Apparently, octopuses (octopi?) don’t actually have tentacles, technically. Tentacles only have suckers on the ends. Octopuses have arms. Lots of arms.
I could do with some extra arms.
When we had Baby Boy last December, I wasn’t worried that I wouldn’t have enough love for both the kids. I had a feeling that my heart would expand to encompass them both, and it did.
What I wasn’t prepared for was the feeling of not being quite enough for both of them.
Baby Boy has never known any different, of course. He’s always had to share me. Always had to cry a little bit longer, to be put down sometimes when all he wanted was to be in my arms. That’s just the deal, really, with second kids.
Jellybean was the one who had to adjust to my loyalties being divided. She was the one who had to put up with me being unavailable at times, stuck on the sofa with an ever-hungry baby attached to me. And as hard as I tried, it was a big change for her to deal with.
Now she’s used to it, of course.
It’s just me.
Some days I have this feeling that I am just not enough for them both. Physically, mentally, or emotionally. At any given moment, they both need different things from me: one needs help on the toilet while the other one needs me to stop him from eating something he shouldn’t. One needs cuddles because he is feeling overtired and sad, and the other needs me to roleplay preschool because it helps her to feel more confident. One needs me to explain what the difference between our heart (the organ) and our ‘heart’ (as in the core of who we are), whilst the other needs to shout in my face so that I understand how much his teeth hurt.
Some days it feels like a logic puzzle, a game of arranging tasks into order depending on their immediate importance, but also taking into account the long-term impact of neglecting certain areas. It is about deciding what is vital and what wouldn’t matter if we didn’t get round to doing it today. It is about balancing both their needs and splitting myself fairly between them, but then some days, for example if one of them is ill or upset, the balance gets tipped slightly one way or the other. Of course, I have to take into account all the things that need to be done outside of them as well.
I am competent at it: I can do it (mostly) without feeling like my head is going to explode from stress and anxiety. In fact, I thrive on it some days. Some days I go to bed feeling like I’ve just, I don’t know, learnt to juggle five bowling pins whilst riding a unicycle. That was really hard today and I did it. Yes!
Other days, though.
Other days I go to bed feeling like I’ve been spread too thin.
Other days I go to bed feeling emotionally battered.
Other days I go to bed feeling like I’ve let them both down, and the day has been a long, torturous example of how much they both needed me and, despite my physical presence, I was unable to be there in the way that they needed.
And it sucks.
I add an extra layer of guilt and pressure onto myself (because that’s a useful thing to do) because I am a stay at home Mum. This is literally my job, and I am this close from getting sacked. Or at least a severe disciplinary.
If you’re reading this thinking I’m being hyperbolic, well, I am. That’s what I do. But I’m also not. Because no-one tells you this: when you imagine a stay at home parent, you imagine baking and long walks with puddle jumping and educational activities and the odd (or, you know, frequent) pyjama-and-film days. If you’re being really realistic, you might imagine dealing with the odd tantrum or occasional colds and you think: meh! I can deal with that.
I mean, I can deal with a preschooler’s stomach bug and a teething, miserable baby and horrific PMT and stomach cramps at the same time. I can do that stuff, and I can do it well. I just hate going to bed at night feeling like I’ve let them down because there’s just not enough of me to go around. I hate looking back on all the moments where Jellybean has begged me to play with her and I haven’t been able to. Or all the moments where she’s wanted to have a deep conversation and I’ve been too tired to think straight. I hate looking back on all the moments I’ve just left the baby to his own devices because I had to to other things. Or the moments where I’ve not been enjoying them, but just longing for bedtime, because I am so tired from months (years!) of no sleep.
And I say this after a relatively calm day with my husband at home, with plenty of time for both of them. I say this as a mother to two happy, charming, and lovely little kids whom I adore and adore me in return, and whom I thank God for every single day. I say this as a person who is generally quite confident in her parenting abilities most of the time and is genuinely loving being a Mum:
Some day I go to bed and I feel so utterly wrung out, emotionally, physically, and mentally, that I’m too exhausted to even cry about it.
That’s it. I wish there was some kind of happy lesson to learn from this, but there isn’t. But I suppose if you’re feeling this way too, you’re definitely not alone. And tomorrow can be better. And you’re enough for your kids. They don’t always show it, and you might not always feel like it, but you mean everything to them.
And if you’re a parent of three or four or five or even SIX kids (the thought of which makes me feel a bit faint): I salute you.
And I think God should have designed humans with a few extra pair of limbs that you can use when you become a parent. And also extra brain power. And the ability to gain double the amount of rest from half the amount of sleep. Just saying.
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