“I don’t know how you do it.”
A lovely older woman said this to me in a waiting room on Friday. I was holding the baby, keeping an eye on a toddler and pleading with the pre-schooler to return back to me, while the school kid read a book in the corner. “I don’t know how you do it” is a response I get quite regularly these days; whether I’m hauling the kids out alone to the supermarket, or after telling a story about our home life. It’s incredible, it seems, that one woman can single handedly manage four children and live to tell the tale; perhaps a little frazzled and worse for wear, but no real harm done.
But I’ll let you in on a little secret: I don’t really do it. Not well, anyway.
I cracked the other night. It had been building up for awhile, and the blow was huge. I won’t go into full details, but it involved a pre-schooler running towards a road and me losing my jam in front of a nurse (who was holding my baby and watching the other kids while I hunted down said pre-schooler). I was messy. I was shattered. I was a short fall from a deep depression. And I was pretty damn sure I didn’t want to be anyone’s parent anymore.
That feeling grew over the evening and was still present the next morning when I woke up. Thankfully, it passed once I’d showered and got my parenting-groove on. But what if I’m not so lucky next time? What if I crack so hard I break? It’s entirely possible (and yes, I’m in the process of seeking help).
The most disturbing outcome of this mini-breakdown – for me at least – was the realisation that I am a giant hypocrite. I often write about how it’s okay to feel like you suck at parenting or that you’ve failed as a mother, because everyone has those days. And it’s true! It is!
But it turns out that I’m not okay with failing. I’m not okay with sucking. I’m not okay with having a meltdown in front of a professional and a stranger in public. I will tell everyone else that this happens to the best of us; you’re only one person, you can’t do it all.
But me? Nope. I hold myself to an impossible standard which I fail every damn day.
No wonder I’m drowning here.
Despite my best attempts to self-sabotage, I can admit when I need help. Self-awareness is one of my strengths; I had already seen a doctor the day before to get the ol’ mental health plan rolling. I have a lot I need to work on, and life will continue to throw mud up on the way. But it’s a start. And that’s all that matters right now.
I don’t do life with four kids well.
I don’t ‘do it’.
I don’t always like it, either.
And those are all normal feelings of motherhood. Remember that, mamas. Take care of yourselves. Reach out when you need to. Your little people need it – but more importantly, you do too.