while breastfeeding in public just to see if the guy's head would explode, but I had no free hands for the wine and I was using all my energy reserves to cut grapes. He's lucky. Society is lucky, really, that the hands of moms are too full to stop and react to the way we are sometimes treated when we are honestly and truly trying our best.
We finished up, and got on with our day. I sent the four-second video clip to my friend later, and we laughed about it. Ciro calmed down, I took Penelope to get a cookie from the French bakery next door, and when I told her she could pick a macaroon, she made her Italian mama proud by saying, "I don't see any macaroni, Mommy."
This is my life right now. My ears are filled with screaming babies. My hands are busy carrying them around and tucking them in and brushing their hair and catching their poop. But my heart is full, and my thumbs are only a few taps away from solidarity. And for that I am thankful.
This post originally appeared on the author's blog. Alessandra Macaluso is author of The Real-Deal Bridal Bible and What a Good Eater!, available on Amazon and Kindle. She is the voice behind her blogs PunkWife.com and RealDealBrides.com, and has contributed to The Huffington Post and Scary Mommy, among other media outlets. Her original screenplay, Polar Suburbia, placed as a semi-finalist in the Moondance Film Festival. Learn more about Alessandra and her current projects at her author website AlessandraMacaluso.com.