A couple days ago Riley dropped a full water bottle on the floor and when the cap flew off and the contents began gurgling out all over the carpet I could actually feel some critical load-bearing structure in the patience sector of my brain give way. It wasn’t that he was actually creating a disastrous mess — it was, after all, just water — it was the culmination of a harried day of constantly picking up after the kids (a knocked-over cup of milk, hands pressed against the windows I had just cleaned, forty thousand instances of tidying the living room only to have it re-destroy itself behind my retreating back as if by magic) while I simultaneously packed for a night away from home (which doesn’t seem that complicated — it’s one night! — and then you get into it: the swimsuits, the dog food, the children’s ibuprofen in case someone gets a headache, my special stupid foam pillow which I cannot be separated from because I am old now, and so on) and in that moment I could take no more, and as he stood there staring at it I howled, “PICK! IT! UP!” and I am afraid I did not use my indoor voice.

I had a similar moment yesterday when we were leaving for an afternoon at the river and I saw that Dylan had managed to track wet dirt all over the kitchen and living room. “Do you think I like cleaning?” I said, clutching my head. “I hate cleaning, and I have to do it all day every day, because you guys … you just … DON’T CARE!” And then I sort of burst into tears.

In terms of really freaking your kids out, by the way, I recommend a short hysterical weeping fit.

It’s been a long week. JB’s been working insane hours and we’ve barely seen him, and I hate to complain when he’s the one under all the work pressure, especially since I know he’d much rather hear that everything’s going great at home and I’m totally on top of things, but, well, it’s been hard. We visited his office on Friday and the boys were absolutely blown away by all the coolness — a break room with a giant screen where you can play Scrabble! Free snacks and soda! A manufacturing floor full of actual fucking robots! — and they have of course been talking nonstop about how great Dad’s work is and how they want to do what Dad does when they grow up and I know I shouldn’t be bitter about that but I can’t help it, I get a hurtful clench in my chest when I think how they must see me in comparison. So boring, just typing away into a laptop. Such a drag, making them go to lame places like the grocery store and the bank and forever barking at them to be quiet or clean up their mess or GO OUTSIDE DAMMIT. No one’s ever said they want to be like Mommy when they grow up, that’s for damn sure.

Anyway. It’s actually been an amazing summer with all kinds of adventures, it’s just … you know. I’m tired of never getting a break. I’m tired of nagging. I’m kind of really ready for school to start. Except I know that once it does, I’ll find myself missing our lazy structure-free days and I’ll think how I should have been calmer, I should have been more fun, I should have been grabbing their still-small hands and diving headfirst into summer’s all-too-fast whoosh of buzzing sunshine and long evenings. See, I’ll think that, having somewhat forgotten about the barely-treading-water August reality.

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Christine
7 years ago

Oh man. Big big hugs. My kid is still too little to care, but, oh. I feel this. I’m sorry things have been so hectic, I hope you are able to get a break soon – maybe a kid visit to the grandparents?

Clarabella
Clarabella
7 years ago

I think Mom needs a day/night out to herself. Soon. Just saying.

Faith
Faith
7 years ago

It’s hard cause at this age they’re still too young to really appreciate what you do for them, and the reason why you’re at home instead of going to a “super cool” office every day. I mean, I know you know this, I’m just ackbowledging that knowing that doesn’t make it any easier when they gush about JB, but it maybe helps you not to take it personally. At least I hope it does.

Sarah
Sarah
7 years ago

Sending you hugs, dear, for what it’s worth. I totally get this post. I’m sure there’s a way to find a perfect balance between “responsible mom with the clean house, kids who are fed and clothed appropriately, etc, etc,” and “fun mom who has infinite patience” and “professional career woman”, but it can be SO hard to find. Just don’t beat yourself up about it. The trifecta balance may not be perfect every single day, but on the whole I’d say you’re doing a pretty damn good job.

Jennie
7 years ago

One of the hardest parts of parenting for me is not just how quickly it goes (so fucking quickly), but how many do-overs I’d take if I were offered them, and how many of those exact moments I’d do over were the ones I white-knuckled my way through the first time. I can’t remember to appreciate in the moment, I can only feel guilt for it all in hindsight, and that just makes me feel crap at all this.

