By Lauren Gonzalez
Last night, my husband put our daughter to bed for maybe the third time in her entire 18-month life. That’s because I, always the fierce control freak, usually like to spearhead the bedtime process, cuddling and cooing her to sleep. But last night, I was busy… hiding in the laundry room… sobbing next to my beer, and blowing my nose on Joey’s dirty shirts.
I honestly don’t know when this got so hard. I can’t put my finger on the exact time or date that my kids became too much for me to handle. After spending just one day attempting to entertain and placate two children under the age of 3, I am tired – and not in a way that can be fixed with extra sleep. I’m exhausted in a way that feels soul crushing. In a way that makes me dread the next day, the next hour, the next five minutes.
I’ve reached a breaking point, and I’ve decided to solve the problem by enrolling my son in daycare five days each week. Beginning next week, Monday through Friday, from 9:00am until 1:00pm, I will give my focus to one single child, and I will only be subjected to ear piercing, sanity-shattering shrieking and infighting from 1:00pm until bedtime.
It seems like a logical solution, right? Yet, as with everything in parenting, it wasn’t an easy decision to make. Let’s face it: I’m home full time. Working sometimes, yes, but I am home. On paper, I have the time to care for my children, and physically, I have the ability. What I do not have is the mental stamina to care for my children. And though I fully realize my limitations in this area, I can’t shake the feeling that every other mom out there wouldn’t feel this overwhelmed, this angry, or this weary. Every other mom out there could handle this. Surely I’m wasting money with this daycare nonsense, and throwing away precious time I could be spending with Joey while he’s young.
Oh, shit. Am I a crappy mom?
I’m convinced that raising children is quite simple – it’s really just a series of decisions we have to make about what’s best for our kids, but we complicate these decisions with our own issues. Our deepest fears and insecurities rise to the surface and loom larger than life as we guide these little lives, and the real struggle is facing down our monsters.
I am terrified of irreparably damaging my children, specifically in such a way that they are incapable of giving or receiving love from others. I fear this because I struggle to open up, to love others deeply, and to really let myself be known, and it sometimes puts my closest relationships in jeopardy. I don’t want that for my kids.
And so, I worry that putting my son in daycare nearly full time sends an awful message. Will he feel abandoned? Will he assume that he’s just too much for me, that his big personality is unlovable? On top of that, what will other mothers think – that I’m a lazy parent?
I could sit here, drowning in these heavy questions, or I could look at this decision from another angle, acknowledge that the mother I want to be is kind, patient, present, and forgiving, and that I can be that mother, with a little extra help (and space!)
I am a good mother. I cannot manage my children 24-7. These facts aren’t mutually exclusive. It is probably fair to say that Joey will have more fun at daycare than he would stuck at home with a teething sister who screams a lot, and an overwhelmed mother who alternately yells and cries.
It is also fair to say that, because of the daily hiatus from chasing down two of them, I will be a better mom during the hours that Joey is home. We will probably enjoy being with one another far more once he has burned off some energy and socialized, and I have actually gotten some work done.
It truly does “take a village to raise a child.” I so desperately want to be the whole village, but it simply isn’t possible. Ultimately, my responsibility is to make sure that my son is safe, loved and supported, even if I am not the direct source of these things. I cannot always be the source of everything he needs. It seems to me that the best gift I can give him is to guide him toward finding these things himself, as he has need of them.
Still, sometimes, while making what really is the best decision for our kids, we still feel like failures. That’s just our inner monsters talking. They don’t go away when you ignore them. So, hear what they’re saying, feel all the feels, sob a little if you have to, and then make the tough decision anyway.
Growing as a parent, and as a person, means you shed your skin from time to time, collide head-on with your shortcomings and continue to move forward. You face the hurt, you face the mess, but you keep inching along, because there is fresh life and freedom and depth underneath all these old layers.
And when it comes down to it, that is what I want my kids to see – me, engaging in the struggle, owning up to my faults, and after that, forgiving.
Lauren Elizabeth Gonzalez is a Missoula-based writer and blogger whose kids provide ample inspiration for her short stories, social media posts and articles on motherhood. Drawing on her master’s degree and background in conflict and dispute resolution, Lauren is also working on a series of how-to guides to enable parenting partners to build a stronger, more connected team dynamic. Find out more at www.LaurenTheFreeMom.com, and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter for a daily peek inside the head of a nutty gal just free mommin’ it.