It’s been quite the Monday.
My child, Harper, who is not autistic but who struggles with transition and anxiety and other basically really profound and annoying things like perfectionism and all of that nonsense had a full-on meltdown this morning when she discovered that I had not finished laundering her mittens.
The mittens, a purple sparkly job that went with her koala hat, had been defiled in the most egregious way yesterday when she ignored me after I asked her to stay out of the mud and the snow pile as she was playing outdoors. I needed her to stay out of the snow pile because the snow is beginning to melt, and the pile is at the end of a parking lot, so it’s basically just a big, wet, slushy mound of black grit and anti-skid that has been layered over the pavement since it started to snow last November.
There is nothing good about playing in a pile of moist road salt.
There are zero things about that that are good.
And yet, as soon as she came inside yesterday, the black stains were already setting in to the mittens she had just gotten and with which she was obsessed.
So, like a good mom, I threw them in the laundry. But the pile that they went in with was only half a load so I haven’t even started it yet, except to rinse and spin it.
Which makes me the most heinous bitch in the world.
I mean, how dare I not start the laundry that contained her mittens. Why didn’t I just shove them in the load of whites? I mean, my sheets – my beautiful, white, cotton Johnny Bahamas that I bought after my divorce because when I was married I couldn’t have a sheet or a pillowcase lighter than a dull gray because half of the marital unit did not feel the need to wash themselves before going to bed – don’t need to be stain free. Not more than she needs her purple sparkly mittens.
How dare I not prioritize her needs?
I mean, she’s five. I get it. Egocentrism isn’t a condition when you’re five. It’s just…you know…part of being five.
But Jesus Tits I can’t deal with her on the floor screaming because she can’t move past the mittens and just pick a different pair for now and gather herself up and get to the car so that I can get her to the bus on time.
I feel awful but I am not particularly good at this whole mom thing before I’ve been caffeinated and Vyvansed in the morning. I said some things, and she said some things, and then we both wound up just pissed right the hell off.
I apologized once I got them to the bus stop, and we’d all had a chance to breathe.
The fact is that the mittens were a big deal to her. I may not have been personally as invested in the purple mittens as she was, and because I couldn’t empathize with her I wound up acting like a complete fool.
And the thing is, you know it’s happening while it’s happening but you just can’t stop. Because the bus is coming and how can the whole day be getting derailed this quickly?
The hardest part of parenting for me is keeping my frustration managed. I just get so tired. I went a lot of years unmedicated for impulse control and attention deficit issues, so I had to learn to focus unwaveringly on the simplest of tasks in order to function.
It took a long time, and it involved a lot of profound failure along the way and yes, I’m medicated now, but the hardcore intentional focus I had to develop, just to keep my head above water, never went away. And when you’ve got two five-year-old girls just clawing at you nonstop for attention, to fix what you can see as minor inconveniences, it just wears you out.
They got started this morning as soon as they got up, over a pink plastic tiara. One of our current issues in our home is that of personal property. They’ve been sharing clothes, toys, and all kinds of other things since they were born. Maybe I should have started sooner but now that we’re trying to learn that certain things are not ours, and that we have to ask for permission, and most importantly that taking something and putting it in our room doesn’t make it ours, I’m finding myself going exponentially crazier. I literally had to break up a fistfight over a pink plastic tiara before I even got my teeth brushed this morning, so I can say with full confidence that I went into the mitten debacle at a significant disadvantage based on prior stress from which I hadn’t yet fully recovered.
It’s exhausting. I’ve been reading a lot about mom burnout lately. It seems to be a hot topic on social media. It’s hilarious, watching people be surprised that parents and caregivers burn out. Like, really?
This surprises you?
I get up at 6:30 a.m. every day, whether it’s a work day or not, unless my kids have spent the night at a grandma’s. And I don’t remember the last time I got to fall asleep before 11 p.m. I try to contrive my days so that I can go to bed by 9 or so, but there’s no actual sleep until at least 11, and it’s never, ever enough.