It’s hard, man, and it gets harder as they remember more. Sometimes I just topple into bed each night praying that he will have fond memories of me, of us, of his childhood, and that he believes me when I tell him I’m sorry when I lose my cool.

Not to depress you further through comments like this but, basically, yeah. I get it. I feel you. This mom gig is hard.

June
7 years ago

Do you feel like you are doing meaningful work? (And that includes childrearing, btw.) Are you doing the best you can at the given moment? It seems to me like you are… and that you do! Don’t let what others think (even your own boys) inform your opinion about yourself. Only you can determine your feelings of self worth.

That said, you really sound like you need a break, though – being around messy/hungry/loud kids all day, every day, is HARD and STRESSFUL. Can you escape for an afternoon? Teenage boys can actually make great babysitters for younger boys – assuming you can find/afford a responsible one.

Not sure this helps, but I stumbled on a weird patience-making mental trick earlier this year. When my girls (ages 4-6) are making me crazy, I imagine that my husband and entire extended family have died and that I’m the only adult left in the world who really cares about them. And just imagining that for 10 seconds makes me more sympathetic and kinder and patient.

BKC
BKC
7 years ago

My personality is such that I’m quick to anger and then quick to forgive. I blow up on the regular, and then apologize (and mean it!) every single time. My sensitive little only child, however, takes each of my blowups like a physical blow. I HAVE to rein them in better, and it’s so freaking hard.

June, that is a hardcore mental trick. I will have to try that, but thinking about it kind of makes me want to weep.

sooboo
sooboo
7 years ago

The day to day grind with no end in site takes its toll. I would lose my mind if someone mucked up something I just cleaned. School started today where I live. I think they extended the school year for parent’s sanity! Big hugs to you.

Kris
7 years ago

The *second* JB has one free night, you are to check yourself into a hotel with nothing but a clean pair of underwear and a book you’ve been meaning to read. And maybe a bag of Doritos. You will order room service, take a bath, and read that fucking book without even so much as turning on the television. The quiet – oh man, the quiet will be heaven and worth the $100.

PS: It makes me very happy that you’re writing here regularly again. And cut yourself a little slack on the messy house, until things slow down for JB. Boys are A LOT.

Kris
7 years ago

Also, the boys will remember that you were there for them. His office may be cool, but you’re the one doing stuff with them. And that matters an awful lot, too.

Kyla
Kyla
7 years ago

Oh ho yes. I may have wept out loud yesterday crying “it feels like all I ever do is clean”. Which is true, I can’t go to a single room in my house or outside for that matter without seeing a to do list. But then I put my kid in camp this week as a treat to myself, a break. And I miss her. Go figure.

Kim
Kim
7 years ago

It’s ridiculous how often I read your posts and think that you need to GET OUT OF MY BRAIN. I threw a ridiculous mom fit the other day that left the kids big eyed and open mouthed. Then the next day I am laughing and playing and ignoring the mess, being the best mom in the world. Writing that out makes me sound manic-depressive or something, but I think that’s just motherhood. Here’s to more of the up days and less of the down and to school starting full time for one and part-time for another and just the nutso 2-year-old home all day in a week!

gingerest
gingerest
7 years ago

When you’re feeling all wistful in mid-September, remember you wrote this down for several reasons, not least of which is that you need to read it in September. That should maybe also be a cue to (in your copious spare time, hmm, I sense a problem) go back now and read about some of your adventures this summer, to remind yourself that this work you do isn’t about looking cool to your kids when you type, it’s about having those moments with them (and making it possible for JB to share in that when he comes home from working outside the home). When they’re older, I hope your boys overcome all the gender crap and consider being stay-at-home parents for some part of their lives because of this amazing record you’ve kept.

jpemum
jpemum
7 years ago

Nobody wants to be like “mum” until they become a parent and then they want to be the kind of parent their mum was – I know I do.

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Ashleas
Ashleas
7 years ago

I had a whole paragraph here describing my own experience with my Mother and how our roles have reversed. Then I realized just how insincere that would be coming from a single, twenty-something.

You’re not alone, in the slightest.

