D is for difficult.
Some may call it post-partum depression. Some may call it a nervous breakdown. Some call it anxitey. Others just call it motherhood. Or maybe it’s a combo of all of these things, and more. Stress coupled with sleep deprivation and endless demands over the course of months (or years) usually ends in some form of breakage. Raise your hand if you know what I’m talking about. For me, breakage finally took it’s toll in September of 2016.
At that point, we had been in Brooklyn for almost 18 months and in that span of time I had survived a summer in my third trimester with three kids aged 5 and under, welcomed baby number four into our wolfpack while also sending the biggest wolf into the big, scary world of kindergarten. Seth had commuted to his 9-5 job and had just started working full-time for the church that we’re starting here in our neighborhood and it was a huge time of transition.
The Summer of 2016 is a complete blur. I had shifted from running on adrenaline, to running on fumes and then to running on empty; we were in survival mode. Everything seemed difficult. Single handedly slathering four kids in sunscreen? Difficult. Transferring a sleeping baby and toddler from the stroller and up two flights of stairs? Difficult. Entertaining the Big’s while the Little’s slept, even though I was so tired that it hurt? DIFF.I.CULT. You get the idea. Because it was a summer of survival, it was also a summer where we didn’t leave our comfort zone. We did the same things every week: Park, sprinklers, smoothie runs, playground, coffee shop. Repeat. I knew what worked with four little kids and was terrified to venture into uncertain territory. I didn’t have the mental capacity to think, “Will the double wide stroller fit through the door?”, “Is that playground completely enclosed?” or even “How do I get there?”. I was making sure that these kids were fed and safe; if they had fun, that was just a bonus. On the outside I may have looked like I had it all together, but only because I thought that I was okay. Yes, I was tired and yes I was stretched thin but that’s just what comes with the parenting territory, right? I did the things that needed to be done because things needed to get done. Boys need to run, eat and sleep so that’s what we did. I didn’t have time to actually contemplate if I was okay, but the truth is that I wasn’t.
Yes, I tried to look cute. I may have been seen with a dress on or maybe some scrubby jean shorts, a tank and some lipstick, but that wasn’t because I was perfectly put together. I would put a little extra effort into the way that I looked on the outside because that was one of the things that I actually felt like I could control. I couldn’t predict when the next tantrum would rear it’s ugly head or which of the boys I’d have to remove from a situation for stealing a toy at the playground, but I could choose my Posie K lipkit and have my confidence momentarily boosted even though I felt like a hot mess because my kids ran around the park like crazy people or my apartment was a disaster.
When September 2016 rolled around, I was expecting life to get a whole lot easier. The Fall air would cool everything down, I would have two of the four kids in school and Seth would be working closer to home. Easy, right? Wrong. Fall didn’t start until October, the Big’s were going to different school’s twenty blocks apart and the baby whom I once carried around from place to place without a complaint was now walking and had an opinion (and a LOUD one at that. Remember when I thought toddlers were easier than babies? Silly rabbit). I spent a month trying to transition to this new season, and instead of adapting, I atrophied. Fast. I had been doing so much and carrying so much for so long that all of the sudden my body and my brain said, “I QUIT” and stopped functioning as they once did. Tasks that I once called easy were overwhelming. Routines that didn’t go as planned were devastating and a missed naptime or tantrum would completely put me over the edge. I found myself functioning, but barely. Living, but not really. I was doing the bare minimum every day to keep the boys fed and loved, but it involved a lot of TV, a lot of PB&J’s and pizza and less of the things that I wanted for them like home cooked meals and one-on-one time. Seth and I had both been worn down to the point where there was barely anything left to give. We were trapped with fires popping up all around us but with no energy to put them out.
Then on November 7th, after months of feeling this way I finally was able to articulate all of my feelings in a word-vomit text to one of my very favorite people:
“WARNING: crazy text alert.
So, parenting is hard. I keep thinking that we're coming out of these challenging times, but what it really is is that we just keep going from challenging to very challenging and then back to challenging again. Does that make sense?? Seth and I are just so exhausted all the time, and we feel like we're functioning as teammates rather than husband and wife these days, for survival's sake. I keep shoving disappointment, frustration and anger away, but feel like I'm on the verge of a meltdown at any moment but have to keep it together, because I have no choice but to power through.
I'm personally having a hard time trying to balance all of the household duties and kid duties, and nothing ever feels fully accomplished. Everything is half done, because before I get a chance to finish there's a fire to put out elsewhere. I also keep hearing, "you were a better mom when you only had 2 kids" and "the house would be so much cleaner if you hadn't had all these kids" or "there's no way you can get organized with the kids around all the time" in the back of my head, which isn’t helpful.
Amos is still hard. Hudson has an attitude. Wyatt is as sweet as ever, but gets forgotten because he's so laid-back. Brooks is wanting to communicate but gets frustrated when we don't understand.
So, that's our life in a nutshell right now. Any prayers would be deeply appreciated.”
Overwhelmed. Angry. Exhausted. Sleep deprived. Bitter. On edge. Frustrated. Helpless.
Am I the only one who sends out texts like this? Am I the only one who feels these things? Let me take a gamble and say NO. These feelings are real, deep and take a toll on even the most optimistic and joyful person. I know, because that was me. That is me.
I know that I’ve already said this, but it needs to be said again - parenting tiny people (and big kids), no matter how many you have, is capital D difficult. DIFFICULT. It seems difficult because IT IS difficult. We think we’re having a hard time because WE ARE having a hard time. Yes, it is amazing, fulfilling, exciting and (dare I say) fun, but it’s also okay if the challenges and demands of motherhood outweighs the good for a season. It’s okay to say, “Parenting sucks right now”. That’s not unusual! How many times have I heard, “I don’t know how you do it?”, “Better you than me” or, “There’s so many of them”?
Translation: You have a hard job and you’re doing it better than I could.
Seriously. Think about it.
People may not express that exact sentiment in the moment, but when you boil it down, that’s the essence of what’s being said. And that essence is what you need to hear. What you do is a big deal. What you do matters. And you know what else? There’s no other parent in the world who is more perfect for your kid than you; the person who is looking at this computer screen and reading this sentence right now. You. Feelings of guilt and inadequacy might creep into your mind. Memories of ruined outings and flawed parenting. Reminders of outbursts, bad decisions and failures. Tell them to BACK OFF and tell them that YOU ARE a good parent. No, you’re a GREAT parent. Really. Do it. Don’t get caught up in a whirlwind of negativity, don’t let it drag you down because you are better than the evil that speaks those things to you. You were created to do this, and you are more than able. YOU’RE A CONQUEROR. You are strong. You can do all things, if you lean on the strength of the One who loves you most. Girls, we run this motha.
Now go roar.