Treading Water

So I haven’t really posted a lot lately, for a number of reasons.

Reason #1: We have completely sleep-regressed. She was waking up once a night, and now it’s multiple times. I’m convinced she’s just fucking with us, and goes to daycare and sleeps all day for the Russian. This may be part of her sleeper cell training. As a result, I am exhausted all.the.time.

Reason #2: I compeletely overextended myself work-wise. I have a part-time teaching job, a job grading papers for a graduate school of education, and a job writing online curriculum for a company that then sells that curriculum to schools and home schoolers. The latter two are online jobs, so I can work from home, which is a double-edged sword. I want to pay attention to O when she is awake, which is more and more these days. This means that I am waking up at 4am and going to sleep at 11pm so that I can get things done, and then being woken up 3-4 times in that 5 hour stretch of sleep. Add on top of this the fact that I’m teaching five hours a day and then coming home every day and keeping the house together, and I don’t have a whole lot of time or energy left. I want to do the best I can at the online jobs in the hopes that one day they will either a) hire me permanently, or b) give me a recommendation to an online curriculum position that will hire me permanently. I took on all of this both because I wanted to have it on my resume and also because I have a paranoia that if I’m not contributing to the household monetarily, and yet am still spending money on groceries and baby supplies, Husband will start thinking I’m a freeloader and resent me for it. So now I’m working what amounts to 45-50 hours a week at ridiculous hours, and on the weekends. But I have money to pay bills and buy groceries and baby supplies. Just no sanity.

Reason #3: Speaking of sanity. It’s kind of the best-kept secret in town that I’ve struggled with small bouts of depression in the past. Nothing terribly serious, and I usually don’t realize that I’ve been in them until I’m out of them. One was in college, one was when I moved to Houston, and one was right before I got engaged to my husband. They usually involve putting myself on autopilot in terms of school/work and then making decisions that make me unhappy in the long run, such as denying myself things or doing things I know I shouldn’t. I was positive that I would experience, at least in a small way, some sort of postpartum thing, either anxiety or depression. When we passed the 3 month mark, I was sure I was in the clear. But then it kind of hit me.

There have been a few times (maybe more than a few) in the last several weeks where I wasn’t really loving the whole parenting thing. I loved the baby, of course. But if I got home at 4:30 and Husband got home at 5, even if I’d just had the baby to myself for half an hour, I found myself desperate to hand her over, to pass her off so I could just sit there and not be needed for five minutes. I am excited to be able to breastfeed, and I plan to do it for as long as possible, but it is exhausting to be the sole source of food for another human. You have to plan hours in advance if you want to go out or leave the baby with someone or do anything that does not involve either a baby or a machine attached to your boobs. I found myself more interested in sitting on my laptop–even if I wasn’t working, although mostly I was–than playing with the baby, because being on the laptop was so much easier and less demanding. And of course this results in feelings of tremendous guilt. Because apparently everything associated with parenting does.

Then I found myself at random times of the day having these mental images of what horrible things could potentially happen to the baby. There was a case in Houston recently where a daycare owner left children in her house to run to Target, and the daycare burned down. What if O’s daycare caught on fire? What if a gunman came in? What if I fell down the stairs while carrying her? I tried to reassure myself that my pinky finger is probably fractured because something very similar happened about a month and a half ago, and I instinctively twisted my body so that the baby would stay facing skyward while I landed on my pinky. It didn’t work. What if we got hit by a car while I was running with her in her stroller? What if I drop her on her head? The sadness and the fears and the worry and the guilt have been kind of overwhelming, and because I’ve been so buried in work, my only solution has been to kind of try to push them down, but it doesn’t always work.

And anytime you try to bring this up to other moms and try to explain that you constantly worry–not looking for sympathy, but maybe some camaraderie, or someone to tell you how to feel better–all you hear in response is, “Oh, just you wait! It gets worse when they’re mobile!” or “It never goes away! You’ll still feel like this when they’re 30!” Tip: THAT IS NOT HELPFUL. The only thing worse than feeling this way right now (on top of the exhaustion and the fears that you’re a horrible parent because you don’t have the energy to tapdance in front of your kid waving educational toys) is having someone tell you that IT WILL NEVER END. Doesn’t anyone understand that? It’s like having a broken arm that didn’t heal right, and constantly twinges with pain, and you ache all the time and have trouble lifting things that you’re supposed to, and someone says, “Welp, it’s just going to be like that forever! The rest of your life you’re going to have trouble functioning. Ha! That’s just life, I guess!”

So basically, this is a long, roundabout way of explaining why I haven’t been posting. I am keeping an eye on it, because I know there’s no shame in asking for help if I need it. I am finding ways to make my life a little easier during the week, and working really hard on asking Husband to pick up some of the house chores. I don’t know if it’s genetics that creates that little voice in my head that tries to convince me that I need to be able to juggle all of this in order to be some sort of Supermom, but I need to learn to quiet it a little bit and talk about what I’m struggling with and ask for help, because the way I was living for the last few weeks is not sustainable. And I need to realize that there is no “right” way to do this, and I am doing the best I can for right now.

The other night, I was having an especially tough time, realizing that I hadn’t tried to read my kid a book in approximately a month (even though she is more entertained by the ceiling fan), or bathed her in too long to be printed here in case CPS is reading, or bathed myself in I didn’t know how many days, or done the laundry, or packed the daycare bag, or done the dishes, or started dinner, or picked up the living room, or put away all of the Christmas decorations, or wiped down the counters, or graded research papers, or finished my curriculum planning, or responded to emails. I had O sitting on the couch next to me, cushioned by pillows, and I was talking to her, and tiptoeing my fingers up her stomach to tickle her under her chin(s?). I was thinking about everything I had to do, and everything I hadn’t done that I was supposed to do, and thinking again about how badly I am failing right now as a wife and a teacher and a parent, not doing anything particularly well, just scraping by. I wasn’t even really looking at her when it happened.

She laughed. A real little person laugh. She only did it a couple more times, and hasn’t done it since, and I was the only person who heard it. But in that moment I realized that what is really important is being around and being present for moments like that. I can make it a few more months of being exhausted and operating on 3-4 hours of sleep if I can be there for her laughs. I can fight through this funk I’m in and play the dozens of roles that I’m trying to fill if she knows me and loves me enough to giggle and reach for me. I can force myself to believe that I’m succeeding if she continues to smile and learn and grow every day. So far, so good.

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