Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Sometimes Parenting is NOT About Multitasking

After what feels like months of filling every moment of every day, so that even the very end of day before bedtime is crammed with piles of laundry, and brushing my teeth and getting my pajamas on feels like one more chore, today it feels much stiller.  Arlo is sick, and wants me to hold him.  Which I have done since 6:00 this morning when he woke up, after a long night of me sleeping next to his feverish hot potato body.

He has largely slept, in that lethargic, eye rolling way, waking to cry for a minute, before he slumps back into a hot sleep again.  And so I have typed some work, watched a mini-marathon of t.v. shows on my computer, did a few conference calls.  And here I am writing for pleasure, as he sleeps on in my arms.  But it has been one thing at a time, often one-handed one thing at a time, but this rather than three or more things at a time, when I would normally make lunch for myself, for Arlo, wash the breakfast dishes, sweep and mop the floor, pay our bills, and answer the phone, while work whistled to me from my office.  None of that today though, just one at a time, with a big baby on me, heating my lap right through his clothes and the blanket he is wrapped up in.

Recently I was saying to my husband that I am afraid at times that Arlo doesn't like me very much.  A more accurate statement at the time probably would have been that I don't like me very much, and that parenting at this juncture feels especially hard, which is how Matthew responded.  Hard and busy, not my favorite combination because the time for reflection, for regrouping, is usually between the time Arlo falls asleep for a nap and when I walk to my computer to work.  A matter of seconds, if any time at all.  Put one thing down and pick up another.  Put one down, and pick one up.  Put down, pick up.  Round and round I often go like a whirling dervish, except with a lot less grace than the actual dervishes, if you've ever seen them.

But today, Arlo is very close to me.  On me.  Needing me.  Every time he opens his eyes he needs me to say that he's going to be alright.  He asks, every time, with his tired, sick eyes, with his little hands clutching me.  With his cry.  And so today Mommy lets a lot of the other voices fall away, and I hold Arlo and pick away at this and that, one thing at a time.  The cacophony stills.  It is so rare for a day to be one-note right now, and being with a sick child (who is not too sick) is a strange kind of quiet.  It is a worried quiet, a sad quiet, and also a restful one.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Long Winter Disease

I, and everyone I know, has had it with this particular Maine winter.  It came on too strong, too fast in December, gave us a cold, powerless Christmas, cold and more cold to follow, and for my little family, weekly if not daily furnace troubles that continue as we now navigate a complaint against our furnace manufacturer.

Among the many other things I cannot bear any longer, is carrying over the item week after week on my TO DO list in my calendar book.  "Blog."  "Blog."  "Blog."  Maybe if I'd underlined it, or put it in all capitals, or said "Please blog," or "I'll give you $10 if you blog today," then I would have done it sooner.  Done it every three days, or even once a month.  But it has somehow been easier to carry it along on my TO DO list, feeling sluggier and sluggier about my meek writer identity.

I have, however, done some mommy blog reading in the last several months, but one day last month they all started to come across to me as somehow formulaic.  It might have been the same day as our last snowstorm, when my days began feeling formulaic too.  But the blogs, post after post of how bittersweet is motherhood, how wild the latest multitasking cacophony, how downright crazy are the expectations on mothers, and the various responses from martyr, to cheerful participant, to grim co-anchor.  Tedious is the word that comes to mind as I think over these blogs, as completely uncharitable as that sounds towards the authors and mothers in general.  I have been particularly disheartened by a few mommy blogs I've read that include flamboyant cursing in every sentence.  I'm struck by how unfunny these posts are, but sadly am not sure why, either because these mothers are trying so hard, or because I don't have the energy to laugh with them.  Let's face it, I'm really fed up with myself.

That is the major symptom of long winter disease, by the way - a feeling of general joylessness, resulting in related symptoms of snappish relating, dragging feet, and overall impatience with the present moment coupled with the feeling that there is no better moment to go to.  Another major symptom I experience is tired parenting.  There is no other phrase for it that I can come up with.  Tired people doing tired parenting.  And it's not much fun for parents or kids - I can't recommend it.

So I am thus flailing about, beginning March unlike a lion.  If I muster energy on a given day it somehow gets sucked into questioning - my marriage, my friendships, my parenting, my housecleaning.  My clothes.  If I do not have energy, then I am slightly better able to let go of all of this and focus on taking care of Arlo (read: tired parenting), doing some consulting work, mopping the kitchen floor, and playing a board game at the counter with Noah when he gets home from school.  Long winter disease wreaks the most havoc with my life in these weeks when the normal moments of attending to the little things, the things that anchor me, provide me meaning and direction, and often such joy, become a stream of irritating, buzzing mosquitoes.  An endless pile of bricks to stack.  A recurring dream of an emergency but I can't dial the rotary phone for help.  You get the idea.  Please, Mother Nature, mother me and bring on the melting and the mud, so I can go out and play again.