Thirty minutes ago found me sitting in the dark parking lot of our neighborhood grocery store in my mom-car, all alone for the first time in over 48 hours and stuffing my face with White Cheddar Cheese flavored Pirate's Booty snack puffs. As I furtively crammed handful after handful of the stuff into my mouth hoping that no-one I knew would notice me gorging on the tasty flavor of artificial cheese, these thoughts flickered through my mind:
(1) Ahhhhhh.... I feel better.
(2) Oh crud, is this what they mean by a life of quiet desperation? They'll be making a movie about me on the Lifetime channel in no time.
I am probably not the only 35 year old mother of three so exhausted by my tribe that I occasionally resort to hiding in my car to scarf down junk food in secret. There are probably other mothers out there somewhere who volunteer to run errands at night when their husbands get home, just to get ten minutes of peace for themselves.
Even though I know in theory that I am probably NOT alone in this... I still scrunched further down while polishing off THE ENTIRE BAG of chips and actually jumped when the person parked next to me unlocked their vehicle. I looked up from my snack food reverie to see an elderly man peering at me through my passenger window, God only knows what he was thinking.
There I sat, busted. A pathetic middle-aged Caucasian stay-at-home mom alone in the dark, hiding in her 3 car-seated vehicle, covered from ear to ear in white faux-cheese powder. Giving the man a feeble smile and a wave I pretended it was no big deal that he'd just caught me in this private act of self-centered indulgence... I put on my seat belt, turned my key in the ignition and backed away from my own humiliation.
How is it possible that I have gone from rebellious teen to rebellious parent?
Thinking this over, I think it is perhaps because I have lost all sense of independence and autonomy in the last few years. Here is a brief list of the things that have changed now that I am a full time mother:
- No eating junk food or excessive amounts of ice cream in front of the kids
- No cussing in front of the kids
- No going out for late nights on the town
- No live music. We used to go out 4 nights a week...
- No going out spontaneously
- Actually, no $ to go out at all!
- No career
- No uninterrupted conversations with my husband before 9pm
- My husband now goes to bed at 9pm
- No sleeping in
- No sleep!
- No Sunday brunch
- No privacy
- No using the bathroom by myself
- Such a heavy weight of responsibility, all of the time
Just last night my daughter was up screaming for about four of the six hours that I was supposed to be asleep, and I kept thinking 'I need a break, I need a break' but in reality there is nobody to give me a break because I am the mommy and the mommy keeps on truckin'.
All three children were home today thanks to a fever and the fact that I've lost my wallet so I couldn't drive the smaller boy up to his new school. The three of them spent over twelve hours harassing each other physically and mentally, interspersed with brief moments of truce and laughter.
This afternoon my three year old was rough-housing with his older brother outside on a wooden bench sitting on our cement patio. He lost his footing, fell backward, smacked his skull on the concrete. I saw the whole thing in slow-motion and just about vomited. Thank God he seems to be okay but honestly, I'm not sure how much more my adrenals can take.
An hour later, his older brother knocked him in the head again, on purpose, out of anger. It took all the self control in my being to send the five year old to time out without yelling.
So this is the confession of a very, very tired mom:
Sometimes, I just want to hide from my children. I want to vanish into a closet or a cupboard and sit in perfect stillness for an entire hour while someone else answers the call of their incessant crying. I wish someone else could carry this never-ending burden of worry for me, so that I could just be myself again for a short while.
Who is that self?
Honestly, I don't even know anymore. I'm not sure I would recognize her if we met on the street. I might even chuckle, in a conversation with my old self... thinking, "Wow, she still has SO much to learn". I'm sure I would envy her smooth skin and lack of gray hair; and the sheer optimism with which she looked at everything. I am jealous of her freedom. I miss you, Young Optimistic Me.
That said, I WOULD NOT TRADE. ONE SINGLE DAY WITH MY KIDS. FOR ANYTHING.
If I have to choose between them and me, I choose them.
I just wish I could have both. I'm really working toward a time when I can have my crazy-intense-wonderful-adorable-stubborn-lovable-exhausting children AND myself. I believe it must be possible... and I'm hanging on (sometimes with the deeply necessary assistance of cheese puffs) until I can find the way.