As a stay-at-home-mom, I am profoundly aware of all the expectations synonymous with that role: perfect hair, perfect make-up, trendy clothes, a new car that sparkles, children that always sparkle and smile, a home that sparkles (after all, you're home all day so what else would you be doing but tidying up?) so brightly and consistently it could be photographed for any realtor's listing or home decorating magazine in a moment's notice, and to be fulfilled in the quest and maintenance of above achievements and many, many more. Becoming a better mother, wife, housekeeper, cook, etc. is always open for discussion. "You should try this...," or, "Have you thought of this?" and especially, "Oh, you just need to...!" What I have yet to hear is, "Do you feel lonely, too?"
My girls are the sweetest and cutest things in the world at 4 and 2 years old, but they are also the most oblivious, needy little creatures in the world at 4 and 2. It seems ironic that I could be surrounded by such boisterous, animated, and passionate little girls all day, every day and still manage to feel lonesome. Nevertheless, it's usually right before bed time, when we're all cranky and tired, that those all-too-familiar forlorn feelings creep in.
With my hands full, and my arms outstretched, I always take a deep breath, tilt my head back, look up, and close my eyes as if I'm stepping into the shower and that first surge of warm water is going to wash all the stress and gloom away. I hope all the confusion and frustration leaves me as I exhale, instead of the alternative.
I often think, "Why do I feel lonely?! I never could have dreamt my life to be so wonderful! My children are vivacious and healthy! My husband is dedicated and supportive! What is wrong with me?! This is so annoying. I'm actually annoying myself."
Other moms talk about the loss of freedom, of friends, of their old waistline, but not about feeling isolated. True to form, I'm going to talk about it. As I do, I've already researched this hush-hush topic online and, as I also do, am scoffing at the solutions- learn how to knit, give cooking/baking a try, start tweeting or blogging (ahem), join a new playgroup, or...get a pen pal? Huh? Those aren't solutions. Those are band-aids. I squeeze in as much social activity as possible (church two nights a week, date night once a month, girls' night once every couple months, play dates when I can, facebooking incessantly every day) and I have enough hobbies as it is. But that's not going to change what I experience when the clock strikes midnight, date night is over, we're headed to pick up the kids, and it all starts again the next morning. My husband's solution to situations like this is always to run to Redbox or the last remaining Blockbuster in our area and rent a WWII movie. He's a huge WWII buff and has been consistently validated in thinking that no matter the storyline, if it's about WWII, you're going to feel a heck of a lot better about your life after it's over. However, I've seen enough of those to
The point is, I don't want to feel like this when I'm with my girls, my angels, my gifts from God. So, I need a new strategy (ever since this moment on Saturday Night Live, I always say "strategery" in my head), a new perspective, a new brain pattern- not another new hobby. The past few years have been just a little too chaotic what with the girls born 23 months apart, the two times our house was on the market, the building of our new home, and the settling into a new lifestyle all in a brand-new marriage. I need to add some structure to our household. I need to breathe new life into each room. I need to hear about others' struggles as parents so I can relate to and learn from theirs in order to appreciate mine even more. I've known this chapter was approaching for a while- a time to regroup. But trying to cram a new career into my already overcrowded can of sardines has sped up the process a bit. Something's gotta give. It's going to be my attitude.
I have some reading material lined up that will hopefully crack open a new part of my brain, or wipe the cobwebs off an old one. I'm open to suggestions but I think I'm going to start with Parenting with Love and Logic, The Strong-Willed Child, Coach Mom, and one I've been wanting to read forever, No Wonder My Parents Drank by the comedian Jay Mohr.
Until I (yet again) find some time to read these books and report back of any rare gems, I'm going to share two things with you- one is a little secret of mine and the other is some comedic relief.
A few years ago, one of the firefighters emailed me a video. I'm surprised I even watched it because I was much more cynical and bitter then, but I did. And, as melodramatic as the speaker is, I was able to pull something from the video that has kept me from rocking back and forth in a corner on a few occasions, "I am not invisible to Him." Originally, I only watched part of it. Now that I've seen the whole part about the book of cathedrals, it's making me want to re-read an absolute favorite of mine, Pillars of the Earth.
Lastly, I know this has been a heavy post and I feel the need to remind you that I haven't lost my sense of humor in all this enlightenment and self-improvement. This was passed around on facebook a few years ago and I think about the 'Octopus Lesson 5' on almost a daily basis:
"Thinking of Having Kids?
Do this 11-step program first!
