This post is dedicated to all the parents who are tired. I know I am.
I sometimes read essays about how empowering it is to be a working mom, and I’d love to tell you some story about how that’s me: confident, capable and able to handle all of life’s demands.
But really, I’m just trying to get by.
My schedule is packed — every day — from 6:30 in the morning to 7:30 at night.
Every minute is filled, literally, with something: dressing my kid, dressing myself, making breakfast, eating breakfast, brushing my teeth, brushing my kid’s teeth, packing diapers for day care, making lunch, working, working, working, commuting, doing laundry, having dinner, giving my kid a bath, etc. etc.
It sounds stupid when I try to describe to friends how busy I am, to explain how tired I am.
But I live with the haunting feeling, always, that I’m about to make some sort of mistake. I am constantly losing things. I misplace my phone. I put pots of water on the stove to boil, and I don’t come back until they’re empty and hot as an iron because I’ve forgotten that they’re there.
Each day, the time I have for myself starts at about 8 p.m.
That’s an hour or two before I go to sleep, so every evening involves a careful calculus: What should I do with those few precious moments that are mine, and mine alone?
I could read or hang out with my husband. I could sleep or I could write.
I could sit and get lost in quiet thought, which is what I often choose to do because there’s no other time in the day for this activity — this thinking that helps me put my life in perspective.
It’s the only way I can stay happy and grounded. It gives me a chance to decide what I really want to do — with the next few minutes and with my life.
Tonight, I chose to stay up a little later and write because I was thinking during my Thinking Time and it occurred to me that I had something I wanted to say, that I wanted people to know, and that is this:
Every day is exhausting. Every day is a whirlwind. I often feel that I can barely breathe — that I’m sitting in the middle of a hurricane, that I’ve completely lost control.
But when I stop to close my eyes and take a breath, I sometimes cry a little because I want to hang onto these moments, these taxing, sapping, world-wearying days.
Because while every day is long, the months and years feel short and my son is growing up so fast I can’t believe it. He waves, he talks to us, he laughs at our jokes (which we make just for him), and I can see the little wheels turning in his little head as he takes it all in.
Every night, before he goes to sleep, I give him a kiss and tuck him under his covers. I tell him, “Wan an, ming tian jian,” because that’s what my mother told me. It means, “Goodnight. See you tomorrow.” The words are like a memory, an imprint on my soul from when I, too, was small.
My husband will tell you that I am a sick, sick person.
At 7:30 p.m., when we finally have our Us Time, our time without the baby, when we can do whatever the hell we want, I sometimes choose to turn the computer on and look at photographs and videos of our kid just to see his smile, which still makes me melt.
So yeah — I’m tired. I’m exhausted. But I wouldn’t change a thing.