Eve
Eve
7 years ago

Long-time reader saying thanks for this post. I live in Wisconsin and we’ve never met, but you and I are living very similar lives right now. Thanks for making me feel not alone!

Y
Y
7 years ago

Still-small hands . . . mine have these hands and I’ll spend more time holding them tomorrow. I am a teacher and have been “off” with my two all summer. I have one week left and I really need to spoil all of us this week. Thanks for this! First comment on a blog ever — obviously glad you’re back.

Maria
Maria
7 years ago

I have also screamed and then cried that exact same DO YOU THINK I LIKE CLEANING thing.

A.
A.
7 years ago

First, so glad you’re writing regularly again.

Second, I hear you. My husband is a police officer and works nights and sleeps days and some weeks we see him all of one waking hour every couple days. Maybe.

And then when he is home, the kids are ON TOP OF HIM, they’re so happy he’s there.

And I know as soon as my son is a bit older, he’ll think dad has the coolest job (I mean, he already loves police-everything, but by the time he’s 6 or 7? Forget about it)and mom just makes his lunch or whatever… but also, I think he misbehaves sometimes too because he misses his dad so much.

And I work and keep house and solo parent like you, and yes.. a break… I am never alone in my own house.

Anyway. You’re awesome. Hang in.

Deanna
7 years ago

Yep. I was just thinking today that they go back to school in 2 weeks. Every end of school year I have a PLAN. And every end of summer I mentally review how the plan was a big fat failure. Which makes me feel like a failure. And I worry that they see me as a meany grump who nags and then yells. I just wish they would do what I say so we could go do the fun stuff I have planned. But they do not and my resentment builds. And my sadness that we did not do the fun stuff I had planned.

Jessica V.
Jessica V.
7 years ago

I’d like to join you in your venting here – my kids have been in camp all summer, and at the beginning of the summer I was so excited for them! “You boys are going to have so. much. fun!” But now, in my typical near-end of summer hindsight – I realize that they are just as overscheduled as they were during the school year. Yes – it has been all outside fun and games and they are so tan and blonde and EXHAUSTED at the end of they day. But also – they’ve had so little time to just be…except for on the weekends. So I’m taking the last week of the summer off and we are going to do a staycation – visit museums and fun parks, and just hang out together. I really can’t wait!

Stacy
7 years ago

OMG, this is me. Exactly. Hang in there.

Aunt Linda
Aunt Linda
7 years ago

These are all reasons I was too gutless to have kids, my darling. All except you, of course. You could have been my kid. BTW, why do you suppose I keep getting kicked off your subscription list? Is it my blue cloud of nasty language? Always here anyway … which is sort of creepy, isn’t it?

TinaNZ
TinaNZ
7 years ago

Isn’t it funny how many maternal fantasies are along the lines of: Just. Some. Time. Alone! The long US school holiday seemed like the best idea ever when I was a kid; nowadays I can see the downside…

It would be nice if we were all saintly, endlessly patient TV mothers but few of us are. I console myself with the thought that losing my rag taught my children the important life-lesson of consideration for others =)

M. Bailey
M. Bailey
7 years ago

I share the sentiments in your post. Amazing timing, as always. Hugs to you.

Sarah
Sarah
7 years ago

Wow, this post hit the nail on the head for me. Today I found myself uttering “I am going to go to work early, just because… I can’t take it.” Then I had about 2 hours of mom-guilt and now I’m at work, wondering what my girls are doing. Sigh, it is a never ending battle. I know when school starts Wednesday I will wish I had more time to go to the pool, sleep in, eat ice cream, etc. Thank you for writing exactly what I’ve been feeling!

Jessica
Jessica
7 years ago

Your sons may never choose to be a writer, like you are. But they will know what a hard working, ambitious, smart, loving, responsible woman looks like and they will know to fall in love with a woman like that and they will know to appreciate that woman and if they have daughters they will raise those daughters to be like you. The fact that you demand respect for the work you do (even if it is recently mopped floor)is teaching them about respect and kindness to the person they may love more than anyone else in the world (even if their dad is the super hero of the household – your sons know who takes care of them day in and day out.) This emotional muscle is so important and so important for men to develop and you are raising boys who will turn into wonderful men.

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