How Much Do I Suck? Let Me Count the Ways
I had an email this week from a reader named Jenny, asking me how I balance it all -- raising four kids, special needs, managing the Peanut Butter Kid's homebound schooling, running the house, and writing the blog. She asked me what I do to manage my stress besides drinking Frodkas.
I told her the truth: The answer is, I don't do it all, all that well.
Seriously. Or maybe I've just stopped giving a crap about a lot of stuff. My house is a disaster. I keep the downstairs relatively clean because the Peanut Butter Kid's homebound school teacher comes twice a week, and nothing motivates me to clean like a visitor. Particularly a visitor who's probably trained to be on the lookout for children who might benefit from the services of Child Protection.
If it wasn't for that teacher, and the fact that I occasionally babysit an 18-month old that eats everything, our downstairs would be really, really bad. Upstairs? Horrendous.
We have lived in this house for seven months, and I still have not unpacked all the boxes. Also, I haven't installed blinds in the playroom. Our neighbor commented that she notices we leave the light on all the time. Even at night. And did we know it was still on. At night. I'm pretty sure that was the nice way of staying please install some blinds because your hall light is keeping us awake at night. She may have also said something along the lines of "bless your heart," and we all know what that means.
I'll get to it. Eventually.
Also, I was supposed to be the co-leader of our Girl Scout troop this year, and I had to 'fess up that I couldn't do it. I feel incredibly guilty about that, but there's a limit to what I can do. Sometimes you have to say no. Even when you've already said yes.
I'm behind on paying the bills, not because we don't have enough money, but because paying the bills requires me to focus on something for more than five minutes, plus do math, all of which is rather unpleasant. Once in a while I get a nastygram from one of our utility companies, and then I freak out and pay all the bills. My laundry isn't done, the lawn isn't mowed, and my husband is working like 70 hours a week right now so I can't even ask him to do more than he already does.
Also, I eat too many cookies.
I don't care.
I just don't have the energy or the mental capacity to worry about this stuff right now. Even the cookie problem. If it takes the edge off my day, that's just how it's going to be. I am done beating myself up about it. I figure it's better than having a Frodka every time I'm stressed.
Also? I am excellent at rationalizations. Cookies are okay because they're better than becoming an alcoholic. I'm okay with my coffee addiction because it's better than heroin. See how that works? Please let me know if I can provide you with any rationalizations as well. It's a fun game for me, like Scrabble.
Actually, whenever there's a night when I think "boy, I could really use a drink," I don't have one. Because alcoholism runs in my family and scares the crap out of me. I used to run as a stress-reliever. That's healthier than cookies, but I just can't get to it right now.
And that's okay.
I've written before about how I have to triage the kids' problems. The rest of it is kind of like that, too. I prioritize. And that means that corralling the dust
bunnies buffalo is really, really low on the list. My family is at the top; if this were a Venn diagram, my marriage and my kids would have equal size and overlap. I give my marriage and my kids equal footing in terms of importance, but of course the kids get more attention than my husband. Which doesn't seem at all fair when you consider that he is supporting all six of us, and the kids are basically bleeding us dry.
So, yeah, maybe I need to bump our relationship up on the list a bit. Because some day, God willing, these kids will grow up as functional members of society and move out. And I hope my husband will still be here.
The thing is, I need to be somewhere on that priority list too. I don't need a bar-cruisin' moms' night out or a spa day every weekend (although that would rock). Just getting out of the house with a friend to go to a children's consignment sale is enough for me. I need, need, need to take a break.
Preferably right now. But I'll take the opportunity for a break whenever it shows up. Sometimes I giddily discover at 7:00 p.m. that we need milk. And I'm all, I'll go! I'll get it! Oh, the kids are already in their jammies ... darn. I guess I have to go alone. And then I drive to the store blasting Eminem or something equally inappropriate for children. By myself. It's bliss.
For me, the best stress reliever is writing my blog. I love writing, and have always wanted to become a published author. I always thought it would be with fiction; it never occurred to me that I would end up being a humor writer. Especially because I was so lonely after we moved to Texas, the blog -- and connecting with people in similar situations -- has been an amazing outlet for me.
The thing I'm struggling with right now is finding the time to write the blog and work on the book. However, being as how it's my lifelong dream, I'm going to make it happen. I'll sleep when I'm dead, right?
I do think it's critically important to have something that's yours, that you don't have to share, something that gives you a break. When I first had my twins, I joined my local mothers of multiples club, and I went to a meeting every month. It was on the calendar, so I went. And hung out with other cool moms who understood.
Jenny, good luck finding something to help with your stress. Know that you are not alone. Sometimes just knowing you're not the only one who feels like she's drowning, is helpful.