This here bringer of the pooper to the fun party

Floundering

Last week life whipped out the shotgun that it keeps in the pantry next to the broom and, after a few too many cans of cheap beer, waved it around a little too close to my head. I’d say, hey, don’t point that thing at me, and life would say, really? Like this? And next thing you know a chunk of my ear was gone.

I spend the mornings with my kids alone. It’s a disorienting cocktail of solitude and frenzy.

I get them out of bed, feed them breakfast, dress them, make sure Leta’s homework is complete, and barely make it out the door with my shoes on. It’s getting easier, and I’ve quickly figured out a few shortcuts to grease the machinery. For instance, I let the dogs outside before I attempt to get Marlo downstairs. Not that the dogs are more important than Marlo. No. The dogs’ ability to get outside before defecating in the house? More important than Marlo.

Because you can’t just scoop her out of her crib and rush her down the stairs. She wants to do it by herself while carrying all nine of her stuffed animals (yes there are nine now, welcome to this very special episode of “Hoarders, Toddler Edition”). The Mormon pioneers crossed the country faster than she can get to the bottom of the staircase. I may or may not have googled “toddler base jumping from second floor.”

That and “is it illegal to encourage.”

Three times last week the mornings were so hectic (see: Marlo refusing to eat and then getting mad at me because she refused to eat, her anger so dramatic that I may as well have dropped her off in the middle of the Sahara with a sharp stick and said, “Forage!”) that we forgot to put crucial school-related items in Leta’s backpack. We got to school, realized we’d forgotten those crucial items, and then I had to go back home to retrieve them. Not a big deal except traffic is crazy that time of day and it stole an extra hour out of my morning each time. I know that single parents deal with so much more than this, and now more than ever I feel for those of you who have been doing this and making it work. I write this not to elicit pity, just to put words to this new experience so that I can manage these fires better in the future.

Because that’s what it feels like right now. Fire and ice and buildings burning to the ground.

Add in the phantom smoke alarms, a few consecutive nights of insomnia, and then the connection to the Internet completely called it quits on Friday. Not a great week. All these tiny, inconsequential things build up and next thing you know I’m on the phone late Friday night with tech support for the company who provides our Internet service and sobbing like a goddamned baby. I can guarantee that the man I talked to got off the phone with me and smoked an entire pack of cigarettes. Right after he made an appointment with a therapist to discuss the possibility of post-traumatic stress disorder.

This week has been better. I’m holding on to that.

  • Verity W

    I don’t weigh in very often, mostly because there are so many people here who can say things so much more eloquently than I can. But for once, I thought I had something to add.

    This is the advice my mum was given when she was caring for my grandad – admittedly a sick elderly relative is not the same as children, but hey, I offer it any way:

    “All you can do is your best. Sometimes it will feel like you’re doing everything wrong. And it’s ok to feel like that, but also realise that you will never get everything right and all you can do is the best that you can AT THE TIME. Hindsight is a wonderful thing but have confidence in yourself that all the decisions you make are/were the right ones for you and your family at the time.”

    The other advice (from the same source) was look after yourself. It serves no purpose for you to do so much that you make yourself ill. If you have to call in a few favours to make your self more time some how than do it – it is fine to ask for help and people will understand.

    Thinking of you all. x

  • dianemaggipintovoiceover

    a.) love “angles” — your daily photo
    2.) omg crying to tech support. not a unique experience, lemme tell ya
    c.) embrace those alone moments with l and m because i imagine you and jon will share childcare. then, on some days you’ll be making breakfast alone in the house, and driving to and from your office because YOU forgot things 🙂

  • Twinkie

    I read this yesterday, and have thought about what was written and how you are doing on and off over the last 24 hours.

    I am really struggling – for unrelated reasons, but struggling all the same. Struggling just to maintain and come out even. And it feels so impossibly hard and like I am totally alone. Your hardships make me feel less alone.

    I called my boss and left a voicemail yesterday to see if he could cover an hour for me. Started out like a normal message but ended with me sobbing, “I cuh-can’t muh-make it in…” Totally humbling.

