Being a mom is a relentless, thankless job. I am happy I have children, I always love them, I am often very proud of them, and sometimes I even like them. But Damn.
I left my career when my 3rd son was 6 months old. I tried going back to work, but I was just starting to get sick, and, even with a nanny at home, I just couldn’t manage it. I remember my first few weeks at home feeling exhausted. My mother called one day and asked me how I liked being a stay-at-home-mom, and I said summed it up like this:
“I feed them breakfast, clean up, get started on lunch, clean up, then feed them dinner. I haven’t gone to the bathroom alone in weeks, there is always someone crying or fighting, during the time I’m not cooking or cleaning the kitchen I’m picking up after them in other parts of the house, no one ever says thank you but they don’t hesitate to complain, my hours go from 6AM to 11PM with no break time, I haven’t worn anything other than sweat pants in weeks, and I no longer get a pay check. What more could a girl want?”
Once I adjusted to the relentless insanity of life at home I started thinking I never wanted to go back to work. This was in no small part due to the fact that I was getting progressively sicker, and I knew that home or not, I still had to take care of the kids and the house virtually alone. For the most part the dad worked nights and weekends, came and went as he wanted, allotted 10PM as his “family time”. He’d come home sometime between 9 and 11 and say “do you need anything?”, as if he’d actually take care of it if I gave him a list of all the household chores I needed help with. In his defense, he did fold a few loads of laundry, and he grocery shopped on a few occasions. Also, if I was bedridden, he’d sometimes bring dinner home for the kids.
Today, my youngest is 14, I am healthier then I’ve been in 20 years, the dad is gone which has cut down on stress and mess, the two older kids are working full time, and, more then ever, I just want to Run Away.
Last night is a prime example of why. I work one 4 hour shift a week. I scheduled it on Monday nights when the kids are supposed to be with the dad. This week he was on his 3rd vacation of the year, so they were with me. I pondered taking off, then decided not to. I cooked some chicken & put it in the oven on warm, I prepped green beans and rice and put them on the stove top, I told them what to do with the dinner, asked the older one’s to study with the 14 year old, and I left for work. Two hours into my shift I saw a missed call from my 14 year old. He wanted to know if he could go to the local ball fields, because both his brothers were sleeping and no one wanted dinner. He did his flash cards by himself, then walked the 1.5 miles to the field. One of his brothers did pick him up, so he was home by the time I got there.
When I got home, at 9:10PM, the dirty dishes were in the kitchen, along with the uncooked green beans and rice, still in their pots. The trash and recycling had not been taken up to the street, the dog had not been walked, one kid was sleeping and the other 2 were playing video games. When I asked for the trash, recycling and dog to get taken care of, all hell broke loose. “It’s his turn”, “I’m sleeping”, “this is bullshit”, etc.
Lest you think I am delusional about the true nature of motherhood, I am not. I totally get that kids are supposed to complain, mom’s are supposed to nag, siblings are supposed to fight. I understand that it is perfectly normal for children to not help out, to drag their heels, to get annoyed at doing chores, or eating a healthy meal. I know that most 14 year boys will choose the ball fields instead of studying. I also understand that part of what I am dealing with is residual anger regarding the divorce and my chronic illnesses, both of which have tremendously impacted their lives.
I don’t think that They Understand though, what is happening here. I don’t think they have any idea how close I am to packing up my clothes and my dog, and maybe my cat, and leaving. I envision it numerous times every single day. As a matter of fact, the number of times I day dream about Running Away has been increasing, almost on a daily basis. If I dreamed about it 4x yesterday, it will probably be 5x today. I’ve also made an escape plan. I have a place to go and a way to get there.
Every time I’m about to pull the trigger, pack up my car and go, I hesitate just long enough to lose my momentum. For all of their bravado and sense of independence, I know they need me. They’ve already got an absent dad, they certainly don’t deserve an absent mom also. This is the thought that keeps me here.
I have to say though, that after nights like last night, it’s really hard to stay put. Maybe it really is time for this Momma bird to fly.