A friend of mine is a mental health professional who works in the field of rehabilitating people with mental illness one-on-one. I find her work to be fascinating. Something she once told me has always stuck with me. It went along these lines: People with mental health issues tend to have relapse after relapse because they are always waiting to "go back to the way they used to be." Many have an initial episode or diagnosis as adults. Then they get on medication and/or get help, start to feel better, feel they no longer need the medication and stop taking it and/or quit therapy. Then comes relapse and in some cases an attempt to hurt or kill themselves, a return to medication and counseling, followed by starting to feel better … and the cycle goes on and on.
I think motherhood is this way sometimes for me.
No, it's not a mental illness (all the time, ha ha!). But sometimes I get frustrated because I feel like I'm waiting for moments that never come. For instance? Today I spent much of the morning trying to write a separate blog post. The topic – ironically – is about how hard motherhood can be and how it messes with every single aspect of who you are but that it's totally worth it. For hours I tried to type one-handed as I nursed and comforted Elijah, redirected Sydney and tried to keep her from injuring any of us or destroying anything (including the computer I was trying to type on) with Dora blasting in the background. John took her off my hands for a while and I still couldn't get anything written without interruption. Elijah squawked in his chair to be held. There was a knock at the door. Finally I spouted something ugly to my husband that he'd better remember that he got an hour to himself without interruption to work out this morning.
I don't know what I meant to say by that. Maybe I was mad that I was still a slobby mess in my pajamas at lunchtime, my thinning hair in the usual greasy, knotty ponytail. Maybe I was trying to express that I was starving, and tired of being contradicted at every turn by a two-year-old. That I just wanted to take a shower and have 30 minutes alone to finish what I was trying to write, but was too cloudy-headed and tired to finish it with any efficiency. Maybe I was trying to express that I feel fat and ugly and unproductive and jealous that he looks so good.
Maybe maybe maybe.
I do feel like I'm constantly looking for things to be like they used to be, which is stupid. I love my kids. I am charmed and in love with everything they do. I love being a parent next to my husband and our relationship today is deeper and stronger and more awesome than it's ever been. I am aware that this time in my life is fleeting, that they won't be little like this forever. That one day I'll be able to shower when I want and taking them to Target will be easy and I will have some things figured out that I don't at present. I think to myself "Lord, woman, you're only 30. You've only had kids for 2 years. Cut yourself some slack. You'll get better at this."
But then the cycle continues. There are a million things I want to fit in but I can't. I want to be a good wife, but usually that's the first thing to go (case in point, the lovely attack on my husband this morning; he who works 60-70 hours a week by the way and has little free time of his own save the occasional workout). I want to be a good mom to both my kids but right now I feel like I'm constantly in peril of neglecting one to tend to the other. I want to have a house that is clean and kept up and dinners on the table and be able to do the little projects that I want to do like bake bread and refinish furniture and read a book and write but all of those things get swept to the "to do" pile indefinitely because they aren't imperative. I don't want to wince when I have to take my clothes off. Sometimes I feel like all I have is choices, and whatever needs immediate tending gets it and the rest (what can't be done haphazardly, at least) just falls to the wayside and I'm constantly yelling at myself in my own head: "YOU SUCK!" Sometimes it just shocks me that I ever worked outside the home. How in the hell did I ever keep up?
I want to be more positive. I want to treasure each day more. I want to be less frustrated. I know that I can break the cycle. I can be more organized. I can make better choices. I can let some things go and I can do things that make me a better person … not just for me but for my husband and kids. They deserve that and so do I. I just want to be here now. I don't want to be in process. I want to already be organized. Already have it figured out. Already be Super Mom and Super Wife and Super Manda. Already be ok with letting go of the Old Self and already embracing the Now Self. No more cycling. No more self-indulgent living in the future when I am slimmer, have cuter hair, go to bed at a decent hour at night, spring up out of bed at the crack of dawn to shower and have devotions before the kids wake up, take special and intentional care of my relationships and have the perfect home. The future of the movies, I suppose.
Today is the day I have. Yesterday is gone and tomorrow isn't promised. There will always be dishes and laundry. But there will not always be little Sydney and Elijah, Manda and John in their prime. I keep telling myself do not waste it.
This time I really mean it.