A friend was talking to me about a tough time in her life. "It was one of those years," she said. I enjoyed that description and found it liberating. It seems like I've had a lot of days lately that have tried me to the limit; days where I begin the day tired and end it even more so. Often, I've sighed and thought, "it's one of those days," but then felt guilty because I've been having way too many of those days, when my perfect plans for getting ahead on the housework and spend extra time nurturing my children are thwarted by circumstance.
Today, for example, I began the day with a huge mess in the kitchen to tackle. I should have cleaned it last night, but I thought, "hey, it's mother's day; there will be plenty of time tomorrow." (DH HAD cleaned the kitchen thoroughly after breakfast as well as cooked all the meals and planned a picnic up the canyon, so it's not like he hadn't done more than his share already) But there wasn't plenty of time. Harmony, who's getting over an ear infection, had been up during the night and now refused to be put down. I muddled through getting everyone breakfast one-handed and was able to get started on the mess when other things interrupted. Eliza was trying to help me clean out the dishwasher when Allison jerked the dishes from her hands and yelled at her, earning her the first time-out of the day. A bit later, Sarah was rude and defiant and earned her first time-out, causing her to tell me, "Fine, then you're not my friend anymore ever ever again." Before she could leave time-out, I made her tell me three things she liked about me.
Sarah read with me but Allison would not, then when they went outside to play, I had to keep a constant watch on them. After a few minutes, Allison threw a huge rock that hit Sarah on the knee, so I gave her a scolding and sent her to time out, where she vented her frustration by chanting, "I hate mommy, I hate my mommy!" (she had to come up with three nice things a bit later on, too) Then I refused to let her go outside again that morning, even after she said, "But I'll NEVER do it again," (which I actually believe, since she's never done it before, but I still think she needed to understand the seriousness of her offense). In response, she refused to come out of time out. She took off her shirt and threw it across the room. She sat there pouting for a good forty minutes while I rocked and sang and tried to comfort poor Harmony, who by now had taken a twenty-minute nap in place of her normal ninety minute one. She was crabby and irritable, like her mom, and we both needed some soothing.
It was a lift to peek out the window every minute or so and see Eliza and Sarah playing together happily. Eliza so rarely gets the treat of having just one of the twins to herself, and she was loving it, staying right next to Sarah as they turned over rocks and filled up their cups with roly-polies.
I finally got the kitchen clean at nearly noon, just before lunch, and Allison cheered up and joined us at the table to eat apples and sandwiches, with homemade cookies for dessert.
The rest of the day went much better, but still, life lately has been extra tough. To be honest, it makes me smile because it's not really the seven kids that's challenging. In fact, I think my transition to Harmony joining our family was one of the smoothest I've had; a few months after I had her, I even composed a blog post that I never published entitled, "Hitting my stride," where I wrote about how natural and surprisingly easy it was to add her to our family. I wrote that I'd been blessed most of all to get consistent naps since she was born, something that I'd not had since my first, and how that's made all the difference.
But the last few months have just been hard. Most of it's exhaustion, I know, as the night-feedings continue and my body feels sluggish all the time, even with a short nap some days. When I'm tired, all the world seems against me, but give me those same circumstances after a good night's rest or a nourishing nap, and I sail through, enjoying the challenge.
A lot of the rest is my own perfectionism and frustration with myself for not doing everything I want so badly to do. I set a lot of important goals for myself at the beginning of the year, and even though I'm meeting many of them, the ones I'm not are eating at me. I lost 8 lbs at the first of the year, but I've now gained back 6 of them. I am pleased that I've been exercising consistently four days a week, but I haven't been as careful with my eating as I want to be.
I've got a pile of great parenting books filled with wonderful ideas due back at the library this week, and I hate that I'm returning them without finishing them. It seems like the metaphor for my life right now. I get started on an important project the way I start those books, excited that I've found time to get it done, but then I have to leave it unfinished to handle the regular, more urgent tasks. Every time I walk by those books, I feel a bit more defeated, because time is running out and I haven't finished them yet. It's the same with my house. I wrote a few weeks ago how I felt behind, and while I've amazingly, with the help of my Heavenly Father, been able to accomplish many of the things on the list, many more remain to be done. And daily I find more work that piles up. Some of it I can shrug off and do a little at a time, like the piles in my office that are gradually getting smaller, but others just make me feel like a failure, like when I walk downstairs and feel that the banister is sticky or when I step into the boys room and see that despite having them clean it thoroughly on Saturday, it looks once again like a tornado hit it.
Things like the banister make me feel frustrated because usually when I notice it, it's on the way to deal with other things that are higher priority, so I add it to the top of my mental list, reminding me of the length of said list. The boys room is discouraging because I know how important it is to teach my children to work and be responsible, but I also know the long and frustrating battle I have ahead of me before the boys get it clean again. It would be easier to just clean it myself.
When I'm rested and when I'm counting my blessings (instead of whining to my blog), I automatically focus on what I have done and the things I have to be proud of, like Sarah taking Eliza under her wing outside, or the way Allison and Sarah perked up this afternoon and explored outside together happily, how I was firm but loving in my discipline today, or that I found time to go through the enormous pile of papers that have piled up in the mudroom and kitchen over the last few months. When I'm am not well-rested, I focus instead on that never-ending mental list, on the goals that I've not met, the sticky banisters and the smudgy windows, the defiant children who would surely obey if I were just a better mother.
After talking with my friend, though, I think I'll give myself permission to say it: I'm having one of those years.