Wednesday, May 25, 2011

I'm Calling In Sick

I wish I had a cute story to share, or a funny moment, or an inspiring thought to help you through your own parenthood journey. I wish I could be witty or clever or humorous. I wish, for that matter, I could keep my eyes open…

The last few months have been little more than a blur. Every moment of every day has been full and I have been running full speed ahead with very little recovery time. I’m exhausted. I’m overworked. I’m barely keeping my head above water and my patience with the kids is wearing very, very thin. In short, I need a break!!! (As a side question, how do the kids always know when I’m on the verge of a mental breakdown and choose these moments to pull their worst stunts? Or is it that they normally act this way but I’m better equipped to handle it when I’m not functioning on an empty tank?).

Most days of my life I am perfectly fine. I have my better days and my not-so-great days like everyone, but overall I entertain a good life. These past few months have really thrown me for a loop though and I’m at the point where I need a well deserved vacation. I would settle for a personal day. Heck, I’ll even call in sick! Oh wait, I can’t. I don’t have any of these options. I don’t even get weekends as a respite from my full time job. I’m on duty, or at least on call, twenty four hours a day, seven gosh, darn days of the week. It’s too much. I can’t perform my duties properly if I’m never afforded a break.

Now, before you think this is a boo-hoo, poor me story, let me assure you it is not. It is an honest, vulnerable sharing of my heart. And I choose to share this today because I know there are many that can relate. We’ve all had times of overwhelm, of too much on our plate, times we feel the insanity creeping in. Life can be too much sometimes even if no catastrophe has occurred. The activities that consume my day are all things I like and want to do (except for the house cleaning!). I volunteered to work two side jobs and to coach, and all the running around for sports, school events, appointments, etc is all a part of caring for the kids full time. I asked for all of this and normally I love it all but recently they have just overtaken my life. Now I am saying, “Whoa there, Nelly! I need a break! Where do I punch out? Who approves my vacation time? When is my day off?” And the sad, but very real answer is, “Sorry, dude, no break for you.”

Usually I’m not this crazy-busy and I do get a few minutes here, an hour there to do something of leisure, or to relax and remove myself from the kids. Lately, however, any break from the kids I get is occupied with a plethora of other time-sensitive duties that must be tended to, leaving me about an hour at night of free time. The only problem is by this time I am very much brain dead and physically worn out.

So I’m not really sure the point of this entry, but this is what has been on my mind and heart lately. If nothing else, when you read this you’ll know you’re not the only person completely drained and overworked. We all need breaks and moments of relaxation in order to recover. I know this. Recovery is an essential part of life, without it we’ll burn out entirely. We must rest and recover in order to adequately perform again. Athletes know the importance of recovery. Imagine if they trained and trained and trained and never allowed their muscles to rest? They sure wouldn’t last very long. The same concept applies to the rest of us.

My only problem is that I don’t know how to rest and recover right now….. There is no temporary replacement lined up for my position of Mommy. Therefore I must persist until the craziness subsides. I hope I make it! In the meantime I heavily rely on my two (maybe three?) glasses of red wine on Saturday nights… This is my own blessed heaven and refuge for now. I know it’s not ideal but this truly is my reprieve from reality for the time being. Soon enough I’ll be able to recover properly… I must have hope!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Show Me The Money

After a long day of dealing with the kids yesterday I was getting close to my wits end. My daughter has hit the terrible two’s with both feet running. She keeps me on my toes as far as setting and enforcing limits as well as being a good example of the type of behavior I do want. The boys are simultaneously deep in training for the debate team and the wrestling team. By this I mean they are constantly fighting with each other, both physically and verbally. The mayhem takes its toll daily. By the time my husband returns from work I’m usually ready to retire and in need of some major back up.

In the middle of getting dinner ready last night I was pouring out my woes to my husband, filling him in on the day’s upheaval. I finished by declaring “I wish we lived in one of those countries where stay at home parents are paid. I mean I work so hard every day without any compensation. I’m a teacher, a life coach, a doctor, a personal chef, a chauffeur, a housekeeper, a cheerleader, a judge and a maintenance worker. Sheesh!”

