The Highs and Lows

Caryn: How do I put this delicately? Ummm…….Well, today has sucked. Sucked. Sucked. Big time.

My kids are off school. It’s cold and rainy.  My kids have been fighting because they’re bored and cooped up. None of us feel great, but aren’t quite sick. I’m depressed that I can’t just curl up in bed and be left alone so I can read The Bell Jar, which I started to reread yesterday. And, I admit, I’m a little bummed that we don’t have the dough to take a little jog somewhere warm or pretty or fun like so many of my son’s schoolmates seem to be doing over fall break.

This is the kind of day where it takes every last ounce of energy to make it through (see our last post where I smugly admit I was in a better “season”)–where honestly I kinda hate being a mom. Which is so weird because just YESTERDAY was so freaking fantastic. Yesterday was a total “I love being a mom!” day if there ever was one.

The weather was ridiculously perfect (68 degrees, sunny, slight, slight warm breeze, crispy leaves, hello, what’s not to love!), and my kids and I used their half-day to run to the library, play outside, jump in leaves, read together…. Honestly. It was a great day.

So today—as I’ve wondered what’s gone wrong (ugh! rain)—I can’t help but think that it’s these wild life-fluctuations that make being a mom (and I suppose a dad) so totally crazy. It’s why we feel like we are going to lose our minds. Because, honestly, these drastic highs and lows do this to us.

I don’t know what my point is here (please don’t worry. I’m NOT going all Sylvia Plath on anybody)—except to wonder if anybody else senses this same thing. That maybe motherhood would be easier or saner if were just somehow more level, if our lives were less manic and depressive…… I dunno.

Carla: There must be something in the air. One of my friends posted on her FB today that she kind of wants to just pull the covers over her head and wake up to a new life. She wondered if anyone else ever felt that way and there was a resounding, unanimous “Yes!” vote from the Facebook sisterhood.

It is amazing how quickly our lives can go from manageable and even enjoyable to overwhelming and crappy. Sometimes it’s because someone is sick or it’s raining or plans fall through, but often there is no real reason for the depressive part of the bipolar parenting cycle. It just comes along one morning and is in no hurry to go away.

I wonder, though, if it’s not really a cycle at all. It’s a game of whiplash where you can be coasting along just fine and then Wham! you get pulled off your feet by the sheer force of the endless responsibility. Personally, I can have a long stretch of great days and then, out of nowhere, comes a hard one, the kind where I think one more demand is going to send me running for the open road. I know it’s getting bad when I see a TV show that involves prison and I think, That doesn’t look so bad. You get a bed to yourself, there’s nothing to do all day, and someone feeds you.

I suppose the real struggle is accepting that this is just life. It doesn’t matter if the hard part is parenthood or work or marriage or loneliness or school or friendship. Being human means having difficult days where we long to be anywhere else doing anything else than what’s being asked of us.

Helpful, aren’t I?


6 responses to this post.

  1. Caryn-
    I too feel like a schizo when it comes to motherhood…one minute I’m a patient saint, the next I’m a raving lunatic. Hop on over to my blog if you want to visit my crazy week of swine flu. There is joy in being on the rollercoaster of womanhood together, that’s for sure.


  2. Posted by Danielle P. on October 23, 2009 at 8:28 am

    I always feel like a jerk in situations like this, saying “Well, thank God. At least it’s not just me.” ‘Cause really, if I had cancer or something and found out my good friend also did, I wouldn’t say “Oh, good. I’m not alone.” I would say, “Sheesh, I’m so sorry you have to go through this too.” Nevertheless…

    There IS something comforting in knowing that this bipolarity of which you speak of affects other parents (besides, of course, me), parents that I would like deem “normal,” because the IDEA of the roller coaster plagues me almost as the actual ups and downs. I come from a L-O-N-G line of crazy (Great-Great Grandma had a lobotomy, and on through to my mother and her sisters), so I have thought a good deal about whether or not some hills and valleys mean that I’m succumbing to the inevitable loss of my mind. I had a long talk with myself one day (no, THAT’S not crazy, right?) and came to the conclusion that I just had to calm down. Even if I didn’t know it would be to this extreme, being a mama (and being a human, really) means that there will be good days and bad. That’s it. And it was literally life-altering accepting that and knowing that even in that I could still master my response, holding myself back from the ledge and all the emotions that got me there by letting the feelings wash over me, dealing with them, and moving on. This positive-thinking stuff got me through a lot, I was almost like a machine, but that machine broke after baby #3. It was just too hard. So now what?

    I feel like in many ways, life after baby #3 (God love him) resembles the progression of the Church and Christianity moving from modernism to post-modernism, where the system that we used before, while not WRONG, is no longer an effective way to operate. Things just aren’t black and white anymore, and even the perspective from which I view life and base my expectations is different. And it is (excuse me) kind of a mind-f***. But it is what it is and that means that what I used to call “bad days” where everything’s a mess and life feels out of control are now “just another day”, because I can’t catch up or hit my reset button in one night like I used to. Sometimes I willingly climb into a bed covered in laundry that needs to be folded, close my eyes, and just pretend it’s an extra blanket. And while a part of me wants to scream, “This isn’t who I am! I’m not that lady!” the reality is… I kind of am now. (Wow. I never really put words to that before. Yuck.) Part of the problem, I feel like anyway, is that I’m still not fully adjusted to the fact that I am this… this… mom-person. And I am even less adjusted to the idea that I’m the sleeps-in-a-bed-of-laundry, feels-like-a-slave, is-even-mad-at-the-hostas-in-the-backyard-for-dying-some-days kind of one.

