Parenting has changed the way I think of myself on several levels.
Of late, what has been on my mind is why I feel exhausted all the time.
That’s not to say I am falling asleep at my desk on a routine basis or anything like that, but I have this general feeling of malaise that I can’t shake.
I have always been one who has a significant motor and does not tire easily, but having kids has changed all that.
It’s to the point I found myself on the computer searching my symptoms the other day, but even that took longer than it should have because I was stumped at how to enter my initial query. After I was finally able to type something reasonably rational to describe my present state of enervation, a host of medical advice columns appeared.
Reading all the medical columns scared me directly into a three-mile run to prove to myself I am in decent health and am not aging at a ridiculous pace.
Later, feeling a little better but increasingly exhausted, I came across a blog entry from a man named Steve Wiens, who has three sons and whose name sounds eerily close to mine when pronounced. His writings can be found at www.stevewiens.com.
He started it with, “I am in a season of my life right now where I feel bone tired almost all of the time. Ragged, how-am-I-going-to-make-it-to-the-end-of-the-day, eyes burning exhausted.”
That pretty much summed exactly how I was feeling so I read on and I could not help but laugh at how this man was inside my head and seemed to be articulating exactly what I was feeling but was too ashamed to discuss.
The column continued with the following:
If you are a parent of small children, you know that there are moments of spectacular delight, and you can’t believe you get to be around these little people. But let me be the one who says the following things out loud:
You are not a terrible parent if you can’t figure out a way for your children to eat as healthy as your friend’s children do. She’s obviously using a bizarre and probably illegal form of hypnotism.
You are not a terrible parent if you yell at your kids sometimes. You have little dictators living in your house. If someone else talked to you like that, they’d be put in prison.
You are not a terrible parent if you can’t figure out how to calmly give them appropriate consequences in real time for every single act of terrorism that they so creatively devise.
You are not a terrible parent if you’d rather be at work.You are not a terrible parent if you just can’t wait for them to go to bed.
You are not a terrible parent if the sound of their voices sometimes makes you want to drink and never stop.
You’re not a terrible parent.
You’re an actual parent with limits. You cannot do it all. We all need to admit that one of the casualties specific to our information saturated culture is that we have sky-scraper standards for parenting, where we feel like we’re failing horribly if we feed our children chicken nuggets and we let them watch TV in the morning.
One of the reasons we are so exhausted is that we are oversaturated with information about the kind of parents we should be.
So maybe it’s time to stop reading the blogs that tell you how to raise the next President who knows how to read when she’s three and who cooks, not only eats, her vegetables. Maybe it’s time to embrace being the kind of parent who says sorry when you yell. Who models what it’s like to take time for yourself. Who asks God to help you to be a better version of the person that you actually are, not for more strength to be an ideal parent.
So the next time you see your friends with small children with that foggy and desperate look in their eyes, order them a pizza and send it to their house that night. Volunteer to take their kids for a few hours so they can be alone in their own house and have sex when they’re not so tired, for heaven’s sake. Put your hand on their shoulder, look them in the eyes, and tell them that they’re doing a good job. Just don’t freak out if they start weeping uncontrollably. Most of the time, we feel like we’re botching the whole deal and our kids will turn into horrible criminals who hate us and will never want to be around us when they’re older.
You’re bone tired. I’m not sure when it’s going to get better. Today might be a good day or it might be the day that you lost it in a way that surprised even yourself.
Breathe in. Breathe out.You’re not alone.
I am told by readers that they feel comforted when reading this rambling in this space because it helps to know others out there are dealing with similar challenges, and delights, when parenting.
This week this column played a similar role for me, and I hope you enjoyed it and do not mind the departure from the typical antics of my sons, Beckett, 5, and Carson, 3.
We will return next week to the silly antics of my boys, including why one of my shoes mysteriously ended up clogged in the toilet the other day.