That’s what I said to my partner as she and The Two Year Old we’re getting in the car this morning. Her full-time job and long commute means that my alone-with-the-children days are twelve hours long, five days a week. Giving me some time alone was the best gift she could give me. Hi, my name is Rachel and I am an introvert. And that is a hard thing to be with two children under the age of three.
This week I’m having a hard time. I’m feeling annoyed by my 2.75 year old, and feeling guilty about feeling annoyed. He’s testing boundaries all the time, and I suspect that he is struggling with his emotions, and the fact that when it’s just me, him, and his six-month-old brother, I cannot respond to him as fully as I could if he were the only child. He says “No! Not (whatever I said, even if it’s really what he wants)” and “I do it! I do it!” (And then not doing it). These two phrases are CONSTANT at our house. And as the SAHM, my adult brain is weary of the repetition.
Sometimes I feel like I can’t do this. Sometimes I feel like if I have to do the same thing one more time I am going to lose my shit. Sometimes I want to be entirely selfish and ignore all the crying and all the laughing and all the screaming and just sit. Sometimes I want to be away from the baby just because I want to be able to wear earrings again.
Fast forward to 2020: I just read the draft of this post, that I wrote six years ago but never published. Maybe I wanted to add more to it, maybe I hesitated in publishing it because I thought it sounded too harsh or critical, like too much complaining. Maybe I just got interrupted by the baby or the toddler and just never got back to what I was trying to write.
Now these kids are eight and six, and I know two things: 1.) It’s not this hard in our house anymore. Parenting and being a family together really did get better and easier as the kids got older, although whenever someone told me back then, “Don’t worry, it will get easier. You’ll miss these days!” I wanted to strangle them. 2.) These feelings and struggles were totally normal. I was not failing, I was not a horrible parent, and I was not being selfish by feeling like it was unfair and wanting to go away and ignore the crying. I also had undiagnosed postpartum depression and anxiety, and when these feelings of wanting to go away turned darker and scarier, I needed the help of medication and therapy.
Over the years that have passed since then, I have learned that I can be the best parent I can be when I have taken care of myself. As an introvert, that means getting time at home alone. Not the easiest thing to accomplish, but for me, that’s the recipe. I can come back to parenting with more presence, more of my whole self. That, I’ve come to understand, is what helps my children really thrive.