Last night I dreamt I was drowning.
Standing on a branch of tree, I watched as the water grew closer and closer, first creeping over my feet, then inching up my legs. Looking out I could see people on dry land, but was afraid to step into the water because I didn’t know how deep it was, or how I would get to where they stood. Up and up, the water rose, past my knees, past my hips, up to my chin, over my head. I woke up panicked, just as the water completely submerged me.
Sitting here today, on a day that could classified as nothing other than one of those days, it’s not hard to draw meaning from my dream.
I am absolutely drowning.
I’m drowning in stuff. Toys and crayons, laundry and books – a quick survey of my floor would shock even the most tenured of Hollywood maids. I’m drowning in to-dos. Cleaning, organizing, planning, catching up. Piles of things waiting to be sorted, dealt with and filed away. I’m drowning in guilt. Guilt about my parenting failures, about how little one-on-one time I get to spend with my daughter, about the food we eat, and how much TV she’s watched lately while I find my groove as a new mom of two. Guilt about how frustrated I often feel. I’m drowning in the unknown.
With a toddler and a baby, we are at a stage where everything requires so much effort. Nothing is simple. Not a phone call, not a diaper change, not a story or a meal. I can’t take out the trash, or go to the grocery store without disrupting a nap, or sacrificing a round of much needed outdoor playtime. My attention is constantly being requested by one or both of the kids, and any free time I get is usually squeezed into the 20 minutes between when I finally get the baby down and then crawl into bed myself shortly after, completely exhausted.
Hardly enough time to find any kind of balance. Not enough time to recoup any energy.
With two young kids, everything I do requires patience and time, and I’m sad to say, I feel as though I hardly have any left of either. I spend my days in a constant state of triage, trying to judge who, or what, needs my attention the most, often discovering that I’m a day late, and a (fifteen) buck (late fee) short.
I read once that the early childhood is reportedly the most unhappy time in your life. It seems so counterintuitive. How could you be anything but happy when you are cradling your baby, gazing down into their tiny scrunched face? But in the thick of it, I can attest to its truth, and preach of how short-sighted that kind of thinking is.
Because it’s all so much – the love, the joy, the fear, the work, and it all comes on so soon. Sure, you have an idea of what you’re getting into, but much like watching an oncoming wave, you don’t know exactly just how hard it’s going to hit you until you’re actually in it.
And boy howdy, am I ever in it.
These little people, whom I love with every fiber of my entire being, they are taking it all. This beautiful, huge, all-consuming love that pours from my heart, it comes at a cost. And right now, I am paying the price.
My time, my patience, my independence, my own needs and desires – they are all being chewed up and consumed to fuel this crazy love that nurtures these incredible children. “Enjoy the moment!” People say. And I do. But that doesn’t mean I can’t also acknowledge the other side of it. The side that leaves me breathless. The side that feels like I’m drowning.
Much like my dream, I feel overwhelmed by it all. Submerged. Desperate. Unsure of what will happen next. And much like my dream, I can see people on the other side, people with kids who are just a little bit older, and a little bit more independent. “It will get better,” they say, and I know that, too, is true. Motherhood is a job, and just like with any job, adding on a new task (or a new kid) takes some time to figure out.
Sink or swim, I am in the thick of it, with only one option: Just keep going.
And it is here, in the simplicity of having no other choice, that I finally find solace. Just keep going. One step at a time, until we have once again made it through another day. And with every day that passes, we get a little better. The water gets a little more shallow, the other side a little easier to get to.
The weight of it feels unbearable at times. But I’m learning it isn’t.
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