I took Tatum to Ohio this weekend to visit Allison–it was a “sister reunion.” We laughed and fought (of course) and talked about you and the things we each remember–all the stories, all the quirks.
It was a good for the soul trip, even though I was only gone for about thirty hours. That was the longest I was away from Everett–it was just enough time to get me out of the funk I had found myself in a few days earlier. Look at what I wrote in my journal on Thursday:
February 22, 2017
I am so tired. I’m tired of being tired. And I don’t mean sleepy—I mean worn out, exhausted; I feel mentally spent.
Every single day feels the same. Chris wakes up and goes downstairs to make coffee. I lay in bed for an extra three minutes, thinking about how wonderful my bed feels and how I’d love to stay. I summon the “strength” to get up and into my pajamas, meeting him downstairs for coffee.
He and I say a couple things to each other, let the dog in/out and then Everett wakes up. One of us gets him, changes him and I feed him his breakfast. Chris goes upstairs to shower, gets dressed and comes back down, ready to leave. Off he goes to work, and a lot of the mornings when he’s kissing me and Everett goodbye, I am mad.
I am mad that he got to have “time” in the morning to get ready, without worrying how long Everett would nap. I am mad that he gets to get in his car and drive off with no kid in the car seat. I am mad that he gets to have an important purpose for our family–making money and providing. I am mad he will get to talk to adults all day and sometimes even has the privilege of going out to lunch. I am mad because I feel like I’m useless staying at home.
When Everett is done with breakfast, I clean up the morning mess. The spilled sugar on the counter, the coffee stains, Chris’ half empty mug, bottles from the night and morning, dried oatmeal off Everett’s face. I give Clifford fresh water. I clear the surfaces and sweep up the dirt and crumbs that have already appeared on my floor.
I start the same routines on a different day. My surroundings seem to never change.
I am alone, with a baby and dog.
I pull Everett off of this and that piece of furniture. I tell him no ten times over when he bites the cord under the TV. I take him upstairs with me to make the bed. I take the laundry to the basement. I tidy the bathroom. There are always hairs and splashed water around and inside the sink. I will not name any culprits.
I play with Everett for a little until he’s ready for a nap and then get a bottle, lay him down, change him, get his pants back on after severe struggle, and close the door. This is my opportunity to get ready for the day, and I feel rushed because I know I’m on limited time. I get anxious, and I’d rather have an hour of contractions each day if it meant I’d never have anxiety again.
I shower and get dressed, wearing the same pair of black Gap jogger pants I always do because I never want to spend money on clothes. I pack the car if we are going somewhere, asking myself the serious question, “Should we leave the house today or just stay home? Should I go to Target for cotton balls and the tension rod I need or just stay home?”
I eat the same easy breakfast–a toasted english muffin, alone at my kitchen table. Today I stared out the window feeling like I wanted to run away with my dog and live off of bugs in the woods–anything for a change of scenery and some freedom.
Once Everett wakes up we either do leave the house or stay home. And then again, it’s lunchtime, playtime, nap time. He wakes up, and its playtime, dinnertime.
When Chris gets home, I am so relieved–I am so excited. I can’t wait to kiss him, can’t wait for him to squeeze me. Everyone is happy when he gets home, including Everett and the dog.
He unloads his book bag on the kitchen table, even though I tell him every day not to do it. His shoes come off, usually in the middle of the floor while the dog is attacking him. He goes upstairs to change and comes back down, opening his computer to finish work things up. Or he’ll say he’s going for a run outside.
And I get mad again. I get pissed, to put it better. All the excitement I had to see him floods away, and I’m left questioning my role as a housewife: the house somehow already seems messy and cooking dinner and chasing Everett while Chris does his own thing is making me scream. Literally.
I just feel useless sometimes.
Why clean the house? Why make dinner when we could order or defrost it? Why do anything that makes me anxious and flustered? Well, it’s my job, isn’t it?
And I love my job. I love being the keeper of this home. I love being Chris’ wife. I love being Everett’s mother. But what about me? What about me?
