It’s 7:45. I lie in bed still and take shallow breaths. My eyes remain closed. I’m not ready to start the day. Movement forces me to acknowledge the pain that’s hovering, waiting for me to feel it. The kids will be up any minute. I swear the little one is able to hear me blinking from her bedroom across the hall. Once the baby is up, everyone else is up too, starting their day, all demanding my time and energy. I’ll have to smile and be pleasant and pretend that I’m not completely exhausted, completely overwhelmed. The big one will want to know what we have planned for today after school. She doesn’t know that I have six dollars in my checking account because I wasn’t able to work much last week. She doesn’t know that I barely slept two hours last night as the pain had me tossing and turning, again. Nor should she know.
What’s hard is that I’m a type A personality in a body that is failing me. I want to be the mom with the bento boxes and time for french braids in the morning. I want to be the mom with seasonal crafts ideas and scratch goodies. The mom that helps all the other moms. Instead, I am the mom who has to pay the school for not one but three library books because by the time I find them, it’s July and too late. I’m the mom who has to call the pediatrician’s office because I can’t remember who it was that had an appointment today. I’m the mom who is generally running with a toddler (covered in the marker she ate for lunch) to pick the 1st grader up from school on time.
The anxiety is setting in. The anticipation of having to perform as if I don’t have a thousand tasks colliding in my mind. My mind, forever battling with my body over what can realistically be accomplished in a day. I take a breath and plan the morning routine in my head, the order in which I will accomplish the tasks of getting everyone ready without needless trips up and down the stairs…I need to conserve as much energy as possible. I’ll start with a handful of ibuprofen, as most days do. I haven’t eaten anything yet. I brush off my brain’s warning that I will eventually suffer ulcers from all of these NSAIDS. I’ll worry about that tomorrow. I swallow the ibuprofen and stretch. Then I hear her. “Mama...mama come.” It’s the baby.
Whenever I imagined motherhood, I imagined this age, toddler age. Her chubby little hands and overzealous hugs. The sweet sound of a brand new voice calling for me, loving me, depending on me. I used to ache for this time, these words, the longing was suffocating. Today, the words themselves take my breath away, give me joy but guilt also fills that space. I’m tired all the time. I’m grumpy. I often wonder what they see on my face. I hope they know how much I love them. They’ll never know the pep talk I give to myself in the morning or the promise I make at night that I will be kinder, more patient, more attentive. They deserve it. They deserve better than me.
I walk in the bathroom and splash cold water on my face before I say, “coming sweets!” I look at the clock. The big one needs to be at school in thirty five minutes. She told me that she likes it when I walk her in. This requires me to put real pants on. I kick the laundry around my bedroom floor and find a fairly clean pair, comb my hair into a ponytail and put a thick sweatshirt on so I don’t have to wear a bra. If I can get her to school a little bit earlier, I’ll have eighteen minutes to lay back down before I need to get ready for morning meeting. This is parenting with chronic illness. I plan every minute because there is a limit to the amount of time my body allows for productive activity.
I’m forced to divide my energy up like my pitiful bank account. I spend it where I can, when I can. My girls are my priority and I will forever fight to put them first. Someday, they will know this. Guilt is a hovering cloud over most healthy moms, the moms I know anyway. It is ever more present when you are physically less capable.
For now, I will focus on the positives in our situation. Their needs are and will always be met. My older child (tbd with the toddler haha) is significantly more independent than most other six year olds I’ve met. I’m told that she is particularly empathetic. Maybe they will be better people for having a mom like me. Maybe they’ll be more accepting of their own and other’s flaws. I’ve had to say I’m sorry to them more than I care to admit. Not for anything big, mostly because I had acted jerkier than they deserved. But hopefully that honesty will have the positive impact I need for it to have. I know I’m better for them. They keep me laughing, keep me moving and most importantly make me work harder to be better every day.
I have to accept that I am not perfect and I don’t need to be. I am capable of meeting their needs. I put on a pot of coffee and throw some frozen waffles in the toaster and toss them each a banana. I don’t have the time or the energy for french braids today but we laugh about silly things, tell each other “I love you;” they have clean clothes on. I’m starting today tired and a little sore but I’m starting it with love knowing that my kids are in fact taken care of and happy. We’re going to be ok.
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