    Thinking good thoughts for you, Jon and your girls…

  • brittakb

    I am a bad person, apparently, because I could not be happier to read that I’m not the only one who hates being a single mom. I am glad that I’m not the only one who had to endure the fallout from a stupid, first-world divorce that was pointless and yet still somehow entirely necessary, and then had to sit back overwhelmed by how hard it is to deal with two kids who *want stuff* all the time, and apparently they think that I’m the one who’s supposed to give them that stuff. I’m on the 30 end of a 30/70 custody split and I STILL feel like I can’t do it most of the time, to the end that i had to move back to my beloved/loathsome hometown, which means I spend months away from my kids AND I’m trapped in Salt Lake City. But I’m glad glad glad that I’m not the only one, even if it means that other nice people have to suffer, too. Do you hear me? GLAD.

  • motherhoodontherocks

    And yet, there you are, getting up every morning and living. You’re an amazingly strong woman, even when you think you’re floundering. You’re not only still standing, but you’re rising above all the BS. *hugs*

  • bangedout32

    All words of encouragement seem very cliche. I’ve been there. It sucks. BAD. It won’t suck forever. I promise.

  • bee

    My dad would be overseas for extended periods of time. Many friends have toddlers and it is WORK.

    1) Sometimes, the kids go to sleep in the clothes for the next day. It worked well.

    2) Making lots of homemade pancakes or waffles on the weekend that get thrown in a toaster and eaten in a car while the child is draped in a blanket

    3) locking the bathroom door, crying, and drinking wine after announcing it is “mommy time” until the alarm goes off.

    4) If at the end of the day everyone is alive and breathing and at home – good day. (minor injuries such as stitches and black eyes- that’s childhood).

  • LisaAR

    Just putting one foot in front of the other…Hang in there. This, too, shall pass–and hopefully it will pass into the world you want it to be.

  • Natalie Green

    You’re doing a superb job – even when you think you’re not. Keep going! Oh, and it’s ok to change things simply to make things easier on yourself – don’t feel bad if you change a routine or standard you once had to make things easier for yourself. Sometimes you need your kids to eat while they are watching tv while you have an indulgent few moments reading a gossip magazine, talking on the phone or necking a bottle of beer. They won’t hold it against you later in life!

    Well done you x

  • maestra

    Heather,
    I’ve been in your shoes for the past 18 months. In fact, my daughter Julia and Marlo are just days apart, and my my son Ethan and Leta are 6 months apart…how crazy-cool is that?
    I’d love to say it gets easier or betterer, but really it just gets differenter. The philosophy of the obvious is helpful, remembering that it is what it is. It seems so trite, but it’s true.
    You are an awesome mom, a great friend, a gifted writer and a marathoner. Life sucks sometimes and then it doesn’t.
    The one piece of advice I would like to give is to stay in the present. Turn off your phone and computer when you’re with the kids. Be there for them in the craziness of the moment, it will be amazeballs for all of you.
    Best to you mama..
    erin

  • CraezieLady

    I was a single parent once…truthfully, it’s pretty balls. I had to learn to keep a grip on my sanity in my own way. I learned a long time ago that the only thing that ever works for me is to do things my way.

    For instance, my kids don’t take me seriously as a parent. When they get on my nerves, I call them turds. They call me a turd right back and then we laugh. (Or sometimes only I do.)

    When one of them wants to have a morning meltdown, I just walk away and say, “Whatever. But whoever wants a ride to school this morning better be by the door in ten minutes.” Nine times out of ten, the melter-downer will come to me sniffling and say, “Can I still have that granola bar?” (or whatever they were freaking out about) and everything’s ok(ish).

    And sure, sometimes we forget stuff – correction, THEY forget stuff. Because I don’t check or pack backpacks, look for homework or water bottles or library books. If it’s important to them, they have to learn to do it themselves. I’ll give ’em plenty of reminders, but I won’t do for them what they can do for themselves.

    Because I can’t – there are too many of them and only one of me. Heck, I’m not even washing their dishes any more! And they’re all between 5 and 9 years old (all FOUR of them!). My little one requires a little more help, but she does what she can for her age.

