Friday, October 25, 2013

The monster wave



(aka why I gave up)

In the spring when I left this blog I was in a bad place. Not a terrible place of loss or depression, but a difficult one just the same.

Back when I had just one child I noticed that everything went in phases. Things would be really hard for a while, but then right when it started to get a bit overwhelming an easy age would begin. This cycled continuously every few months or so for the first 3 1/2 years of her life.

My second child was just plain easy. She rarely cried, she was asleep most of the time and we could take her anywhere without any fuss or disruption. She fit perfectly into our family and aside from the needs that any baby would have like being fed or changed things were running smoothly. I was happy, I was smug. I thought I had this second child thing nailed.

Then I hit a monster wave.

Over a decade ago when I was at sea, the captain of my boat explained the basics of waves to me- how smaller waves can meet head on and combine into larger waves, and then those larger waves can meet other larger waves and combine into monster waves. That was the first thought that popped into my head when I thought about what happened to me this spring.

I won't bore you with too many details, but let's just say it wasn't easy. Neither of my children was sleeping at night (one was waking every 2 hours, the other was waking up terrified and would be up for several hours). During the day the little one was starting to climb EVERYTHING and needed to be followed everywhere, and the older one was having massive tantrums, especially when the little one was trying to nap. My oldest didn't nap at all anymore and refused to respect quiet time. Once potty trained, she regressed, having multiple accidents a day. My husband, although extremely helpful while home, was out of the house 12 hours a day with a long commute to work. I had no family or friends to help and the kids were making messes faster than I could keep up with them. Every morning I would wake up on almost no sleep and face a 12 hour day with no break, no help and no hope. I was drowning and there was nothing I could do to stop it.

I think the hardest part was the guilt. I didn't mind the mess so much as the feeling that no matter what I did, or how hard I tried, that time was slipping away from me and I wasn't enjoying it as I should. It was both the last few months of my oldest being home with me until she started full time school and the last few months to enjoy my youngest as a baby. But I wasn't enjoying either of them, I was miserable.

What compounded that was looking around at all the other mothers I knew both in real life and online and wondering how they managed when I couldn't. Why weren't their dishes piling up for days in the sink? Why were they dressed in nice clothing that wasn't covered in peanut butter? How were they finding the time to work out? To see their friends? To keep their houses so clean? To do educational crafts with their children? What were they doing differently that made it so much easier for them?

I tried everything I could think of. I would turn off my computer all day so I could stay focused and not be distracted. I gave up down time in the evenings or weekends to catch up on housework. I enlisted my husband to help even more than he already was. I gave up on any sort of standards beyond pure survival, at least for the time being. I did whatever I could, but most days it still wasn't enough. And in the end do you know what the magical solution was? The thing that pulled me out?

Time.

Nothing lasts forever, good or bad. And while most of the time I lament the loss of all those sweet moments as my babies grow, it also means that all the terrible ones pass too. Fevers break, teeth finally cut through, tantrums are replaced with words, hands become steadier. Things get easier (and then harder again) and no matter how hard things get you can always find peace in knowing that in time, it will pass.

I've recently just experienced the best couple of months I've had in a very long time. My oldest was recently diagnosed with Aspergers/high functioning autism, which has alleviated a lot of the confusion and guilt I have felt for a very long time. We are figuring things out and she is thriving. She started full time school last month and loves it and when she's at home she's no longer bored and plays happily with her toys and her sister.

The time she's at school has given me a chance to really get to know my younger daughter as her personality emerges and our days together are wonderful. With only one child at home I'm able to take long walks with the jogging stroller, see friends, get things done around the house and best of all- get a break every day when she takes her nap. I never knew exactly how much I needed that daily silence until I got it back again. I think that more than anything has made all the difference. Anyone who has stayed home with small children knows how hard it is and how important it is to get some time away from it each day, even if it's just sitting for 20 minutes with a cup of tea that's still hot before you tackle another load of laundry.

I know that things won't stay this way forever either, that things will get hard again. But like all hard times, this recent one has taught me something and I feel like next time I'll be better prepared.

What I started to notice after a while when I was comparing myself to all of the other mothers out there is that no two situations are the same. Nobody has an equal playing field and it's impossible to compare when there are so many variables. That mother who keeps her house so clean? Her mother comes over twice a week to help with the kids so she can get it done. The woman who goes to the gym every day? Her husband is home by 4 pm every afternoon and takes over so she can go work out. Some women's children sleep through the night at the age of 2 weeks, some nap 4 hours every afternoon. Some can afford a part time nanny, or have a friend that helps out on a regular basis.

But it works both ways and while many women have advantages that you may not, you also don't know what they might be dealing with behind closed doors. I know women with struggling or failing marriages, with chronic physical and mental health issues, with crippling financial issues, with special needs children. You may judge them for how they are handling things in comparison to yourself, but you never know everything they are dealing with either. To the outside world they can seem fine, but like me they could be shutting their front door and dissolving into tears at sight of mount dishmore and the food splattered floors.

I've wanted to come back to this blog several times in the past 6 months with various ideas, but never really knew what to say. Also, like with motherhood, I was too apt to compare myself to the output and efforts of other bloggers and think that it had to be all or nothing. After deciding to post on my cooking blog less frequently over the summer when I was too busy to keep up, I discovered that the sky didn't fall after all, and I could do things in my own time. So with both, I will post when it works for me and not worry about when it doesn't.

Thank you for waiting patiently while I struggled. Next time I'll know not to keep silent about it because I know that as much as it may have felt like it at the time, I probably wasn't the only one.