I feel like I am always taking care of something or cleaning up something or doing something or carrying something or cooking something or worrying about something. My job is constant and yet I feel like if I stopped it, my family would be fine. After all, I only have one child.
Everett would go to day care. The house would be messy and the sheets would be going on three weeks old. Dinner would be served quickly and from the freezer and everyone would love it because it would be something delicious like Stouffer’s macaroni and cheese, right?. Maybe a bath would be skipped, but does it matter? The dog wouldn’t be walked, but does it really matter?
Does anything I do matter? Am I the only mother who feels like this? I am exhausted and tiring myself out for what? For what?
When I get overwhelmed and want a break, I’ll leave the house for an hour or so by myself, feeling guilty while I’m gone because I’m “leaving” my family behind. And I’m so used to having Everett all the time, it feels weird to go out without him–like I forgot my pants or something. I’ll even “ask” Chris if I can leave, like he’s my father and I need permission, because that way I feel less shitty about leaving.
I can’t be the only woman who feels like this. And I’m a lucky complainer: I have a happy marriage and a supportive husband and a healthy child and a happy home. I know I am fortunate.
It’s just been a rough week or so. I don’t always feel like this. I just had to get it out because this all feels so real right now. I trust it will pass.
Wow. That was intense. And it has passed, thankfully.
I really made Chris sound like a sloppy idiot–he’s not. I mean, he should go for a run after work. Why wouldn’t I want that for him? It’s just that when he comes home, I want every second together, as a family. Or I just want help with Everett.
He recently got a job at Carnegie Mellon’s Software Engineering Institute. Chris never stopped trying for this opportunity and I feel so grateful to stand behind a man so determined. I’m confident he will make huge strides here in this position.
But this was his first week, so between wrapping things up at his previous job and getting settled into this one, he’s been busy. And then I go and get mad at him for working too much? That is absolutely unfair. I’m hard on him. But I’m also hard on myself. I can be hard on everything.
When I read the journal entry above–about breakfast and cleaning up and going out to Target–I’m thinking what the hell? Honestly, what do I have to complain about? Why would I ever want to run away?
But I know you understand, as a mother, the moments when you feel like your job isn’t enough. No matter what you accomplished in the day, there is still more to do–mothering is never ending.
I am learning how to handle days like this past Thursday. I am learning that no matter how many kids I end up having, what I am feeling is normal. I know I am okay–I’m more than okay.
After being with my sisters this weekend and talking about you and our family and just everything, I was reminded what happened to us when you died. I was reminded how Tatum had to have au pairs and learn to say goodbye to them. I was reminded how sad and lost Dad was. I was reminded how confused we all were, about our schedules and rides to sports and our lives in general. I was reminded how empty the house felt when the lover of it left.
And I realized that I’m an essential part of my household; just because I don’t financially support it, doesn’t mean I’m not a main contributor. I know if I were to leave, this little house would dry up of its coziness and cleanliness and warm smells of home cooked meals. It would dry up of everything that makes this home ours.
When you died, I realized all the little things that you did, behind the scenes. Like making a romantic Valentines dinner for the family, or scheduling weekend plans or packing lunches or writing little love notes or scrubbing the toilet or washing clothes or buying a first day of school outfit or providing advice or tucking us kids in at night or scheduling doctor appointments or stocking the pantry with our favorite snacks or baking birthday cakes or writing Santa notes. So many things that made my life easy and wonderful were gone and it took your death to realize what you really did for me and our family.
I promise you that I’ll never forget that lesson again. I am a mother, and I will always be needed. I chose my role in this home, and I should never take that position for granted. And I’m certainly never useless.
For me to be the kind of mom I want to be–the kind of mom I know I am–I need to be selfish. I need to drop the guilt not just sometimes, but all the time. I need to buy myself another pair of pants, or perhaps two.
I need to remember how glorious I really am, and how much my family needs me. And I can now, thanks to you.