I’ve been wracking my brain on how to say this. And not sound like a complete whiner. But it’s not gonna happen. I’m about to whine like there hasn’t been a whine before. Feel disclaimed. So here it is….parenting can be lonely. Staying home with little ones is one of the world’s biggest blessings….I truly believe that….but it’s also very isolating. It’s dare say…lonely. It’s the kind of soul-baring loneliness that makes you feel insecure and unworthy and like a piece of total loser with a side of what has become of me. It’s like being on a desert island full of kittens. Which is amazing for the first thirty minutes until you realize that you will become hungry at some point. This analogy is going nowhere fast so let’s just move on.
(obligatory cute kid photo)
Let’s just take a look at it mathematically. I like to say that everyone has a couple reservoirs of power….one is labeled “PERSONAL POWER” and that goes toward sustaining your personal self….eating, grooming, dressing, brain power, general interaction skills, memory, and anxiety maintenance. It’s all the things that you need to be a functioning human in society. And the other reservoir can be labeled “OTHER”. That OTHER pool can be used toward EVERYTHING ELSE. Think of all the other things you may like to do or must do for your ideal way of life….travel, hobbies, socializing, organic grocery shopping, you name it – it comes from your OTHER power bank. Let’s just say that on a good day, a kid from the age of 0-3 requires on average 60-80% of your OTHER power….it goes to monitoring safety, engaging them in activities, feeding, clothing, general cleanliness, diaper changes, and overall child rearing. Things that you liked to do before kids….well, you have about 40-20% of your power left in that OTHER battery pack to do those things. You CAN still do them…it’s just not at full capacity as before….because you know…you still have a kid to take care of.
Sure…things change with time…kids require various amounts of overall time and energy…so things can vary. On a rough day, that kid can push well beyond the 80% and requires ALL of your OTHER power and then some. That power requirement needs to be supplemented. Where does the extra power come from? It comes from your Personal Power pool. It means that you may not change out of your yoga pants, or you eat canned peaches for dinner instead of your normal home cooked lasagna, or perhaps you forget to buy dog food. It’s a void that needs filled. And you can do it. It just requires sacrifice.
So let’s get back to the point of loneliness. With kids in the mix, it creates this weird two sided desire….this feeling of wanting to be completely alone and the wanting of being social. You spend increased amounts of time pouring into other people – specifically kids – and then not filling the need of being poured into. You feel guilty if you spend time away from the kids because 1. babysitters are dang expensive and 2. you think about the kids the entire time because you can’t just flip a switch and turn off the need to be a spectacular parent and 3. you kind of forget how to be social….especially if your OTHER power bank has been depleted lately. Remember how your PERSONAL POWER picks up the slack? Well, that affects your interaction skills. So boom…you are there to be refilled and can’t even sponge in all that social goodness because your body and brain has forgot how.
Hence…being in a room full of people and feeling completely lonely.
And then there is the dilemma that I have….two kids under the age of 3. And one that is 4….which in my mind still requires about 30% of my energy. So here I am…requiring what I say is 150% of my OTHER power bank….my personal power is running at 50% and literally I have no idea what my parents phone number is, when two of the kids birthdays are, seven loads of laundry to do….and that’s after washing, folding and pretreating it all weekend, I’ve completely forgotten my social security number, and my interactions with humans that use big words is limited to a 2 second conversation with the lady at the register. And I’m fairly certain that she asked me how I was doing and I said “yes, they are all boys.”
Then there are the friends that choose to still interact with you with the kids in tow. But three things can happen. One, someone falls asleep, behaves like a completely unrecognizable angel and you feel like that thirty minute conversation energizes you to the point of flying to the moon. Two, the kids become the neediest needs of Needville and you can’t hold any sentences together, interact at all and feel like the entire exercise of social interaction was a complete waste of energy. And Three, the friends help…which in turn makes you feel like a crappy parent and an even crappier friend. And yes, you do gamble for that chance of Mt Everest type highs….but remember…it still comes at a cost. Even the act of getting your crap together to interact with others requires power. You may do it for a full recharge…you may just be depleting an already energy deficient Personal Power bank. It’s sometimes so worth it. And sometimes you just choose the loneliness because yes, washing your hair isn’t in the cards this week.
Jeremy and I like to joke that once we hit four kids, it was just too much for friends. You can’t go out to eat with people…it requires a booth AND a table. Food goes flying. Strangers tell your kids to be quiet which is basically the full moon to this Mama’s werewolf transformation. YOU WANT TO TELL MY ONE YEAR OLD TO STOP THROWING?! HE IS ONE. ONE!!! AND IT’s NOT HIS FAULT THE SERVER GAVE HIM A BOWL FULL OF COLORED SHRAPNEL! He doesn’t even know what the word “crayon” means?! And then you bite someone’s head off and leave them for dead. At least you do in your brain after you profusely apologize and publicly reprimand your child “No throwing baby. No throwing.” Stern look. Stink eye. Distraction.
So what happens? You stay home. You cling to the hope that one day, you will have four responsible and kind young men with strong backs and everyone will want to be your friend because you have the monopoly on yard care hands and moving help. You keep your head down and nose closed as you change the diapers, clean the blowouts, and try to get the sink at least 50% empty. You plan for the most exciting night of your week….shampoo night. And heck you might even go wild….conditioner. And you text your friends because that’s what you got right now….three seconds of blissful peace, locked in the bathroom, to text Bitmojis that don’t even look like you because the cartoon version of yourself looks so put together.
And you know what? It will be worth it. It will. I have told so many parents of this situation…and they, with their older children, tweens and teens and grown up kiddos….they all say the same thing. This too shall pass. You will forget this fog. You will be social. The energy…it gets depleted in other ways…but you will get your sanity back. Not your laundry room necessarily. But your time slowly creeps back in….hobbies can follow…and even shaved legs and home cooked dinners….but never your heart. Your heart you gave away to those kids and that is where it will stay. And one day, you will be lonely again….but it will be for them. For those kids that depleted you 200%. And you would do anything to have that back….greasy hair and all.
So I hope that if you are having a day….a rough, over 100% kinda day, you know that you aren’t alone. Not really. There is at least one other mama out here wearing a tshirt with a mustard smear and serving a pop tart for lunch and feeling weirdly isolated even in a room full of people. We can all stick together in solidarity….knowing that we are doing the bigger thing right now….that it’s sacrifice that is the greatest type of love. Much love mama. And a virtual playdate….where the kids are angels and you can climb Everest later.