Snatches from the Trenches of Motherhood
(2006? God I couldn’t even write down a date.)
This morning is a fairly good one. I was only up once in the night with the kids and got to sleep in almost until 7am. Amelie woke in the night and called me into her room to tell me, “I can’t sleep.” I blinked painfully and told her she had been asleep all night. I offered to get in with her in her very narrow bed and after a few minutes she asked if I could go back to my own bed. We have never been easy bedfellows. I was pleased to be sent packing.
Amelie got me up again in the morning to tell me that Sam was awake. We went in and I did my usual morning shake down and scowled to find him soaking wet again. Amelie just about climbed into the crib with him before I could warn her off, then tried to hug his wet body. I stripped Sam down and carried him backwards to the bathroom. Amelie said, “I get the stuff” and ran off. Assuming she was getting Sam some dry clothes, I filled the sink and slid him in. He didn’t try to turn on the taps this time, so maybe my warnings are working. I soaped and rinsed him and pulled him into a towel. Amelie came back with a pile of blankets from the linen closet and I sighed and thanked her and asked if she could get him some clothes. She came back two more times with clothes that were too big for him and the third time I just thanked her and put them on him. I creamed Sam’s legs (to help his exema) then diapered, dressed him and set him free.
As I stripped the bed and refolded the blankets that Amelie had got out, I weighed out the equity of the situation. I am letting Jonathan sleep in on this day, Sunday, his only day off this week. Of course, anyone with only one day off should get to sleep in, but this is my only day off as well, and time “off” just means that I have someone to share the duties and challenges with. So I weigh it. He has been getting up at 5:30am to get to work at 6am. Well, his alarm is set for 5:15, but I bet he gets up at 5:45, while I have been getting to sleep until 6 or 6:30 or sometimes 7:00 and even once, 7:30. But then, I am the one who gets up in the night with them, and lately, that has been several times each night. I decide that, based on the dark circles under Jonathan’s eyes and the way he fell asleep on my shoulder last night at 9:30pm, I will grant him sleep with a good heart. I have a harder time feeling good about this decision when he has stayed up until after 11pm and resisted my attempts to get him to come to bed with me so I can get some sleep.
I threw the wet bedding into the tub with the soaked p.j.s, went pee and threw the diaper into the garbage. I’m embarrassed to say that sometimes after I tape a wet diaper shut, I neglect to throw it into the garbage. It’s not wetting the floor or anything but I know most people would be horrified to find a used diaper sitting on the floor. I’m sure a few years ago, I would have disapproved. Are things coming undone? Jon has been working 6am to 6pm, and getting home at 6:30pm. Obviously, this is a brutal shift for him, but I feel that I have to justify why it’s brutal for me. Sam goes to bed at 7pm so Jon has been missing the whole 4pm to 7pm home stretch, that we used to tackle together: dinner prep, getting everyone fed, cleaning the kitchen, getting the kids to bed. Amelie doesn’t go to bed until 8pm, but Jon is exhausted when he gets in. he has to eat, then tries to tidy up while I’m getting Sam down. Then usually I finish the clean up while he and Amelie watch tv together as he isn’t up for much else. He tries to be helpful, but he’s really spaced out and I often have to ask him to do each individual task as he can’t think of what needs to be done.
So I’m tired. Yes, I am. But the bigger factor for me is getting discouraged. Caring for the kids, clothes, bottles, diapers, meals, messes, toy tidying, laundry and the kitchen are all I can manage and each of these are endless chains of repeated tasks. It’s relentless. It’s a job where every moment ‘off’ is just a moment on call. Even when I’m asleep, I’m on call and have no control over how many times I’m called. To those without children, I would say, imagine doing a job everyday that has three 8 hour shifts: the day shift, the evening shift and then the on call night shift. Claire pointed out the other day that I have been doing this for 4 years, but I’ve been doing this and nothing but this for 2 years straight now.
I know this time is precious and fleeting and that I am so privileged to get to stay home with the kids while most mothers are forced into working full time. I wonder if I am not cut out for it. I look at the frustrations and the pace and wonder who is cut out for this? Who would not get overwhelmed and frustrated in this situation?
While Jon’s been on this schedule, I have also been trying to rent out our basement suite. I have written and placed the ads. I have fielded the calls and emails everyday and set up the viewings, conducted the interviews, had to make the decisions and reject several people which was really hard for me to do.
About 2 weeks ago, a woman called and asked to see the suite. She was coming from work downtown and asked if she could come at 6:30pm. I didn’t have the heart to ask her to come after 7pm as I knew she would have to wait around downtown after work and that she was taking the bus here. Beside, by 6:30, Jonathan should be home and I could give her my full attention. Well she showed up at 6pm. We were in the middle of dinner with no hope of Jon showing up. I had forced the kids to eat their meat and veggies before I would give them any rice, which they both tend to fill up on, so there was much whining and complaining on either side of me at the table. I had just agreed to give them the rice when the door bell rang. I ran down and answered it amid Amelie’s wails of injustice. I apologised to the woman, made a joke about the rice and ran up to give it to them. “Come on up,” I invited her, “I’ll just be a minute.”
I scooped the rice onto Amelie’s plate first and of course, it having come straight off the stove, it was piping hot. For some reason, she put her hand on it. She just stuck the whole flat of her hand onto the steaming pile. She roared in horror, and not realising how badly hurt she was, I scolded her and asked her why she did that, as I took her over to the sink to run cold water on her hand. At this point, the woman was standing just inside the kitchen, watching the scene unfold. I apologised to her and she said not to worry, as Amelie screamed bloody murder at the sink. Sam started crying too, mostly because he hadn’t gotten his rice. I served him up, trying to not let him burn himself as well, while I blew on it, buttered it and sloshed soy sauce around. I finally deemed it had fallen below the boiling point and gave it to him. I ran back to Amelie who was still shrieking at the top of her lungs. I pulled a freezer block out of the freezer and this sent her over the edge. She had some memory of this being an implement of torture obviously, as the very idea terrified her and sent her into a full-on tantrum of epic proportions.
Somehow, I got her seated back at the table with a cold cloth to lay her hand on and took the woman back downstairs. I showed her around the suite and she told me about herself. “Mm hmm, mm hmm,” I muttered. Mentally, I willed her to talk faster. More screams came from upstairs and I apologised again and excused myself. I took the stairs 2 at a time and found Amelie on a chair at the kitchen counter. She had gotten up there to get something and cracked her head on the open cupboard door. I yelled at her for having a fit and she yelled back about hurting herself. I got her back at the table and somewhat subdued and raced back downstairs. I basically bum-rushed the woman out of the house, with a pained smile on my face. “I hate to rush you,” I said, as I basically shut the door in her face.
For some reason, I then attempted to give both children a bath by myself and put them to bed. It was a complete disaster with Amelie shouting that she couldn’t put her hand in the water because it might hurt and Sam standing up and slipping and crying as he crashed down on top of her. I was a nervous wreck by the time Jonathan got home. I had spent most of the day ripping the house apart looking for Jonathan’s lost keys, as this key ring held irreplaceable keys to his work and tool boxes. He came home and opened the bathroom door up against me where I kneeled at the edge of the tub and immediately said, “Have you found my keys?” When I said no, he swore loudly and went on a rant, demanding whether I understood how horrible that was. I must have given him a rather withering look, because he backed out of the room soon after.