I sometimes forget how full on having small children at home full time is. We’ve been at the cottage for a week now and I’ve rarely been able to escape for a moment to myself. I find myself getting grumpy, because although there are plenty of other adults around, mummy is the grown-up of choice, and as such, it’s difficult to leave a room without shouts and screams and a chorus of mamamamamama.
I have a question for the world. Do other people ever truly feel satisfied with their lives? I do sometimes. I think I’m probably happy more often than many of my friends and counterparts, but I also find that I have many days where I think: is this what I’ve been working toward? Is this what life is? I wasn’t supposed to be this age with this little to show for it. How much do I really have to show for this?
It’s like we’re all running a race we didn’t realize we were competing in. And because of social media, we’re constantly bombarded by the successes of our peers and contemporaries, whether we want to see them or not. If we were all to judge our self-worth by our Facebook feeds, it’s unsurprising that we feel inadequate and unfulfilled. I try my best to represent an honest version of myself online and judge my successes on my own scale. I work hard to live the life I do, but there are many dark days in among the sunny ones. The risks Josh and I take living this lifestyle mean that I’m constantly facing rejection and having to change paths and focus. There are definitely days when I’m ready to give it all up and settle for something stable and sensible.
But being the dreamer I am, I never manage to let go of my beliefs that I will succeed one day – I’ll write my novel and find some sort of balance. We’ll buy our sailboat and give our kids an education unlike anything we experienced ourselves. And I read articles, like the one today in The Atlantic Magazine, about fathers taking time off work and how it affects their lives and relationships with their children later on. There are many things I’ve read over the past year about the relationships between parenting and time off, happiness and good relationships, and while most of them come to similar conclusions – that parents who spend more time with their children report to be happier and have longer, healthier lives – it sometimes feels brutally hard.
It’s unbearably difficult some days. I know I’m not the only mom who feels like I’m going to go crazy finding some semblance of balance between parenting and career, but that, unfortunately, doesn’t make a difference when I’m trying to make dinner with one small person attached to my hip and another one demanding that I find her some paper/dolls/markers/a snack or let her watch TV even though she knows its a school day and we don’t watch television during the week.
But then I have to take a deep breath and feel thankful for being loved so acutely that it seems the world would end if I didn’t pick up the shrieking golden-haired monkey, dancing, hands swaying in the air, rubbing her tummy in the sign for please and then thrusting them once again to the sky in the universal sign for up. My heart would be made of stone if I couldn’t take a break to watch my kids dance up and down the hallway, Charlie aping April’s every move, cuddling and laughing, falling down in hysterical giggles and looking at me with eyes full of love and yelling “mama, mama, mama” and “look at us, Mom, look at us!” I know that as irritated as I am with the constant smothering attention, and the nagging worry that I won’t have enough contracts to get us through the next weeks and months, that this is a magical time.
So I leave my kids with Josh or my parents and take a walk. I take half an hour to feel like an autonomous human being, not just a mommy. And I always come to the same conclusion. I’m doing my best and that’s all I can do. There are no ups without downs. One day, when I look back at this phase of life, I’ll hopefully be able to smile and say – yes, I truly did my best.