November 17, 2013 by Julia
Sometimes it doesn’t matter how much you know something in your head – you can’t bring yourself to believe it, to act on it, or to feel it.
For example, yesterday was a blah parenting day for me. I was cranky and impatient and uninspired. The day stretched out endlessly before us. I just wanted to get to the part where I could tuck the kids into their beds for the night and then be an adult. (In this case, being an adult meant sitting on the couch for two hours, drinking a sickenly sweet watermelon margarita because it’s the only alcohol left, and catching up on my book journal while also watching House Hunters.)
There were several reasons yesterday was an especially rough Saturday, as opposed to one of our often delightful Saturdays. Fiona had been off school the day before, which meant that after an early morning parent-teacher conference and then a playdate, she expected me to play with her during Jack’s naptime – a time of day that, yes, I’ve almost begun to take for granted again, now that she’s in Kindergarten. It’s my two hours of autonomy, and I might choose to use them for work or play, but the release is in the my choice part.
Anyway, it’s hard to give up that afternoon exhale, and instead, concoct Powerpuff Girl dramas complete with Play-doh villains, while also providing my ever-growing daughter with an endless supply of food. I mean, she NEVER STOPS EATING. I can’t really tell if she’s actually hungry or if she’s just bored and/or enjoys pulling us up on our little marionette strings to dance around the kitchen. Either way, I’ve found myself yelling at her, “Fiona, are you REALLY hungry? Are you SERIOUS?? This is ridiculous.” You know, gentle words from the heart of a nurturing mother.
So there was that on Friday. Also, Dennis’ old friend Greg was coming to visit for the weekend, which meant that I would be on parenting duty from morning to night on Saturday while they went off and did guy stuff. Now, I love Greg and I didn’t begrudge Dennis this weekend of fun in the slightest, especially considering that I get to take my own weekends “off” every so often. I wanted them have a great time, to see the kids just enough to enjoy their cuteness and energy, and then to be able to escape the less fun parts whenever they felt like it.
But while I knew that both guys deserved the time, and I had no desire to rain on their parade with stay-at-home-mom despair…I was still filled with stay-at-home-mom despair. It’s especially potent on Saturdays when your children are up at 6 am, and are bickering for the next three hours until 9 am, and you can’t believe that you’ve already been up for three hours, and holy crap when will this day EVER end? There is no light at the end of the tunnel. I wanted to bang my head against the wall. We had no plans to go anywhere. They would not just sit and watch TV. (Apparently, according to my friends, some kids WILL sit and quietly watch TV for six hours straight if you let them. Ugh, I WISH I had that option in moments of desperation.)
We went outside after lunch to get some fresh air, and Fiona tried to talk me into playing out a Powerpuff Girls story with her dolls while we walked along the sidewalk, but after a minute of that, I had to tell her I just couldn’t do it. I couldn’t do another Powerpuff Story, with those squeaky voices. I just wanted to walk, and let sticks be sticks, dammit, and mud be mud, and see what we could see and move our legs and that’s IT. A walk for the sake of a walk, you know, like art for art’s sake. After much guilt-tripping and arguing about how Powerpuff was ALL she wanted to do, Fiona miraculously embraced the whole “let’s just take a walk” concept. We did get some relief through the running down hills and examining of pine needles and “climbing” of trees. But after that, the day pretty much continued on as it had before: boring, irritating and exhausting.
I kept thinking about how I should be happy to spend the day with my children, why I should give my husband a weekend off without being a bad sport, why I should adjust my attitude and attack the ever-entwined tasks of motherhood and housework with a gung-ho “Let’s DO this, muthafuckas!” And whip the house into shape and play enthusiastically with my kids and feed them delicious, healthy foods. Because on a good day that stuff is actually inspiring work. It’s not for the faint of heart, and I mean that in the best way. One of my first blog posts was about how this daily at-home work can challenge and feed our souls. And I truly believe that.
But I could not break out of my Saturday funk.
Some days I fail my beliefs. I lack the energy to apply them to my actions. Or I lack the strength to break the negative thought cycle.
Now, I know there are some beliefs that life proves wrong, over time. Or they’re only true in specific situations, but not others.
But I also think there are some instinctive, guiding truths that can be applied to all situations.
Like, if you choose the most loving response, you can’t go wrong – as long as you also remember to act lovingly toward yourself. Or, if during moments of confusion or depression, if you do the next right thing (you know what it is, you really do), you will gradually find your way back to peace.
Half the time my blog posts that are based on ideas are just me trying to convince myself of something, like when I write about not dieting, and accepting myself (as a fairly healthy person, if not an especially thin one). But it’s still a constant struggle to absorb those beliefs.
I’m sure that even the most inspiring public figures struggled to apply the tenets of their famous speeches to their own lives. Sometimes we live up to our beliefs, sometimes we don’t. Such is life.
Today was a much better day than yesterday, most likely because I got us out of the house, and my parents watched the kids for a couple of hours while my sister and I hung out, did a little Christmas shopping, some expensive coffee drinking.
Which brings me back to another belief of mine, on the subject of parenting: you can’t do it alone. You need to be away from the kids sometimes, or you will lose your mind. This always applies, to everyone. To be a good parent, you must take breaks from parenting. So ask for a break, and leave the room, because every parent knows you can’t really be “off-duty” unless you’re out of sight.
Tomorrow is a new day. So get some rest, and wake up ready to fight the good fight for your most dearly held beliefs.
I guess? I mean, YES!
For real: yes.