    So changing my expectations has helped, saying things out-loud to my husband that are ugly has helped (“I kind of hate them today” I whisper sometimes), and trying not to classify each day as “good” or “bad” has helped. Each is just another day. And promising myself that “even though today was bad, tomorrow will be better” is pretty much just a lie sometimes. So I just try to tell myself that each day will have good parts and bad, sometimes to ridiculous extremes. Sometimes I’m not very nice to myself and chalk it up to my own moodiness, others I remember that life is just that way at times. Here’s hoping today is one of the nicer sorts…


  3. Posted by Emily on October 23, 2009 at 9:51 am

    Oh, this is SO me!!! I wrote a blog post a couple of weeks ago entitled “Life is Beautiful” because that’s how I had been feeling. My baby boy is 9 months old and we’re finally out of the colicky, awake every 2 hours, always screaming adjustment of adding a second child….we’re finally out of survival mode and have a little bit extra to give… and then last week hit. Kids both have colds, the rainy season is upon us (I live in Seattle, so the rain is here to stay!), and my almost 3 year-old is driving me batty. Almost every day at more than one point I just want to shout at them, “Just leave me alone!!!!” I want the exact same thing as you, to go get in my bed and read a book. (although for me it’s not Sylvia Plath, I’m in the middle of the Twilight series!) =) So now I”m thinking about writing a post called “When Life is NOT Beautiful.” It really is just such a back and forth. Some nights when I get my daughter ready for bed I’m not quite ready for her to go, I just want to hug and kiss her some more. But other nights…. it’s all I can do not put her to bed at 5 p.m. and I’m kinda just sick of talking to her. That’s usually how I can tell what kind of day it’s been. So yeah, I dunno, but I’m totally, completely with you.


  4. Posted by lisa boylan on October 23, 2009 at 11:15 am

    It is a comfort knowing that other moms go through this.

    I’m looking at my 2 year-old right now … a sweet, adorable boy who is driving me BATTY! I’ve become a recluse who wears pajamas all day and doesn’t wash her hair (the shower upstairs is next to the boy’s bedroom and the only time I can wash it is when Beck is napping – which he wouldn’t be napping if he hears the shower. Don’t even ask me about using my husbands shower downstairs [gags]).

    Beck has become the screaming kid in stores that you all want to smack. I get evil eyes from people and can see them looking down their noses in distaste at me and my dirty hair. The good thing is that I am a master at putting on the public ‘patient-mommy’ look … but, when we get to the car – watch-out! It’s a raised voice, a few tears and then a stony silence as I compose myself. And THIS is why I rarely leave the house. It’s utterly exhausting.

    His other new thing is to sit on me or lean on me when we are on the couch. I JUST WANT SPACE, please. I am a loner. I like periods of solitude. I am not touchy-feely ….. but my kids are (I know, I should be grateful).

    I want to hide under my covers multiple times every day and pour myself into good books. Alone. I want to go to a store and browse quietly and with leisure. Alone. I want to get in my car and take a drive while listening to my gangsta rap at full volume, singing along with every word. Alone. I want to watch MY television shows instead of Max & Ruby all day long. You catch my drift?

    I see my neighbor pulling up in her car right now and while I genuinely adore her, it drives me nuts that she runs 10 miles a day, has energy to wash her hair and makes healthy food from scratch. B*tch makes me look bad.

    With all this said, I am a mom. I LOVE my boys with a ferocity that I didn’t know existed. I am here to protect, encourage, and shower them in kisses … even though in the back of my mind, I am craving my bed and a beer – at 10:00 in the morning.


  5. Posted by Janice on October 25, 2009 at 7:51 pm

    This reminds of something my daughter just found, a little book about me that she made in the first grade (she is now 17). She is the oldest of 4, and when she was 6, I had a 4,3,and 1 year old at home with me all day. The little book she made involved completing a series of sentences about her mom. The one I want to share is: My mom is the happiest when . . . I go to bed. I guess that illustrates my state of mind on many days. Now that the kids are 11, 13, 14, and 17, it’s not that bad, although I do have my moments!


  6. For me, it’s all about sleep. A lot of the time my really bad days follow a bad night (getting up to change a wet bed, noisy neighbors, restless husband, having to pee again, whatever). When I find that I’ve just had it by four o’clock (either at home or at work) and I feel like everything is going wrong, even though nothing is reeeally that bad, if I remember to think about it, I realize that what’s really wrong is that I didn’t get enough sleep last night. Which doesn’t happen as often as it used to, my boys being 7 and 11 now, but when it does, it reminds me of why I didn’t really enjoy the baby-toddler years, much as I love my kids.


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