Wednesday, May 14, 2008

What-to-Do Wednesdays: You Tell Me

OK, so What-to-Do Wednesdays is supposed to be a weekly idea for a fun activity to keep the wee ones busy for a few minutes while Mama drinks some coffee (or, more frequently, helps with the activity).

But people, this week I'm lying down on the job. (I wish I were ACTUALLY lying down, but whatever.) And I'm sorry about that.

We had a terrible day here yesterday, the kind of day you wish you could erase from your parenting memory forever. No one got hurt, no one ran away (though I was sorely tempted), and I'm sure no permanent damage was done to any of our psyches. But it left me so stressed and exhausted that it was probably not a coincidence that at my last-evening hair appointment up in the suburbs, I not only spent a ridiculous amount of money for my hairdresser to pretty me up with way more blonde highlights than usual, I also had her chop off nearly three inches of my (previously very long) hair. I think I was searching for some kind of liberation, and thought that a little less blowdrying might serve me well. Or maybe I was just craving some self-care.

Every now and then I feel like I'll go crazy if I don't get, say, a night in a hotel with black-out curtains, or a parents' weekend away without the babies, or even just eight hours of uninterrupted sleep. But I always feel too broke (please, no comments about the highlights, above; I can't take it today) or too confused or too tired or too babysitter-less to make it happen. But then I end up more tired, more stressed, and with even less relief in sight.

A friend just told me that she and another friend were talking recently about how it seems like any minute now this day-to-day parenting life should start feeling easier--fewer diapers, after all; less nursing; more self-dressing skills, right?!--and yet it doesn't. More accurately, surely sometimes it does. But the day-in, day-out fog of taking care of preschoolers-and-under is certainly still in full form, and we're all still in the thick of it. I've been told several times in the last few months alone, by moms of children older than mine, that I'm "right in the middle of the hardest part", and that "it gets way, way easier." I don't doubt that "easier" is a relative term, and that five-year-olds and seven-year-olds and, good lord, fifteen-year-olds--are difficult to parent in their own ways. But I do take seriously the affirming smiles and nods of the kindergartners' moms, the moms of second-graders, when they express relief that they're no longer "in the thick of it," whatever that thick of it happens to be for all of us. It means maybe I won't always be this tired and desperate for self-care.

You tell me, Internet. How do YOU take care of yourself, when the nights are too short and you can't sleep past five and your to-do list is too long and you've got birthdays to plan and errands to run and cooking to do and that damn salmon pasta salad that's going to go bad before anyone can stomach making another meal out of it? You tell me.


Christopher Tassava said...

There's no reason in the world you can't hit the Cities for an overnight trip soon! This weekend!

Shan said...

But....I meant with YOU.

Mnmom said...

You need some sitters! Get to know our family and then you can bring them over here for babysitting and you can take a nap in your own bed!

And yes, this too shall pass. Parenting is never "easy" but it does get less physically demanding. I was you about 10 years ago. Now I go out for coffee occasionally, once in a while watch a prime-time TV show, take one child at a time out for dinner, etc.

When I was pregnant with my twins, other twin Moms would tell me that the first few years are HELL. And they were right. So when I'd start to feel totally inadequate and tired, and sleep deprived, and CRAZED I would remember "Oh yeah, it's Hell, so I'm actually doing OK".

You are in the HELL stages of early childhood parenting. Some days your standards just have to lower all the way to the bottom of Maslow's Hierarchy. Are they fed? Are they safe? Then you've done your job. Even if they ate Ritz Crackers and OJ all day and watched way too much TV.

Anonymous said...

Just remember, hon, even on your worst day, it's still a damn good day. I know you and I know the kind of mama you are and no doubt you can "lax" it up a bit and still be okay. Again, I so wish I lived there. You know I'd take those sweet girls for a weekend and love every minute of it while you and C. snuggled it up at the St Paul Hotel.....