I love you, but I really don’t like you.
“I love you, but I really don’t like you and can’t be near you right now.” That’s the message I just sent three of my four kids off the bed with (the fourth is only a baby, so he isn’t old enough to get this message yet). Does this make me a horrible mother? Probably, but I’ve reached my limit and I know I can’t be the only mom out there feeling this way.
It is Friday night and I’ve been pushed beyond my brink at this point. This week has been hard, so have the last two or three. I’ve been a virtual single mother lately, through no fault of my husband’s. I’m a work widow. My poor husband has been working 12 hour workdays on a good day. Other days he doesn’t crawl into bed until after 2am. It is temporary and I know that.
He’s tired, I’m tired, and the kids don’t sleep. Our bed has become a revolving door of children lately. There is the baby, who is expected to keep us up, but aside from him waking to feed, he isn’t that bad. Then there is our first grader, who will sleep through the night most nights, but wakes way too early and clumsily stumbles into our room looking for electronic devices each morning. Our soon to be five year old has developed a fear of everything (again) and has been having nightmares. Most nights I can convince him to go back to sleep in the empty toddler bed in our room, but lately, he has been waking up again in that bed and wanting to crawl in with us. This is problematic because, despite having a king size bed, our bed is already crowded. That’s because that empty toddler bed in our room belongs to my almost three year old who never sleeps in it anymore and he is my worst sleeper of all. He wakes within two hours of finally getting to sleep (usually not long after I’ve finally gotten to sit down and attempt to relax for the night). He wakes again just as I’m falling off to sleep each night. He has night terrors for 20 minutes and wakes up the baby. He kicks, toss and turns, flails about, and yells out in his sleep once we have finally given up and let him into our bed. No one in our beds sleeps well.
The mornings come too early, with too little sleep, and very little cooperation from the three kids I need to get out of the house to school. It has been cold and wet and traffic near my kids ‘ preschool has been horrific lately for such a small town. I feel like I spend all morning getting kids in and out of car seats, shuttling them to and from school. I have very little time to get anything done on the two mornings a week that I’m down to one kid. Most of the time I’m tired and just want to crawl back into get, but there is grocery shopping to do, errands to run, toys to pick up, dishes to clean, and the never ending mountain of clothes to be washed, folded, and on the rare occasion, actually put away. We paid people a good amount of money to come clean last week, thinking we could spend the weekend relaxing for a change, but the house was a disaster area again by the next morning (by the next evening my two oldest had peed in the bathroom sink and pooped on the bathroom floor, on purpose). When the two middle kids get home, it is a never ending cycle on meal prep and clean up. Then hurricane first grader gets off the bus and tears through the house. The homework battle begins, melt downs ensue, and the baby is screaming; the witching hour is upon us. Magically, a dinner that everyone refuses to eat makes it to the table, several glasses of milk are spilt, food dusts the floor around us, and another pile of dishes collect, just incase I didn’t have anything fun to do once the kids are in bed. After dinner, I herd cats upstairs and into pajamas. We have the “did you really brush your teeth?” argument (spoiler alert: they didn’t) which always ends with a breath check that makes me really wish I hadn’t (why do they think the rotting food between their teeth smell won’t give them away?). Then the real juggling act begins!
Have you ever put four kids to bed by yourself? Oh, you should try it sometime, it is fun! First is the baby, who isn’t like my other kids were as babies. My other kids could be put on a boob and fall asleep while I multi-tasked, not this one though. This one was born a fighter, he was a preemie, so he seems to think that everything deserves a fight, even going to bed. A lot of rocking, jiggling, back patting, and sshhing are necessary to get him to sleep. Meanwhile, his brothers bounce off the walls like idiots, jostling him or kicking him in the head every time I almost have him a sleep. Once he’s finally out, I attempt to read to three boys who all want to be next to me. News flash: there are three of you and I only have two sides, you can’t all be next to me. I attempt to get them to all take turns sitting next to me as I read the required 20 minutes of reading each night. When reading is done, I attempt to separate kids by sending my oldest to his room with an electronic device (nothing like ending the day the way you started it, with more screen time) and I try to get my middle two to lay on opposite sides of me in what is suppose to be their shared, full sized bed. Usually this is about when someone gets impatient with me as I set up the baby monitor and wakes the baby back up. Once the baby is back asleep and the middle two are almost asleep, my oldest usually decides it is his turn to wake up one of his younger brothers. I finally get the middle two to sleep, the baby may or may not be awake again, and I go lay with my oldest who then likes to play a game called “annoy the crap out of mom so you won’t fall asleep.” Usually it is close to 9pm when I’m finally able to sneak downstairs, it only took 2+ hours to get them all to bed, temporarily. Then there is cleaning up from dinner to be done, a dog to feed, and lunch for school to be made. I finally get a chance to sit and turn on a show so I can unwind before bed when, you guessed it, the Middlest wakes up.
On top of this daily grind of my typical day, I’ve been trying so hard to not yell at my kids, I try to do fun things with them, and be in the moment. It’s not working. I’ve tried all the things people and articles tell you to do. I try letting the mess go and just be with the kids; the mess just gets bigger. I try making healthy food they usually love; they don’t eat it. I try talking calmly to my kids and laughing at the horrible things they do that I know I’ll laugh at as I tell people about them later; they just continue to do horrible things. I plan fun activities that we can all enjoy, things I might actually be able to relax during, like tonight’s living room camp out and movie with popcorn; one complained the whole time while another made repeated messes that I had to keep getting up to clean. You name it, I’ve tried it, and all I’ve gotten is exhausted, frustrated, and taken for granted. I’ve had it! Tonight, after several weeks of this, I started to really think that I might just need to go back to work so I can escape and let someone else raise my kids. How awful is that?
I love my kids, but I really have not liked them very much lately. There just seems to always be one who has to make things miserable at every moment of my day. Sure, they can all come together and act like total animals at the same time, nearly driving me insane, but can they ever come together and just allow a moment to be peaceful and enjoyable; no way!
So what am I suppose to do? I’d never find a job that will make enough to pay for four in day care, not that I even have time to look. Besides, I love my kids, even if I don’t want to be around them right now. If I got a job, the first morning I had to leave them would be precisely the moment I’d decide that I really do want to be around them after all. I guess my only solution is to sneak downstairs, heat up the dessert I decided not to share with them, and attempt to devour it while watching a few seconds of tv before someone wakes up. Wish me luck!