It’s Christmas Eve, and the way that family life has unfolded over the past few days has given me a lot to think about.
At our house this year, Winter Break means lots of time with Hubby, the kids, and I all together at home. Personally, I have had mixed feelings about this for some time now. Naturally I am thankful that we are all healthy, safe, and together. Nothing can be taken for granted, as we’ve been reminded by recent events in the U.S. of A.
That being said, there is generally only so much being-together-in-our-little-messy-house that I can take before I start to go bonkers. It doesn’t help that my weight has gone up, up, up over the past several months. As a result, every day I have to grit my teeth and endure the feeling of tight clothes and a body that takes up so much more room than it used to. Also there is always, always the issue of what to eat. It seems to me that a low-carb way of eating is the only way for me to shed pounds, but every day presents struggles and obstacles. One day it’s feeling extremely tired (sick?); another day it seems there’s nothing to eat (yes, I should plan better); another day I’m realizing that the next day holds a holiday celebration or a trip out of town, and all efforts to eat well seem pointless.
Hubby and I agreed that I need to get my hormones tested, to see if there is anything going on there (estrogen dominance, perhaps), but Christmas time is hardly the time to get going on that; it will have to wait until later this week, or even the new year. Heck, on Friday I tried to get some other phone calls made — appointments made — that I’d been putting off for awhile, but it was all for naught because everywhere I called was already closed for the holidays.
So, yes, dealing with my large, chubby self presents stress and sadness every moment of the day, but that’s hardly the only thing going on. Just the stress of keeping everyone on an even keel is enough to keep me busy. My younger son Mark, 4 years old, is a temperamental fellow, and getting through any day with him is a balancing act, an art, a journey in and of itself. It’s very common for him to run out of steam — exhibit signs of being sleepy and grumpy — by 10 or 11 a.m., but when and whether he’ll take a nap is its own issue.
I have always found, as a parent, but especially as a parent of Mark (older brother Adam has always been an easier child), that there is no rest for the weary. By that I mean there is rarely time to sit down and rest, enjoy a book, read the newspaper, etc., because Mark always seems to need something. That “something” may be a snack, a dose of discipline, a reprimand to be kind to his brother, a helping hand in the bathroom.
Or, it may be something he wants and is demanding that I do or make for him. Lately it’s been his insistence that he (meaning, Hubby or I) make a rocket out of paper. Doesn’t sound too difficult, but things with Mark are always difficult. In this case, it turned out he wants a real(ish), 3D rocket that flies. Good luck trying to explain to him that this isn’t going to work out quite like he would like. In the end, this means a, in-the-end-unfulfilling, ten minutes trying to craft a rocket out of paper that he cries about and stomps away from because it doesn’t work!!!!!!
Now that we’re all home for Winter Break, things are both easier and harder than usual. Easier, because Hubby and I are both home to share the load. Harder, because Hubby isn’t quite used to being at home so much. He seems surprised, and disappointed, that the kids are getting snarly by 9 or 10 a.m. He seems offended that Mark, instead of appreciating Dad’s efforts to make chocolate chip pancakes for Christmas Eve breakfast, hollers that he doesn’t-want-that-he-wants-SOMETHING-ELSE!!!! (I later shared with Hubby my belief that kids aren’t here to make us happy or fulfill us, and their choices and behavior are more likely to disappoint us than please us, until they are perhaps 26 years old.)
Really, the bottom line for Hubby and me is that life as parents is often, perhaps usually, miserable. Miserable in that it doesn’t matter how worn out, strung out, stressed out, burnt out, or ill you are feeling — family life goes on — it must go on. Meals need to be made, messes need to be cleaned up, errands need to be run. And no one feels the stress of this reality more than the parent who spends the bulk of his/her time at home, if that is the case in that home.
Now that it’s Winter Break, Hubby and I are both home. Yes, I realize I am pointing this out for the third or fourth time in this post, but this is because it is one of the most important “things” going on at my house right now.
If it’s 11 a.m. and Hubby and I are both worn out from cooking, cleaning, and childcare — and Mark declares he needs to go potty (he needs extra help because of ankle-foot braces he now has) — well, one of us needs to help him, and it’s not always going to be me. Why SHOULD it always be me? The playing field is level in a way that it’s not often level.
It’s the same for any household need or childcare need that comes up during winter break. We’re in the trenches together, and there are no real outside demands to pull one or the other of us away. In the morning, it’s not as if he needs to shower-get dressed-eat breakfast-run out the door to get to work on time, leaving me to do a lot of the kid stuff and kitchen stuff. No, in our current reality, there we both are. It is lovely. Stressful, but lovely.
Why stressful? Well, I guess I’ve always got one eye on Hubby, gauging how he’s handling the stress of being at home. Some days he can handle just about anything without losing his patience. Other days it doesn’t take much to send him to grumpy-land. Rightly or wrongly, I feel it’s my job to grease the wheels of our family interactions. To remind my husband that the kids will often, even usually, disappoint us. To assure him that whatever kind of day the kids are having is definitely on the scale of normal, and that yes, it really is this miserable being at home with the kids.