Doesn’t it seem like stress has been trending for too long? Like it’s a bit ridiculous that feeling hassled is not reserved for crunch times – that instead it’s just a way of life?
Last week a colleague, who also happens to be my friend and neighbour, asked me, “Do you ever feel like you’re just barely scraping by?”
Fervently, I replied, “Ohmigosh, of course. ALL THE TIME.”
This friend of mine is one of the nicest people you can imagine, smart and hardworking and very compassionate. I’ve never seen her seem anything but serene, even when we’re talking about stress.
We were discussing the ever-tricky work/life balance. She told me about a recent incident in which she’d felt unreliable because she couldn’t remember whether or not she’d completed a particular task. This is something I can definitely relate to. The not-so-shining moments of things falling through cracks because… there’s JUST TOO MUCH.
It was, I think, surprising and comforting to both of us that we feel the same about this. I guess we’re both good at seeming fine when we’re not actually that fine.
The truth was, the previous week had been one in which my undulating perspective was rather more vertiginous than usual. My 39th birthday was on the Thursday, followed by Mother’s Day on the Sunday. My birthday was great – I felt loved and celebrated and worthy.
Things fell abruptly into focus for me on Mother’s Day. It was a lovely morning, with pancakes made by my Hubbibi and sweet little cards from my kids. In spite of this, a few hours later I was grouchy and yelly with those same kids. The little darlings had not taken the bait when I told them my dearest Mother’s Day wish was for them to clean their room and/or the playroom. In fact, both kids have arrived at a stage where they feel entitled to A) not do what I ask, like AT ALL, and B) give me attitude about it. And I just felt bitter.
We did clean up, but I basically had to threaten them. Great mothering right there. (And great childing too.)
The day got better later on, and everything was fine. It’s just that it happens more than I’d like that I get grumpy and raise my voice – and I hate that. I feel myself using guilt as leverage, and I hate that too. But why don’t they see how much work it is to parent them? Why don’t they want to help out? DON’T THEY LOVE ME??
That’s when I start to fret. Are my kids just lazy and selfish? Is it permanent? And if they are, isn’t it muchly my fault, as their mother?
Sean says I worry too much, and I’m sure he’s right. He generally doesn’t worry – but I have no idea how such non-worrying is accomplished. Case in point…
Examples of Things I Worry About
- My kids are spoiled beyond all help
- My house will never be clean or even properly tidy for more than 17 minutes
- I’m not a good mom
- I’m not a properly nice person anymore either – I’ve just got people fooled
- Teaching is not my true calling
- My “undulating perspective” is actually something wrong with my brain
- My energy oscillation is actually some weird disease
- The frequent headaches I get are actually cancer
- E’s melodrama is actually depression
- AB will grow up to be a Mean Girl
- My husband will die young and I’ll be a single mom
- My mind is disorganized because of all the thoughts that want to much to be written down but can’t be because NO TIME
- Work/life balance is a pipe dream. Period.
I swear I’ve never been a pessimist or a hypochondriac. I never used to stress out about little things, and it used to take a lot more for me to lose my temper. If I remember correctly, I did not used to be bitchy.
When I think about it at this moment, with the kids asleep in bed (no doubt looking like gorgeous innocent cherubs), I can convince myself that it’s probably not that they’re inherently or permanently lazy/selfish/evil. It’s probably just that they’re four and almost-eight, and they’re figuring out what they can get away with.
And maybe I’m not done for, either. I often have those moments where I look at my healthy children, my brick of a husband, my incredibly comfortable bed, my pretty house, my friendly neighbourhood filled with trees… And I’m completely dazzled by my good fortune. I can hardly believe I get to live this life.
As long as I keep coming back to some semblance of equanimity once in a while, I’m sure I’ll be fine. And get some fracking sleep, for crying out loud. (Or for not crying out loud. One would hope.)
Tomorrow I leave for OELC for a week. Experience tells me it will be one of the busiest and most exciting weeks of my year. It does include stress – but it’s all temporary, and all focused in one place. It’s a place to get centred and come back tired but refreshed. And by then it’s June! So EVERYTHING IS GOING TO BE PEACHY.
That’s the plan.