Even estimating conservatively and saying fourteen hours a day six days a week, assuming I do get to bed around 9 (not sleep, but bed) and the girls spend one night a week at a grandma’s house, that’s 84 hours a week I actually have to be on, engaged, and actively either work working or mom working. That’s 4,368 hours a year. A straight 9 to 5 job would net 2,080 hours a year.
I do not ever want to hear someone with zero children, or who doesn’t have physical custody of those children the majority of the time, ever ever say that they’re tired to me. No. You do not get to be tired. I’m sorry, I know it goes against my whole “empathy first” and “don’t be a dick” general policy on life, but fuck that.
You don’t even have the first idea what what tired is.
Exhaustion is not physical it is mental. And my brain is shot.
You know who I love?
I love the shit out of Kristen Bell.
For a lot of reasons, not the least of which is the natural funny she just brings to every conversation. Naturally, she’s just hilarious.
Kristen Bell is the shit, you guys. Not only because, if I’m honest with myself, I’m a lot more Kiki than Amy in “Bad Moms,” even though I live my life lying to myself and pretending I’m Amy. And ignoring the fact that I’ve got a lot of Carla going on in my personality too.
On a side note, “Bad Moms II?” I’m not sure how they did it but the writers appear to have deconstructed my mom and broken her down into her component parts and then reverse-engineered her to present her as three separate people.
Holy crap that movie was scary. Because she’s all there. All of her. Just in three terrifying individual women.
Anyhow. What I love the most about Kristin Bell is that she puts it all right out front. Anxiety. Depression. Kristen Bell bullshitteth not, you guys. I have a handful of trolls who love to send me anything from backhanded compliments on my column to straight up concentrated judgement sauce on my life every now and then. I can tell when they’re feeling extra shitty about their own lives because they’ll try to throw some shade in my direction. Making me feel bad makes them feel powerful, it seems. I’m a less threatening target than someone who’s giving them shit, maybe. Or maybe they just need to hiss at someone to forget about their own issues for a while. It’s fine. I’ve toyed with the idea of blocking them, and unfriending them, and making really overt statements about how I won’t put up with their filth anymore.
But really, I actually kind of enjoy them. I have anxiety all of the time – a sort of cognitive dissonance, I guess you could call it – over being authentic. Here, on this blog, and in my column I am entirely myself. And it’s not hard, for the most part, to be that way. To speak honestly and without shame regarding whatever it is I want to say. I don’t spend time editing and polishing here because that’s not what this is for. It’s for honest reactions to life as it happens. I use Facebook in basically the same way. And Instagram. And if I ever figure out why Twitter isn’t just a redundant, newer model of Facebook, I may use that platform as well, for the same purpose.
And when people throw shade it gives the critical part of myself a chance to puff out her stupid chest and say, “see, I told you? You are fundamentally flawed and you are entirely without value as a person. That lady just agreed with me.”
And I have to remind myself every day that I don’t have to be ashamed for being honest about struggling with anxiety, or depression, or just general bad humor. I have to remind myself that they are an excellent opportunity to practice being socially resilient.
It’s funny, that so many people with anxiety flock toward writing. It’s funnier still how so many of us seem to gravitate toward personal writing. Without caution it can become entirely vacuous and without merit, but done well, personal writing is some of the most influential and meaningful. It never ceases to amaze me that I can be leveled by the perception that someone is judging me from across the produce section of the grocery store, but that I can write a personal essay and share it publicly every week without cringing (much).
It’s strange. I don’t entirely understand it myself.
And it’s people like Kristen Bell who remind me that I am, in fact, entitled to be authentic, out loud. That I don’t have to pretend not to be struggling. That I don’t have to pretend to be impervious.
“…I’m at a point where I don’t believe anything should be taboo,” she wrote in her 2016 essay that officially broached the subject and made her an advocate.
Still, Bell takes a lot of shit about her honesty too.
Which makes me feel even braver.
And, if I ever need just balls to the wall resilience, I turn to my queens.
I want Rupaul to be my mom. And I want Mrs. Kasha Davis to be my dear auntie.