I haven’t been very proud of myself lately. At least once a day, I feel like my head is going to explode. About once a week I actually do explode, to the dismay of my family. These bursts of extreme frustration and stress and total weariness almost always happen between four and five pm. Can all moms agree that’s about the worst hour of the day?? I hate it. HATE. IT. Everyone is hungry and searching through the pantry and fridge for a snack, even though I’m literally standing right there working on dinner. The boys are SO whiny, either complaining that they’re starving, begging to play video games, arguing with me if I say no, asking for some other thing that I can’t do for them while I’m trying to make dinner, complaining about homework instead of just doing it, and fighting with each other all while we wait for Greg to get home. He probably dreads coming home because he always walks right into the middle of whatever the mess of the day happens to be. I always have the best of intentions to get a nice dinner on the table and have us all happily sit together and eat a pleasant meal. But by the time the food is ready, Greg is home, they’re all off doing legos or something, and then nobody wants to come eat. Half the time Caden is in a time out for his own explosion during that hour. I’m irritated that once again nothing has gone to plan. Greg is silent trying to avoid me bursting out. And Shepard is usually moaning and groaning because he doesn’t like what we’re having, or the meat isn’t cut exactly right, or nobody brought over his BBQ sauce and walking all the way to the fridge is just so hard.
This past Sunday afternoon I was once again in kitchen working on dinner. Greg requested pizza since we didn’t have it on Friday and I’m going to be gone the next two Fridays. Pizza requires bacon in our house. So first I had to cook the bacon. Then I started thinking about this maple bacon scone recipe I saw in one of my new cookbooks (Eat Delicious) and figured if I was already making bacon, I might as well make the scones! And then I made the pizza. While I was doing all this, internally I was just stewing. Last week I didn’t get nearly enough sewing done. I was frustrated with myself and determined to make up for it on Sunday. So I spent the entire day sitting at my work table and sewing up some little witches that I needed to get listed Monday morning so they had a chance to sell before Wednesday when I had to put the shop on vacation mode. Meanwhile, the guys all fended for themselves, spending most of the day playing video games or building legos. Which was fine, really. They work hard at school and work all week and deserve to have fun and let loose on the weekends. But I was starting to feel extremely resentful that every night and weekend they get to do what they want WITHOUT GUILT. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I want them to feel guilt. Because it sucks. I just want myself to stop feeling the guilt! It consumes me. All day, every day. Every time I stop to read a chapter in a book I can’t stop thinking about the laundry that needs to be folded. Every time I break to cook a meal, I can’t stop berating myself for not sewing fast enough and getting more done. Every time I take a nap or take Annie for a longer walk, I’m thinking about all the stupid dump piles of crap that everyone leaves around the house and never ever puts away and how if I just dedicated a single day to cleaning all that up it wouldn’t be that hard and it wouldn’t be there anymore. Why doesn’t anyone else see those messes?! Why does it bother me so much?? Why can’t I just enjoy my life for what it is?
Anyway, Greg walked by me while I was in the kitchen that day and touched me and I totally flipped out on him. I don’t blame him, I don’t expect anything more from him, but it still comes out sounding that way when I get too overwhelmed. I just can’t do it all and some days that makes me just about lose my mind. I felt terrible about my outburst because it ruined the night for everyone. But it also made me think that I seriously need to make some changes in my life to stop going through this cycle.
I think that one of the best things I can do for myself is to reclaim my nights and weekends. I’ve tried to start doing that since school started, and succeeded, with the exception of Sunday when I felt like I desperately needed to devote my day to catching up on dolls. Sunday, the day when everything got to be so much that I outwardly exploded instead of keeping it all in my head. I see a correlation! I think if I straight out eliminate sewing from my weeknights and most weekends, then I can’t feel guilty about it anymore. If I change my thinking to see sewing as my full time, but DAYTIME job, I can let go of it at 3:00 every day when I go to get the boys. For the last four years I’ve basically spent every possible minute working on dolls. I really do love it, but it’s begun to feel more like a burden on days I’d truly rather do something else. If I stick with this new goal, it just might be one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
I also realized I need to start delegating some responsibility to the rest of my family. Yes, I am at home during the day. But does that really mean I’m solely responsible for every single aspect of planning, shopping, cooking, random errand running, laundry, cleaning, transportation, pet care taking, and calendar maintaining? I don’t think so. Especially not now, when my kids are old enough to start taking care of a few things themselves. A new rule I started this year is that they need to empty their backpacks and put away whatever is left of their lunches immediately upon getting in the door every afternoon. So far they just whine and moan about it, but it will hopefully start to become second nature. It’s a little thing, but if it’s one less thing I have to do during that horrible part of the day? Worth it. I’ve also started making them get out their own clothes every day. They really don’t care what they wear, I don’t care what they wear, so why was I wasting precious brain time every morning getting out their clothes for them? I’m also trying to always do laundry folding when everyone is home, so they can help put things away. I hate putting clothes away. Last week Greg kept talking about how hard it was to get to Walgreen’s to pick up his prescription. I could have gotten it for him. Except I never go to Walgreen’s. And it started to really irritate me how much he was complaining about the ONE errand he has to do a MONTH. I have to run stupid errands almost every single day, whether I want to or not. So I held my ground (silently) and he eventually biked to Walgreen’s with the boys on Sunday to get his own medication. I don’t want to put any more major responsibilities on him because he does work very hard for us. And he dedicates every night and weekend to just being with the boys. Which in the end will mean a whole lot more to them than having clean laundry and a not quite so messy house. But I think I need to be a little more verbal about asking for help. Instead of just silently resenting everyone for not knowing what I need. Growing up, I remember spending every weekend helping my parents on some sort of project. Cleaning out the shed, raking leaves, cleaning our bedrooms, etc. I think it’s high time to get to more of that in our own family. Just a little bit more responsibility shared with everyone else could make my own load so much lighter.
A final change I’d like to make is prioritizing self care. Knowing that I need a break and taking it. As I write this, I’m sitting in a hotel room in Door County, by myself. At the end of summer when I was about to lose my ever loving mind, I asked Greg if I could take a vacation by myself as sort of a birthday present. He quickly agreed, which made me think I should do this a lot more often and before I reach the point of desperation. Not necessarily in three days away from my family increments, but more than I was doing. Lately, every time I leave, it just adds to my guilt. So I haven’t been taking the time that I used to take. I used to occasionally go shopping or to a movie in the evenings. Now that the boys are in school all day, it seems ridiculous to do that since nights are the only time I see them. But if I need it? I need it. I’ve been trying to take Annie for walks at night to relieve some of the tension of the evening. Sometimes Caden goes with us, which is a nice bonding time we’d never get otherwise. I’m also trying to do more of what’s important to me, and not become consumed with the accompanying guilt. When I think of the two things I love to do most in the world, it’s read and write. So I read more. And I’m trying to write more. You might have noticed I started to do individual book reviews instead of saving it all up for the end of the month post that I so look forward to. I’m also writing now, when I could be doing a myriad of other things while I’m on this solo vacation. I want to start writing so much more often than I was. Even if this blog never goes anywhere and nobody ever reads it, I’m going to keep writing.
So that’s what I’ve been dealing with lately. I feel like that’s probably what many moms are dealing with. So I’m highly encouraging everyone who feels as weary as I sometimes do to TAKE ACTION. Don’t wallow in guilt and stress and frustration. Figure out what you need to do to change your life and make it happen. You matter too.