As I spoke I released some of the tension I carried and felt better. I just needed to vent and get a little sympathy from another adult. The evening wore on and I never gave my conversation a second thought. But just before he went to bed, my oldest son, who is seven, came up to me ever so slightly sheepishly and extended his fist to me. It was full of coins. He said, “Mama, this is for you because you are such a good mom to us.”

He had overheard my earlier complaining and after contemplating his thoughts on the matter he decided to pay me for my work, from his own piggy bank. My heart melted. I felt so terribly guilty by my unnecessary behavior and yet so full of love for my thoughtful son. His handful of pennies and dimes was more than sufficient payment for all my years of hard labor. Of course, he needn’t pay me any amount of money at all, that wasn’t even really the point of my complaints, but his gesture of gratitude was all I needed to keep me going. A simple thank you or a hug of appreciation from my children is worth more to me than bags of gold for my work as a mother.

I am holding on to those pennies and dimes though! You never know when they’ll come in handy.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Precious Moments

Some of my most treasured moments as a mother are the simple ones. It doesn’t require bells and whistles to create precious memories with your children. In fact, the easy, seemingly mundane activities can have a more influential impact on your child as a person as well as strengthen your relationship with them. Here are a few examples of recent pastimes I’ve enjoyed with my children that stand out as special and memorable.

Last week my two younger children and myself embarked on a leisurely bike ride, something we do regularly. At the halfway mark we made a pit stop at a park in order to stretch our legs and play on the swings. The day was perfect, mid 80s, clear blue skies with a gentle, cooling breeze. We ended up playing a game of Duck, Duck, Goose in the shade, just the three of us, so obviously it was not a “real” game, just a fun diversion. My son, whenever he was “it”, would tag one of us as Goose and then tear across the park at full speed, not even attempting to complete the circle, as the game intends. My daughter and I got some nice sprints in while chasing him. When my daughter was “it” she not only took full pleasure in smacking us as hard as she could on the head as she called out either “uck” or “oose”, but when she chose a Goose, she ran around in circles until she fell from dizziness or from tripping over her own feet, heedless of whether or not she was tagged or even circling about us correctly. I’m usually a stickler for rules, but this day we played according to our own made-up-on-the-spot rules. I laughed so hard and my heart was full of joy watching my children in complete bliss absorbed as they were in our simple, messed up game of Duck, Duck, Goose.

My oldest, seven, true to his firstborn tendencies, is always looking out for his two younger siblings, as well as myself and his dad. He’s a pretty caring kid. He earns pretend money at school for turning in homework and good behavior which he is then able to use to buy items from the class store. Without fail he brings something home for his brother and his sister every week. It melts my heart. He is more excited about what he shares with them than with what he gets for himself. He takes great pains in selecting items he thinks they will appreciate and explains his picks to me before passing them on. A couple weeks ago he also gave me a dollar from his own piggy bank telling me as he handed over the bill, “Mama, you get so many things for me I want you to get something for yourself now. Here’s some money. Go get something nice.” I almost cried.

My daughter watches me get ready every morning. She has my routine down cold. She turns on the hair dryer for me, she hands me the hair clips I use at the appropriate times as I dry my hair in sections, then she gets my make-up out of the bag for me in the order I apply it. She does all of this without me asking or prompting! She anticipates my next need and supplies it. If I ever forget and reach for an item on my own she flips out and scolds me. It is adorable.

My middle child is expressive and impulsive. If he likes something he exclaims it with gusto. I often hear him saying things like, “What a beautiful day it is today!” and “Mama, I love you so much!” or “This is the bestest dinner I’ve ever had!” His simple, yet completely sincere words brighten my day every time.

I help my oldest son with his homework and reading every day. Although homework has never been a point of interest for me, I have come to cherish this daily time with him. It’s just the two of us working on his knowledge and skills. Witnessing him learn and progress is thrilling and brings me much pride in his accomplishments and improvements. I can see his wheels turning as he muddles over a math problem and I beam with joy as he seemingly effortlessly reads advanced books. What a miracle it is to observe my child growing in all facets of life day by day.