Thursday, April 24, 2014

Impossible Era of Lonely

At the end of the day, I am shocked that my husband does not come bounding through the door with an ample bouquet of rescue dogs, a masseuse, and two personalized picture albums from Shutterfly.  Absolutely stunned.  I survived the bedlam of filling hours with life-altering decisions, mind-numbing responsibility, chronic worry, and brushing Sadie's teeth.  Are my battle scars not visible? Why dost thou not weepest at the sight of me!?

Nary a shoulder rub, witty repartee, or mere mention of scalding Epsom bath?  Hell hath no fury like an exhausted mother.

But no.  My tired knight returns to sort through mail, clean up the already cleaned-up counters, and ask what we're "doing" for dinner.

{Usually I'm trying to cook is what we're doing.  I'm attempting to combine ingredients everyone hates to make a meal nobody will eat.  That's what we're "doing" for dinner.}

And there again, I stand alone, with mine own self importance.

It's just that we do deserve that royal treatment.  Really we do.  Where you do your working is irrelevant.  An office, fields of clover, cloffice, gym, shady parking lot, Panera Bread table, we ALL deserve red carpets and sacred goddess names.  Demi-Luna's already taken.

We mother (and/or father) from sunup to sundown.  We wife (and/or husband) when we remember to shave our knee caps (and/or brush our teeth. Boys.  Seriously, just brush your damn teeth, that's all it takes).  We friend all afternoon through FB likes and choppy texts.  And not for one stretch of 32 consecutive minutes do we ever stop catering, nursing, administering, peacemaking, vet teching, volunteering, mind-reading, over-analyzing, bargain shopping, food prepping, dish scrubbing, laundry piling, and self-burying.

Oh yes, we die every day so that others can live.  No, I don't consider that hyperbole because that is exactly what we do and I have frown lines, gray hair, and big words I can't remember how to spell or say anymore to prove it.

We sacrifice our once youthful bodies, once agile mind, and any hope of pretty fingernails for our families and we have not one tricep muscle as reward.  There are no meetings with upper management to discuss a pay increase.  No free croissants in the break room.  Maybe a slurp of someone's leftover OJ if you're a saver.

The problem with expecting praise, purple hearts, and acknowledgement (in that order) is that what we do is typical.  We are not doing anything legions of other people haven't done for eons before us.  Nobody is a Three Star General Parenting or Dr. Decision Maker, M.D.  We are all the norm.

Regular people sometimes choose to parent.  Moms often opt to mother.  Dads do execute fathering.  Again, nothing to write home about because it's all been done before.

But I've noticed something.  In reading blog "confessionals," talking to my mom friends, observing status updates on social networks I've noticed a disheartening trend:  Parents are beyond tired.  They're sad  They're lonely.  They're clinically depressed.  They're on medication.  They're begging for help without asking for it.

This is not a good epidemic to sweep over our great nation.  It's a very scary one.

You see, no matter who you are or where you are, children always have you starting your life over from scratch with nothing but a box of broken crayons and some chapstick.  It's an impossible feat with an everyday title.

And every single one of us tell ourselves it's entirely possible to do alone.  To do with a full time job.  To do with a part time job.  To do while maintaining a hobby.  To do while the spouse is deployed or just gone for other reasons.  To do without any family close by.  The truth is that it's not possible.  Oh, you can get away with this way of living for a while.  But let me be the first to piss off the Type As (myself included) and declare that yes, at some point, someone's gonna give.  And it's not gonna be the two-year-year-old.

I don't know how we got here.  How Americans arrived at the notion that Having it All means Doing it Alone and Never Sitting Down but we're here.  And it's not working out so well for the either parent.

But we are trying.  We are also surfacing and quietly admitting we need help.  We are cleansing, vitamin ODing, CrossFitting our asses off to get by.  But I see the trend so clearly in all we write, say, or purposely leave out.  We are ashamed that we cannot keep up with all of status quo.   We hide that we'd rather sleep all day than volunteer at our 1st graders Mardi Gras parade. We can't even think about Girls Night Out because there is a tub of brownies in the fridge calling our name.  It's no wonder divorce rates are up for families of young children.  You can forget about Date Night.  Or even snuggling on the couch.  Exhaustion makes for very bad foreplay.

Parents are beyond tired.  We are expecting the impossible of ourselves.  Every day.

Not sure how this ever became a way of life.  Are we are the first generation to really expect have it all and have it away from our family's support network?  If there was ever a system to fail, it was believing only two people can do the work of five:   one person go to work for 10-12 hours a day to make a life, then one more other person to do the rest.

And yet, most of us never realize we have a choice at all.

Parenting this way isn't always awful.  En mass, we seem to strap on our capes and get things done.  But it does take creativity and daily humbling of oneself to ask for help.  That's a toughie.  Why would we ask a stranger for help with our own family needs?  Because we no longer have our own family as an option, that's why.

So, am I wrong to expect flowers at the end of every work day?  Insane maybe but not wrong.  We are all worthy of that effusive greeting and teenage embrace.  We all deserve it.

Even the husband bounding through the door without masseuse or that precious geriatric greyhound I want to hold tight. Because, whether I can see them through his uniform or not, he has battle scars too.  Just as many as I do.

And if there's nobody walking through the door at night for you after the sun falls and your baby awakens?  Your scars run deeper than mine and your soul is so very weary.  Please, pick up the phone and ask for help.  Your friend won't turn you away.

Sometimes we have to build our village one phone call at a time.


Anna Whiston-Donaldson said...

Really loved this. It also made me think of when the last time was that I made a phone call. Eeep.

OSMA said...

Thanks, Anna. I'm getting better at reaching out when I need it, myself. But still, at arm's length. It's so comfy there. Eeep. :)

Andrea Mowery said...

I feel this so much. I was at the end of my rope years ago, when I had small children and barely left the house for anything other than eggs and milk.

As much of a loner as I am, I know now that I need people. I need a village. It has done me so much good. It takes an effort. Sometimes just a text that says "I need girlfriends. Please come over" is that huge effort.

Thank you also for reminding me of my husband's battle scars. His are as numerous as mine, though they are covered by nicer shirts and pressed pants.