1. Go to the grocery store.
2. Arrange to have your salary paid directly to their head office.
3. Go home.
4. Pick up the newspaper.
5. Read it for the last time.
Before you finally go ahead and have children, find a couple who already
are parents and berate them about their:
1. Methods of discipline.
2. Lack of patience.
3. Appallingly low tolerance levels.
4. Allowing their children to run wild.
5. Suggest ways in which they might improve their child's breast
feeding, sleep habits, toilet training, table manners, and overall
behavior. Enjoy it because it will be the last time in your life you
will have all the answers.
A really good way to discover how the nights might feel:
1. Get home from work and immediately begin walking around the living
room from 5PM to 10PM carrying a wet bag weighing approximately 8-12
pounds, with a radio turned to static (or some other obnoxious sound)
playing loudly. Eat cold food with one hand for dinner.
2. At 10PM, put the bag gently down, set the alarm for midnight,
and go to sleep.
3. Get up at 12 and walk around the living room again,
with the bag, until 1AM.
4. Set the alarm for 3AM.
5. As you can't get back to sleep, get up at 2AM and make a drink and
watch an infomercial.
6. Go to bed at 2:45AM.
7. Get up at 3AM when the alarm goes off.
8. Sing songs quietly in the dark until 4AM.
9. Get up. Make breakfast. Get ready for work and go to work. Work hard
and be productive.
Repeat steps 1-9 each night. Keep this up for 3-5 years. Look cheerful
Can you stand the mess children make? To find out:
1. Smear peanut butter onto the sofa and jam onto the curtains.
2. Hide a piece of raw chicken behind the stereo and leave it there all summer.
3. Stick your fingers in the flower bed.
4. Then rub them on the clean walls.
5. Take your favorite book, photo album, etc. Wreck it.
6. Spill milk on your new pillows. Cover the stains with crayons. How does that look?
Dressing small children is not as easy as it seems.
1. Buy an octopus and a small bag made out of loose mesh.
2. Attempt to put the octopus into the bag so that none of the arms hang out.
Time allowed for this - all morning.
Forget the BMW and buy a mini-van. And don't think that you can leave it
out in the driveway spotless and shining. Family cars don't look like that.
1. Buy a chocolate ice cream cone and put it in the glove compartment.
Leave it there.
2. Get a dime. Stick it in the CD player.
3. Take a family size package of chocolate cookies. Mash them into the
back seat. Sprinkle cheerios all over the floor, then smash them with your foot.
4. Run a garden rake along both sides of the car.
Go to the local grocery store. Take with you the closest thing you can
find to a pre-school child. (A full-grown goat is an excellent choice).
If you intend to have more than one child, then definitely take more
than one goat. Buy your week's groceries without letting the goats out
of your sight. Pay for everything the goat eats or destroys. Until you
can easily accomplish this, do not even contemplate having children.
1. Hollow out a melon.
2. Make a small hole in the side.
3. Suspend it from the ceiling and swing it from side to side..
4. Now get a bowl of soggy Cheerios and attempt to spoon them into the
swaying melon by pretending to be an airplane.
5. Continue until half the Cheerios are gone.
6. Tip half into your lap. The other half, just throw up in the air.
You are now ready to feed a nine- month-old baby.
Learn the names of every character from Sesame Street, Little Einstein's, Disney,
the Blues Clues, and Team Umizoomi. Watch nothing else on TV but PBS, the Disney
channel, Sprout or Noggin for at least five years. (I know, you're thinking
What's 'Noggin'?) Exactly the point.
Make a recording of Fran Drescher saying 'mommy' repeatedly.(Important:
no more than a four second delay between each 'mommy'; occasional
crescendo to the level of a supersonic jet is required). Play this tape
in your car everywhere you go for the next four years. You are now ready
to take a long trip with a toddler.
Start talking to an adult of your choice. Have someone else continually
tug on your skirt hem, shirt- sleeve, or elbow while playing the 'mommy'
tape made from Lesson 10 above. You are now ready to have a conversation
with an adult while there is a child in the room.
This is all very tongue-in-cheek; anyone who is parent will say, 'It's
all worth it.' Share it with your friends, both those who do and those who do
not have kids. I guarantee they'll get a chuckle out of it. Remember, a
sense of humor is one of the most important things you need as a parent!"
Thanks for stopping by. I feel a little less lonely already. ;-)
Six months later...I wrote an update in "Re|Engage."
60,000 (and counting) hits later, I realized I'm not alone.