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The "Dark Ages" of Parenthood

Today I am having one of those, been inside too long, been tired for too long, itchy, crawling-out-of-my skin-a -little days. MY littlest one has decided to make going to sleep an hour and a half long marathon for the last few days. Both naps and bedtime. Last night she did not fall asleep until 11 and of course wakes up at 7:30. Then, thinking “surely she’ll be tired for naptime,” she spent another opportunity to play, roll around, bite my nipples (sorry, but it is true), and scream every time I say the words “night-night.” I am sure there are plenty of people out there rife with advice on how to remedy my situation, and though it may be coming from the right place, I do not want to hear it. When I am having one of these days, the last thing I have patience for is well-meaning lectures on parenting. I am tired. I am touched-out. I want my body back. I want a hug and a joke. I want it to be easier sometimes.

One of our friends said to my husband and I about a year ago,” You guys are in the dark ages (of parenthood). It is that time when both your kids are so young, and they need you constantly and everything is hard. Then all of a sudden, your youngest turns about 4 and the sun comes out and they can play by themselves and do a few things and you get a little of your life back.” I sure hope he is right. Do not get me wrong. I love them endlessly. Sometimes I think that is the problem. I am a careful mom. I might be a little overprotective. I worry.

During naptime, and I am not proud of this, but I lost it a little on my 19-month-old. I yelled at her to “go night-night” and I might have slammed a door while she was wailing and locked myself in the bathroom for a few minutes. I was at my wits end and I was projecting my perceived failure onto her. I am so tired. I have not slept through the night in 19 months and sometimes I wonder if I am cut out to be a good mom. Did I bite off more than I could chew?

There are so many parents out there doing this on their own. Especially since the pandemic separated us all and now if your friendships have survived, they are stained with uncertainty and political divides. Even before the pandemic I was struggling with friendships (the dark ages of parenting coupled with introversion and anxiety). My family is not nearby, and also, not up for helping out with our kids either way.

Sometimes my children watch shows for babies and there is always a happy mom and dad singing to their children. Everyone is laughing and playing and singing perfectly on key. More than the fear of TV rotting their brains, I fear that they are comparing me to this Normal Rockwell-esq portrait of a happy family. I fear the message that “mommies are always loving and happy.” It is such bullshit isn’t it. But then I let them watch, so that I can make a meal or take a break.

I grew up watching TV. It has always been my babysitter. It helped me regulate my emotions long before I could implement any of the grounding techniques I have since learned about in school to become a Social Worker. Honestly, I do not know how to parent without it and it really pisses me off. I hate that I let my kids watch so much TV, but I am afraid of myself as a parent without it. My brain has been hijacked by a glowing screen my entire life. I use it daily to calm myself down, to connect, to feel less alone. I wish this were not true, but I see it happening every time I pick up that smart phone and scroll.

My husband gets upset about how much TV the kids watch, and sometimes we go on media detoxes, but we always end up right back where we were, once we open up the flood gate again. Instagram, Netflix, Zillow, Disney, YouTube, etc…They all take my attention, and tend to soothe away any feelings I may have had going into them. Anger especially is the emotion I most try to avoid. Oddly enough, my short attention span, lack of creativity, short temper and boredom were all created by the glowing boxes. I put them down and I feel lost. What do I do with my time? I do not have any skills other than cooking (necessary for vegan survival), tidying up, and well I guess writing (although I do not have a barometer for this “skill”).

So the vicious cycle is repeating itself with my children and I feel helpless to stop it. I am strapped tight to the roller coaster, and I want to get off, but I have no idea how to. Every time I try, I end up in pain, and cause pain and so I relent and give in and just say eff-it, what is the use. But there is this other part of me, that wants to learn to play the Ukulele, and teach my daughter and sing with her. There is a part of me that wants to just sit quietly in the sun and watch the birds play and sing and let my girls relax into the moment too. There is a part of me that wants to smash my phone and just deal with the fallout of the withdrawal. I am so sick of being sold something at every turn. I am so sick of feeling like my life has to look like someone else’s’. I am so sick of feeling like I have to promote or paint a pretty picture for others on social media so I can “be somebody” or “make money online.”

I am afraid though. I am afraid that if I tell the truth, there is no one out there that cares anymore. I am afraid that I will walk away from it all and be alone. I want to have faith. I want to God/Universe/Higher Power! I just feel lost and really, kind of sad today. I am sad I yelled at my daughter. I am sad that I have been avoiding myself and my life through all of the media I that, at first had been force fed as a child, and now I obligingly seek it’s glow moment to moment.

Today, after I yelled. I thought about my parents. I thought about my mother. I asked myself, “when did she ever look you in the eye and really ask to know who you are. Not who she wanted you to be, but did she ever see you? Will she ever accept you, even though you are not who she wants you to be?” And I looked into Lulabelle’s eyes as she was crying and I was filled with remorse and regret. I want to know her. Even though she is not always who I want her to be. Even though she is not fitting the mold I think she should. She is not me. She will never be able to be anything but herself and I want to learn to listen more. I want to learn to look them in the eye and just listen.

Okay, I might be open to some well-meaning information now. I want you guys to know that you are not alone. Especially if you are in the “dark ages.” I know you love your little ones. I know you are tired. And I know you will not give up. To all the non-Norman Rockwellians I salute you. Amen.

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