I am happy... really.

A dear friend of mine (R) called me yesterday. She is the best kind of friend; the kind you can neglect to call, forget her birthday, and lose track of the details of life, but we know we will always love each other. We weren't childhood or even college friends. We met while working in the Trust Department of a bank about 12 years ago.

I wanted her life. She was happily married, I was playing (and losing) the dating game. She was elegant; she knew how to wear clothes with style even if they weren't in high style (she was a walking J. Jill catalog when their look was white-blouse-romantic). Fluid. Sensual. She was stable, grounded and authentic (to my envious eyes) and had the best work ethic I had ever witnessed. I still didn't know what I wanted to be when I grew up. But we were both searching for something beyond the dingy gray fabric of our cubicles. We talked about books, writing, and living in a spirit of beauty. And so we clicked.

R had called to check on me. She told me she read a bit of my blog and her impression was that I wasn't content, maybe even unhappy. I admitted my summer has been frustrating with both kids home fighting over everything from who has the bigger scoop of ice cream to who gets to hold the expired grocery coupon.

And the noise. Lawd, the noise!

In preparation for Wednesday's return to school, today's big chore was to tidy up both kids' rooms. While I tried to get Little Lady to work through the categories of books, baby dolls, Barbies, vehicles, and farm animals, Tator was "singing" (piglet squealing), then rawr-ing like a tiger on speed, then wah-wah-ing a helicopter around the room. Inside voice, inside voice. Pleeeeaaaaassssssssssse.

And Little Lady: Mama, Mama. I can't do this Mama. I don't know where these books go, Mama. Why isn't Tator helping? Are you helping me, Mama? I'm thirsty. I'm hungry. My hand hurts. Ahhhhh, Tator hurt me. Tator's just messing it up again? MAMA!

But I promised R a positive post. A happy one.

But I'm not actually unhappy. I'm just not estatic. I am a mother of two young children who don't get along. I am a woman trying to work from home while mothering those children. A woman who loves silence, who loves to be alone.

Yesterday I read the blog post, The Incredible Vanishing Woman, by Noble Savage. I could have written it myself - not as well as she, of course - but the sentiments, even the discussions with Hubby. It got me thinking (i.e. writing).

My mother did everything around our house. She put her needs (to be a writer) last because what we kids were doing (going to school) and what Dad was doing (working, then getting his Ph.D.) was always more important in her eyes. I saw her sacrifice and did not want the same for myself. She told me once that whatever pattern you establish in the beginning of the relationship will stick. So I was determined to make it clear to whomever "took my hand" that we would have equality in our marriage.

Hubby won me over with his willingness to help around the house before we got married and I wanted to look after him and show off my "womanly skills." But once our relationship lost its first gleam and the toilet bowl did too, he no longer noticed it and I had to admit I had no womanly skills. And for some reason I'd get really angry every time I did (turns out I have some psychological baggage around cleaning as well as a severe allergy to dust, a combination that doesn't make for a merry maid).

And then the kids came along.

Hubby was raised in the South. Enough said? Children were a woman's business. Besides I wanted to be home with them. Work was his job, children were mine. I'm not saying he didn't change diapers, give baths, or play with them. He did. If he had to. And many, many tears were shed over my plight as an over-worked, under-appreciated servant whose very body was even in demand - for milk or sex.

In the almost seven years we have been parents he has become more and more helpful - the bedtime routine is practically all him now - and for that I am so thankful. But, I am also too controlling. And because of that I am complicit in my own discontent. Take last night for example. Tator came in our room at 4AM, his pajamas ringing wet. Now I could have elbowed Hubby and asked him to take care of it because I always take care of night time emergencies. But my reasoning to let him sleep were as follows:

1. He needs his sleep because has to work in the morning.
2. He wouldn't begin to know where the clean sheets or pajamas were (because 1. he has no idea where the kid's clean sheets are kept and, 2. I hadn't put the laundry away yet anyway).
3. He just wouldn't do it right. He would wipe Tator off with a clean towel instead of one that was ready for the laundry and would probably just pull up the duvet over the wet sheets and somehow wrap him up before stumbling back to bed.
4. I would stay awake during the whole process anyway waiting for them to need me.

But when I tell myself the truth it goes like this:
1. I need my sleep (just as much?) because dealing with two children all day on even a full night's sleep is exhausting. Not to mention that in between their needs I am trying to squeeze in making posters and sending out press releases for my workshops.
2. & 3. Who cares what towel, what sheets, or if Tator goes back to bed in a pink princess nightie?
4. So what if I'm awake, doesn't mean I need to uncurl from my perfect sleeping position and get up.

And so it goes. Hubby sleeps. I get up. I can't get back to sleep. I get grumpy with the kids when the chup-chup splats across the floor.

Frustrated? Overwhelmed? Tired? Yes. But am I unhappy? Truly unhappy? No.

I heard once that parents of young children and teenagers are in general, a wistful bunch. In love with our children and not regretting becoming parents, but not loving the day-to-day angst. Add some money issues to that and it's a little difficult to be all stars and rainbows.

But my dear R, I am OK. Yes, I am missing my coffee shop mornings and our talks about feng shui and simplicity in Barnes and Noble. Yes, I wish I was curled up in my big chair in my apartment quietly reading, uninterrupted. But I am pursuing my dream of working for myself and writing. I have my very own writer's refuge (although I have barely used it this summer), I have a loving husband who supports my dream and decision to stay home and tolerates (to a degree) my monthly meltdowns, and who is happy to do those chores that fire up my nasal membranes and my ire.

My life as a self-flagellating woman, mother, and housewife is not a barrel of monkeys but I know what I need, who I am, and what makes me happy. And I am trying to do something about it...

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Breeze said...

Yes. To all of it. I am you, you are me. It's so common. Avoid the burnout, do your thing as much as you can, find some silence, read "Mom Jason's Breathing on Me" by Anthony Wolfe, use the techniques for the kid fighing(I swear it's magic if used properly) and breathe a lot.

Peace mama...someday the coffees and discussions of Feng Shui will come again, you're still in there, you're just tired!


Neva Campbell said...

I so relate. I have a lot of these periods in my life- having two kids at home, especially fighting and making messes is so hard. Taking time out to write about it helps...Keep telling us about it, at least we can laugh and cry with you :)

RaisingSmartGirls said...

I believe it's easier to "make" happy than it is to "be" happy. I generally have more of a melancholic personality. If I just sit around assess where I'm at (listing all the positives and the negatives of my current situation), I wouldn't say I was happy. If I were to make an effort to do something constructive for myself, my friends, my family - I become happy.

If I seek out a friend who needs uplifting, I become happy. If I make something creative, I become happy. If I something I've written helps someone else feel understood, then I become happy. If I play a game with the kids, or teach them a new science experiment, then I become happy. If I manage to make my melancholic husband laugh his ass off and flash me the kind of smile that makes his eyes crinkle and warms my heart - then I become happy.

I must say this was an EXTREMELY difficult proposition when my second daughter's intensity was out of this world and my littlest one was younger.

Yes, we have some squabbles and messes, but not nearly as much as before. I was pretty much a train wreck. It wasn't pretty.

This is also why we stopped at three kids (it was supposed to be two but the fates intervened on that one).

I wish I lived closer, I'd go out to the bookstore for some coffee with you.