Tuesday, October 27, 2009

I Need Coffee, More Coffee, More, More, More Coffee.

It's a busy, crazy time in our house right now. The girls' school schedules, parent-teacher conferences, Halloween parties, various autumn events around town, some serious career stress (too long and complicated to explain here), volunteer work, an annoying running injury, insomnia, and my upcoming book trip are all making my life and my schedule a little insane at the moment.

I was all set to run a whole lot in September and October, give up sugar and cut down on caffeine, and lose my errant five-to-seven pounds of baby fat before I go to Chicago next month; instead, a mysterious achy knee and ever-present sleep deprivation (snoring spouse! toddler who wakes up multiple times overnight! insomnia!) mean I've been skipping workouts and mainlining coffee and sugar to keep going. I was all set to do some serious book proposal writing this month and feel like I've finally done something with the ideas in my head; instead, I've made a few notes and then found myself sitting at the computer distracted by things like school fundraisers and my inability to be more patient with my children. It's not totally bleak, but it certainly could be better, people. At least I'm not alone in my mama-stress.

Yesterday while Julia was listening to a Raffi song that goes, "All I really need/Is a song in my heart/Food in my belly/And love in my family," I overheard her say to Christopher, "Daddy, Mama doesn't give me very much love. It's because I'm not acting very good." Of course I kiss and hug this child and tell her I love her when she wakes up in the morning, when she goes to bed at night, when she climbs aboard the school bus, when I see her face after kindergarten each day, and when I put her down for nap, but the truth is, my girls are on a defiant, disrespectful, and uncooperative streak these days, and prefer saying "No, I'm not going to!" to pretty much every request I make from morning until night. And those are the "polite" responses. Don't forget about the shouts, screams, and tantrums that pepper our days lately. The whole issue is terribly depressing, and I tend to respond to constant uncooperativeness and argumentativeness with relentless irritability, which eventually translates into impatience and yelling. It's not hard to see where this cycle leads. The New York Times ran a piece last week about parents who yell, and though before having children I never thought I'd be the parent with the frequently raised voice, when my patience and my resources run thin I'm afraid I'm a yeller. It's the worst thing about me, by far.

In truth, I know that all we really need in this house is a couple of hours per week of (free) extended-family childcare to throw us back into balance when it comes to putting up with one another's annoying behaviors. It doesn't take much to inoculate me with a dose of patience; just a tiny break (on a regular basis; this part is KEY) from the often-irrational demands of these small children. But it's not possible for us. And we don't have the money to pay for a weekly sitter; I just did our family's budget, and you can trust me on this one. Come over and look at the numbers if you don't believe me. People sometimes suggest an occasional babysitting-swap or calling in a favor to a friend, but those suggestions just aren't getting at the real problem. A couple of hours of babysitting a few times a year does nothing for me in terms of making my daily life as a stay-at-home mom with a three-year-old and a five-year-old more livable. It just isn't enough.

What could fix this problem? Running more, writing the book proposal, making more money, losing the baby weight, moving to be near grandparents? What's the solution, people? How do you grow patience and serenity, when your life, in actuality, is full of crazy schedules and not enough money and a husband with too many jobs (paid and unpaid) and middle-of-the-night insomnia and two tiny daughters whom you love more than life itself but who also drive you absolutely insane when they fuss at you from 6:30 a.m. until 6:30 p.m. every day and refuse to wear weather-appropriate attire?

I sure don't know. But then again, a close friend's teenage brother was just severely injured in a terrible car accident over the past weekend, and is in the hospital ICU right now, and events like that really make you appreciate the "problems" you think you have. I mean, I love autumn, I'm thrilled about my publication in the book, we're all healthy, and life is fine. Except for the ways in which it's not.


Donna said...


Even though my family/child care situation is very different from yours, I can totally relate to what you're going through. I think every parent can. And the most frustrating part is feeling paralyzed with not being able to fix it - especially when you know what CAN fix it. *sigh*

I think we all get run-down with life and are too short/impatient with our kids. I don't know if it helps to know that you're not alone....

But, I totally agree with you about perspective. In the past week, my best friend's dad died as well as another friend's 4 year old daughter. And even though things like that put things into perspective, it doesn't mean it's going to snap you out of your funk just knowing you have it 'better' than someone else.

I wish I could help. I would totally babysit your kids if I were closer.

Mnmom said...

You are TOTALLY not alone!

Kids can reach down inside and pull out handfuls of anger (and love!) that you didn't know existed inside you.

And our societal structure of living apart from relatives makes it even harder. In a perfect world, some auntie or grandma would intervene and tell them to stop pestering their mother.

And reasoning with them is pointless, totally pointless. They don't get it, they CAN'T get it.

I confess I put the twins in preschool just because I needed the break.

Mary S. said...

Shannon: This sounds so familiar. At one point when my kids were young (I think I only had one at the time), a friend and I worked out a regular babysitting thing. This was not a play-date. It was so we could work: I think I had the kids (two girls, the same age) on Tuesdays and she had them on Wednesdays -- or something like that. It only lasted a few months -- and I had some additional paid child care (she didn't) -- but at the time it worked really well for both of us and the kids enjoyed it too. You may want to look around among your friends and acquaintances for someone who has a similar situation. The other option for a discrete project (such as the book proposal) is to take a weekend and just not be available to the kids -- although, frankly, any time I tried that I found the pay-back (in screaming, etc.) to not be worth it.