A few weeks ago I hit one of those proverbial walls. I was on another week of my husband working too much overtime and I was done being mom. I wanted a break; I wanted my kids to stop ignoring me and stop destroying our house. I wanted to get in my car and drive as far away from all the chaos as I could get. Yet I was stuck, because I was mommy.
I’m unsure exactly what my breaking point was that Saturday morning, but when I hit it, I broke hard. I ended up in the laundry room, a huge sack of dirty laundry at my back, three baskets of clean laundry in front of me, and a running washer and dryer to my side. My back sank into the bag of dirty laundry, hard cold tile against my legs, and not one person was concerned with the tears that would not stop flowing. The kids were playing cars or super heroes, and I was sitting in the laundry room having a break down over spilled cereal or crayoned walls. At least that’s how it appeared.
What I was really crying for was understanding…compassion…comradery. When you’re stuck in the trenches of parenthood it can get lonely. On weeks when I have an extra day of doing it on my own it’s hard to push through. I will never know how single parents or those who have a spouse who is often away do it. They have a strength I admire, but don’t dare wish to possess.
I sat against the cold tile, the humming washing machine, and the towering laundry. I sat and I cried for the days when I had no kids. And then I thought about those days and how I had cried in corners of our home because it was so quiet and empty without kids. I cried for a career and friendships that went by the wayside of parenthood. I cried for mornings I used to spend laying in bed with the husband I felt like I no longer got to see.
My youngest son appeared, riding the little red car that has created roadways around our kitchen island and won many races up and down our hallway. He stepped off the car, came to my side and started blowing me kisses. Then he hopped back on his car and off he went. He had no idea that any of his childhood behaviors or actions could leave me hurting and wallowing in my selfishness. He saw me sad and he wanted to fix it with kisses. He was just being a child…exploring all this world has laid before him.
Those are the defining moments of parenthood. When your ass is pressed to the cold hard tile and all you want to do is give up…forget it all. When walking out the door feels like a real option because how unfair is it that you gave life to your children and now they need ALL of you? You can choose to quit, or you can choose to get up off your ass and quit feeling sorry for yourself. Sometimes you have to be hard on yourself to remember that you chose to be their parent and that means forever.
It doesn’t make you weak to have a moment of weakness…it makes you human. We’re all entitled to a selfish moment or a break from our children. We’re not allowed to quit on them.
When you reach those hard moments, don’t wallow in it. Don’t sit and tell yourself all the horrible things about parenthood. Give yourself a moment to feel bad and then brush it off and move on. Look at all your children bring to your life and think about the happy things that they do. Think about the way your hugs can cure any boo boo, any upset that comes their way. Think about how important you really are to them and how that is invaluable to their well-being and survival.
It is all too easy to get caught up in the bad… To think that the diapers, crayoned walls, and tantrums will go forever. They won’t. Your children and mine will grow and they’ll stop wanting our constant attention. Our hugs won’t always fix it all and one day we’ll cry on that laundry room floor for the problems we just can’t fix for them. We’ll have too much time on our hands and ache for the days when they were so little that they thought we were the rulers of their world.
Have your break downs, but make them brief. Our time in early parenthood is better spent kicking the toys aside and diving right into the chaos to join in their fun.