The question is asked every day. In the grocery store checkout line, on the phone, at the bank drive through. And the answer never changes.
‘How are you today?’
It doesn’t matter if we’re talking to strangers, acquaintances, friends, or even family. We say ‘good’ because it’s expected and because it’s quick and because we don’t want to get into more than that and because often times, it’s true.
I am good. I am better than good. I am blessed beyond measure. And I know it. But lately, what I feel more than anything is tired. Not physically tired, though there’s always that. No, I mean tired in the full, all-encompassing sense of the word.
I am tired. Tired of the shrill screams of a one year old that are causing hearing damage to everyone in our family. Tired of redirecting her away from the stairs dozens of times a day only to find her trying to get into the cabinet under the sink. I’m tired of the seemingly out of control tantrums of a three year old which he can flip off as suddenly as the flip of a switch, only to flip it back on a moment later. I’m tired of the moodiness and negativity of a five year old who can spread his attitude through the whole house in five minutes flat. I’m tired of knowing that same five year old will start kindergarten next week and life will never be the same again. Not ever.
I’m tired of the constant noise. The ‘outside’ voices that never lower to an indoor volume. The stomping of feet down the hallway overhead. The plastic wheels of a baby walker rushing across linoleum, pushed by someone much larger than a baby. The ‘Mommy. Mommy. Mommy! MOMMY!!’ The brotherly fighting that more often than not turns into screaming, crying, hitting fiascoes. The yelling I employ to stop the fighting. It sounds so ugly in my ears and yet I use it over and over again. I enjoy quiet. I recharge through quiet. I miss quiet.
I’m tired of being to blame for everything. In the minds of three and five year old boys it is my fault that they’re dying of thirst because they forgot their water bottles at home. It’s my fault they fell down and hurt their knee. It’s my fault they thought Spiderman has a cape when he clearly does not. My fault that they can’t find the swim goggles they moved and now they can’t go swimming ever again and their life is ruined. MY FAULT.
I’m tired of having no friends beyond the few I ‘talk’ to on Facebook. I can not name the last time I got together with another woman just to hang out. I’m tired of knowing it’s my own fault because I could join that play group I heard about and meet other moms. But the thought of packing up the kids and chasing them around while trying to form a bond with a group of strangers is, well, tiring. And I could go to that women’s Bible study at night. But leaving a husband who I haven’t seen all day and being out late when all I want to do is crash on the couch with him is also tiring. I need friends who share my mental exhaustion. Who understand my need to get together as well as my reluctance to do so.
I’m tired feeling guilty about everything. Guilty for not taking the kids outside to play on a beautiful day because there’s just so much to get done inside. Guilty because that ‘to do’ list always takes priority over playing with my children. Guilty for not enjoying these days of wonder even while knowing how fleeting they are. Guilty because I yell ‘Be quiet!’ knowing full well that one day the silence will haunt me. Guilty because it’s selfish to want a day off. Guilty because there are plenty of moms who would love to be in my position, but have to work to support their family.
I’m tired of getting to the end of every day and feeling like a failure. A failure because I was home all freaking day and somehow the house is still a disaster. A failure because instead of calmly disciplining the kids, I lost it. Again. A failure because all those good intentions I had gave way to wasted time. A failure because sometimes I think my frustration is going to explode from every pore, and every ounce of patience I try to muster runs away at the first sign of trouble. A failure because this is the only thing I’ve ever truly wanted to do as well as the most important thing I will ever do, and I am horrible at it.
I’m tired of wondering. Wondering if I’ll ever get all the housework done. Wondering if I’ll ever have a day all to myself. Wondering if I’ll ever stop feeling guilty. Wondering if we should have stopped at one child, not because I don’t love our two youngest, but because when we only had one, I was a good mom. Wondering if that nagging worry that I’ve become a worse person since having children is just because of the stage we’re in or if it’s something permanent.
I don’t say all this to complain, hard as that may be to believe. Nor do I say it to get affirmation. I don’t want my fragile ego stroked. You can tell me all you want that I’m doing a good job, but you only see what I want you to see. I see everything. The reason I say all this is simply because I can ignore it or I can acknowledge it. And since ignoring it doesn’t seem to be making it go away, I choose to acknowledge it. Maybe nothing will change. Maybe I will change. Maybe everything will change with time. Whatever happens, I just want to be honest for once when the question comes up. ‘How are you?’ Now you know.