Occasionally I run out of garbage bags. My last one will be in the kitchen can and as I clean up one mess or another, I’ll toss in my trash. As soon as I open the can, I’ll think to myself — Gotta get trash bags. This one’s to capacity, and there are NO more.
I’ll close the trashcan and completely forget about the bags until, inevitably, I go back to stuff in another pile. This dance goes on, and each time I have to stuff the trash more forcefully to make do until I’m shoving it down with whatever is within arms reach — usually my foot.
Every now and then, I bust the bag because the stuff/shove dance has gone on too long. The bag was intended to hold a certain amount of trash and has been stretched to its limit. It explodes because I forced it to do more than it was designed to do.
Some bags hold more than others. If I were a trash bag, I’d be the cheapest, flimsiest, clearance-rack variety. If you held me up to the light, you could see right through me.
I do not stuff well. This is a problem in my marriage. There’s a time to keep things in, and sometimes I just need to shut the hell up.
Today was one of those days. Gil walked in around 9:00 this evening from a volunteer committee meeting as I was pathetically attempting to throw an extremely late dinner on the table. I was a hot mess.
The stuffing of emotional garbage began around 7am when I shot out of bed an hour later than planned. I had not laid out clothes the night before, nor had I packed snacks or prepared anything for breakfast. I should really write a post about the lack of joy I feel from cooking. If you are reading this and are remotely considering becoming a parent, sign yourself up immediately for some cooking classes because you will be spending an ungodly amount of time preparing food whether you like it or not. Just trust me on this one.
I fought the not-yet-caffenated haze and managed to dress, feed, chase, and finally wrestle my children into their carseats. That sweet-pea husband of mine slept through the entire rat-race, or at least pretended to do so. I had a mini-meltdown just as I was walking out the door when I realized there was no way I could drop off the ground beef on time at the soup kitchen where we volunteer once a month. I wanted to scream and throw objects at Gil, but instead I begged pathetically, and he agreed to take it. Whew!
As I was pulling out of the driveway, it began to flood. This is never good because one of my kids’ favorite past times is disassembling umbrellas, quite masterfully I must add. I frequently encounter people who offer helpful suggestions to these kind of problems like, “Just always keep an umbrella in your car. That way it’s always there when you need it!”
Well, gee, I can’t believe I never thought of that!! You’re a flipping genius! WHERE on earth do you come up with this stuff?
I can’t begin to tell you how many umbrellas my two have taken apart. I spend A LOT of time breathing deeply and expressing gratitude for their quick scientific brains, and I feel certain that this skill of hunting down objects that spark their interest and letting NOTHING come between them and the desired thing of the moment will serve them well in life. However at this stage, their drive and determination exhaust me. And YES! They’ve been given consequences for disobeying — in this case, for doing EXACTLY the thing I told them not to do. Honestly, they’re my kids — telling them they can’t play with the damn umbrella makes it that much more enticing.
My point — I had NO umbrella, and I was sporting a bright white t-shirt. By the time I rolled in to preschool, I looked like an aging wet t-shirt contestant.
The rest of my day was more or less the same. By the time I picked up the kids, I was emotionally done. Gil plays in a band, and he had practice on his lunch break, then his meeting, so he wasn’t home. I admitted defeat, put my feet up and lounged with the kids while they watched the tube. Parking my children in front of the television always makes me feel guilty, but it was raining and they were bouncing and I needed peace. This was definitely the bright spot in my day, somewhat alleviating my guilt. Even though they were enthralled with their show, for a few moments they were quite sweet, calm, and cuddly. I SO adore them — they just make me really tired. Ahhh, more guilt. I don’t feel like I have the right to even say that I’m worn out. Usually, I do laundry while they watch TV, but today I did absolutely nothing.
I can’t tell you how much I miss doing nothing. The downside is the realization that follows — there’s still laundry; dinner has not cooked itself; the house is a wreck, which makes me tired all over again, thus defeating the purpose of taking a break.
More than anything, though, I feel angry. I’ve been terribly angry since I became a mother, and the majority of this anger is directed toward my husband. Yes, he could do more to contribute, but I know myself better than anyone, and my standards are extreme. As mad as I get with him, I’m more angry with myself for my inability to measure up to the imaginary ideal of this perfect mother. I am FAR from perfect, and I want to believe I’m okay with that. But deep down, where NO ONE sees, I feel like a big failure as a parent and wife.
Intellectually, I know this is false. I’ve had plenty of cognitive therapy; the evidence proves otherwise, particularly in the parenting realm. I’m a good parent. One compliment that I receive regularly about my children is that they are happy and well-adjusted. And you know what, at the end of the day — that’s my goal. They are also kind, compassionate, and gracious, and this becomes more evident every day. These are the qualities that matter to me. I may not serve up the prettiest snacks or have the cleanest house or throw grandiose birthday bashes, but deep down, I know those things aren’t that important. The main things are taken care of, and when I tuck them into bed at night there’s a sense of peace, and for a brief moment I’m able to take it in and feel that all is right in our little family.
But then there’s the disgust I feel with their father constantly — some he’s probably earned, but plenty is a projection of my own misdirected frustration.
Tonight, this explosive, emotional wreck of a mother lost her shit. The garbage bag exploded on Gil because he walked in after a day where I have felt like a complete failure as a mother. I know I’m not a failure, but simply knowing is not enough. I FEEL like a complete failure at a job that I can’t quit and certainly don’t want to. Motherhood is tough; there are so many critics and experts. There are also other mothers who I know that feel the same way I do, but damn if they don’t appear to be doing it SO perfectly.
I’ve never had a job where I felt like I truly sucked. I’ve had jobs where I felt like I wasn’t utilizing my strengths, and I’ve had jobs that were boring, and I’ve certainly had jobs that I didn’t like. So I moved on to the next gig. Moving on is not really an option with parenting. Staying the course is the most important part.
One of my favorite words is balance. I suppose you could say that this one word is my mantra. I often repeat it to myself when I’m struggling with that demon perfectionism. I continually strive for balance in all areas yet feel as though I fall short. I desperately need to strike a balance with parenting my children, finding fulfillment for myself through meaningful work, and nurturing what’s left of my marriage — if that’s even possible. This is hard because I feel incapable of giving less than 100% to areas that I view as important and all three of these are important.
My marriage has been neglected for five years now. Neither of us wanted it to happen, but we had no clue how to do it differently. I want to hope and believe that it can be better, but I’m not there yet and I don’t know when or if I’ll get there.
What I do know is that ineffectively dealing with my delicate emotions by shoving them down does NOT work for me.
However, it is NEVER, and I repeat NEVER okay to call your spouse a lazy sack of shit. Even if in the moment you feel it so deeply that everything in you feels as though you will explode if you don’t say it.
Perhaps I should consider a muzzle.
I will do better tomorrow.