A few weeks ago, I was at the grocery store with the kids when I inadvertently ran into somebody that I kind of knew. We weren't friends, but knew of each other through other groups. She of course looked pristine, put together, HAD PROBABLY SHOWERED. Her kid was dressed and was sitting perfectly quiet in the shopping cart.
Me, on the other hand, looked a little something like this: yoga pants that I'm sure hadn't been washed in a week (or longer.) Hair was messy as hell and barely situated on top of my head. No makeup. Old (probably maternity) shirt that had a hole in it. Ugg boots. I most definitely had not showered any time in the recent past. My kids? Screaming at the top of their lungs and fighting over the steering wheels in the "race car" cart. Did I mention that it was well past noon? The look on her face was somewhere between disgust and pity. Needless to say, we didn't talk long, Or really at all. I think we exchanged pleasantries and moved on. Who could blame her? I was a hot fucking mess.
The sad truth to this is that it wasn't just a bad day. That scenario I described is almost every single day of my life. My kids are shitty sleepers. I'm often up multiple times a night, and typically up for good by 6am. Lucas has been anti-nap for quite a while now, and even on the rare occasion when I can get him to take one, it's NEVER at the same time as Max. My husband's job means lots of travel, which equates to solo parenting for weeks at a time. By the time the kids go to bed (sometimes 10pm after a two hour fight with my oldest) WHO WANTS TO SHOWER WHEN YOU CAN SLEEP? Not this girl.
If you do a search on Pinterest, or google, or wherever, for life as a SAHM, you'll quickly find that most of these blogs or articles are filled with ways to stay busy. How great it is. Or how to make money (for reals). How to apply flawless makeup (FOR REALS). Budgets! Crafts! The usual. But very rarely (I had to dig deep) did I find anything about the emotional turmoil that comes with being at home with small kids. Something HONEST. I mean, there were a few, but typically it was paired with an article about giving yourself a break (which you should), letting go, not worrying (easier said than done) and about how just being present for your kids is the most important thing. Which, is all true, but doesn't solve the problem of finding the time for everything else that needs to be accomplished on the daily, or more importantly, finding time for yourself. There's a trifecta in parenthood -- clean house, happy kids, your sanity -- and it's completely impossible to have all three at once.
But, I'm all about keepin' it real, so let's do just that, shall we? When we made the decision for me to stay at home, Lucas was about 18 months old, and I was about six months pregnant with Max. We knew we would be PCS'ing, and shortly after I left my job we found out we were coming here. Since that decision, it has been a challenge. I won't lie in saying that I would much rather be working. But where we are, this isn't necessarily an option, and that's fine! So we make the best of the situation (and being able to pick up and travel all over Europe at the drop of a hat isn't a bad perk to being here!). But here's the truth -- being here, at home, all day (and often alone) is hard. It's taxing on my emotions. It's exhausting. It's isolating. There is very little escape. Day in and day out, my life is about somebody else. Obviously, this comes with the territory of having kids, and I don't regret that. But I will also admit that it's not always ideal.
My days are often filled with every emotion imaginable. On any given day I feel like a volcano waiting to erupt, with only an egg shell to keep me together. When my husband comes home, or calls at the end of the day and asks me how my day went, I can feel that eggshell start to crack and it takes everything I have to keep it together. My kids, man, are busy. Lucas is a particular challenge, and I spend a good part of the day defending his brother from him. This is an issue that I am not sure how to deal with, and I don't know if it's normal boy toddler behavior, but the maliciousness towards Max is rampant. Dealing with it is exasperating. Max is still up nightly, anywhere between one and three times during the course of an evening. Lucas hates naps, hates bedtime, and fights me on everything. Hour long tantrums in our household are the norm. Our preschool teacher back in NC once referred to Lucas as "the cutest little hurricane you've ever seen." Because that's what he is. A hurricane. Max, I am afraid, is not far behind him. My heart alters between undying love for my children and wanting to run far, far away as fast as is humanly possible. It's a roller coaster of feelings, and let me tell you -- that will wear a person down.
Nobody wants to hear you complain about your kids. This is the stuff that dreams are made of, right? If I do take to the usual platforms to complain or vent, it's often replied to by remedy's. Or personal tales of how their kids don't do those things.
Or just ... crickets.
But here's the truth, and, I know some won't like this -- I don't necessarily want to hear about how GREAT your kids are, either, and how much you love it, what wonderful, stress free days you have. At least not ALL THE TIME. Am I happy for you that it's so easy? Sure. But do I think you're being 100% truthful? No way. So therein lies a massive problem in the SAHM community; we isolate moms who may be having a tough time, and who may be struggling emotionally in the home because we glorify life AS a stay-at-home-mom. Who wants to talk about how you got bitched slapped by your three year old when somebody else is talking about what a wonderful, calm and educational environment you have created at home? I have yet to meet the perfect infant or toddler, yet so many out there pretend that life is, in fact, perfect. So why speak up if we are struggling when we know we will just be met with those glaring eyes at the grocery store when we can't get it together? I don't want your perfection anywhere near me, judging me for not having showered in a week & thinking I am ungrateful for the experience handed to me.
Plain and simple, I don't want your sympathy. I want your empathy. I don't want you to say "I'm sorry you are dealing with that. We don't have that problem." I want you to say "Dude, my kid was an asshole the other day, too. I UNDERSTAND."
It's safe to say that life is not all bad. We have a lot of great moments, snuggle sessions and activities that fill our days. It's easy, however, to let the bad overshadow the good. My worst days are the days that I am here, alone, for long stretches with out any reprieve, and I don't have anybody to help me with the mutiny that is always brewing. That's when my glorious babysitter steps in, or the hourly daycare place I drive 45 minutes to just for a break from have two hellions running around the house. Or my sweet, sweet husband who sends me to the grocery store along (BLISS) on the weekends he is here and on occasion, my mom who can make it over for a weekend or so. I live for bedtime and the silence that comes with it, and I dread the morning when I know it's the beginning of another marathon I'm not always sure I can endure.
So here is my advice to you; hug a stay-at-home-mom. Or just, you know, A MOM IN GENERAL. Especially the ones with multiple littles. Open yourself up. Be honest. Even if your life is perfect, LIE. Try to relate to the struggles that someone may be going through, because sometimes, all we need to do is get it out. Keeping this mess locked up inside us doesn't help anybody, and one day, that egg shell is going to break, exposing the volcano that is a mental & physical breakdown. Parenting is really fucking hard, and by keeping your experience to yourself just for the sake of saving face, you push away those close to you that may need an outlet. Don't be pretentious. Don't be perfect. Just be real.
And for god's sake -- bring her wine.