    And, most importantly, I have sanity, which benefits my kids a thousand times more than anything else I could ever do for them.

    Sometimes we chase each other around trying to smack each other on the bottom. It’s hilarious and impossible to be mad at each other while we play that game! I usually lose because I’m so outnumbered 🙂

    My husband says I’m a rotten example to them and that I’m teaching them to disrespect me when I play with them like that or let them call me a turd. But you know what I say to anyone who criticizes me?

    “Whatever, Cornhole.”

  • Tamara177

    You know, the underlying causes are different but the outcome and challenges feel exactly like the deployment cycle us military families go through. When a separation for deployment is imminent, studies and endless experience show that the couple fights more and more, until the unpleasantness makes the separation a relief. Then there is a period of shock. Then the parents, especially the working parents whose schedules have less flex, start to lose their mind. There are more requirements now, with the partner gone, and fewer hands to manage both those and any unforseen events. Gone are the days when you can text from a meeting running late to get dinner going or pick up a sick kid. Then there’s all the stuff the absent partner used to do that you need to learn. On your own. Then you get tired, which makes all those problems seem insurmountable. The deployed spouse is having their own challenges, but is off doing what they chose to do while you’re at home managing their load along with your own, and you are locked into the existing requirements at home with the kids while the deployed spouse is free to make a new schedule to meet their new world. Resentment sets in. Fatigue grows worse, again multiplying how terrible it all feels.

    But, then the first phase passes. You figure out how to make the new schedule work, adjust to the new normal, and get over your partners choices. The second phase is just like rolling down a hill. Getting to organize everything exactly the way you like it starts be very enjoyable. You grow to love your dictatorship. Not that you don’t miss your partner, but there’s no longer a hole in your life, just in your heart.

    The third phase, when they come home, is wonderful and miserable. Going back to a democracy sucks. They don’t fit. Eventually it sorts out.

    Silver lining: military families go through this over and over and over. And it sucks every time. Aren’t you glad that’s not you? 🙂

    Reading through all this, my story reads like a real bummer. But it’s not. The point is that I know some of what you are going through, and can assure you there is a clear and well-trodden path to the other side. The transition is the worst part. Worse, in my experience, than dreading it was before hand. But transition you will, and once the new normal becomes more entrenched, I always get over feeling exhausted, overwhelmed, and disgusted. I rather enjoyed feeling myself top that mountain, cram the Queenly dictator crown on top on my head, and start creating goals and efficiencies exactly to my desires.

    A deployment is not the same as what you’re going through, not even close. But hopefully the small similiarities will bring a sense of relief for at least a small part of the way ahead.

    best,
    Tamara

  • AndreaZehnder

    Heather,

    I hope you read this comment with sincere interest. I really mean that.

    I have so much I want to share with you about what you are going thru that I barely can contain myself.

    I have gone thru it.

    I blogged the entire experience.

    I want to share that with you.

    And I want to be incredibly honest and forthright. I used to read you, and often. After a while I stopped. I think it was because you sort of fell off my pedestal. I check in every now and then, but not often. I read the “fake it” post. These words made me realize something had happened to you:

    I’m feeling music more deeply than I ever have. A lyric can send me soaring for hours or throw me against a wall. The notes crawl inside my body and I can feel them humming and expanding inside my lungs.

    Then I skimmed (read: skipped) thru Floundering and read this:

    This week has been better. I’m holding on to that.

    And then, I’m not sure what post, but there was one where you said, “Thanks for all the comments and emails. I read them all.” …something like that.

    And then I knew. I just knew. I knew what happened to you.

    I frantically went back thru your posts quickly as I could and landing upon the spot where you tell Leta that you and Daddy are taking a break.

    It confirmed what I already knew.

    You can’t bullshit a bullshitter. But you’re not bullshitting. And I knew it.

    Just know, you’re not alone. It sucks. It will continue to suck for a long long time. It’s hard.

    Then one day, just like that, you are better. You wake up and it’s just better. You’re not sure what you did, how you did it, when you did it. But you’ve changed. And it doesn’t hurt. And it doesn’t suck. And on that day, your future looks bright again.

    Hug to you girl…

    Thanks for sharing.