The other night, my husband, Ian, walked through the door from work while I was frazzled and negotiating with our crying 3.5 year-old while my crying 2 year-old clung to my arm, begging me to pick her “Uppy! Uppy!” He swooped in and picked up the 2 year-old so that I could sit and talk to the 3.5 year-old about feelings and putting those feelings into words (instead of ear-piercing shrieks) while simultaneously being unable to properly put my own feelings into words.
I think these are the combined feelings of being overwhelmed, frustrated, and wholly loving towards these little humans we’re trying to raise not to be some basic assholes.
And so we forged ahead through the whirlwind that is dinner, which has recently been filled with tears all of a sudden? #toddlersareablessing. We experience the growing stubbornness of these little humans trying to plant their flags in the ground of this family and push the very boundaries we’ve laid out for them. At this very moment in time, the boundaries being that they must sit in their seats and eat food with utensils until dinner is over. Because we’re the worst, obviously.
After those blurry 15 minutes, Ian took them upstairs to brush their teeth and take a bath, one of the most joyous points of our collective day as they giggle and splash and the tears over not wanting macaroni and cheese for dinner – their preferred and favorite meal until…now? – have disappeared from their cheeks and their memories. I try to quickly get over the fact that I made them this microwave-friendly meal instead of something more elaborate that they also wouldn’t eat, and just quietly sit at the table, put my head down, and close my eyes.
I just sat there and breathed. I felt totally exhausted and super frustrated. Did I do that right? Should I have given in? Did I give in too much? And since tonight is not the night that I'll stop the never-ending cycle of self-doubt that comes over me the moment my apple cart tips off-balance even slightly, I just sat there for about a minute, alone. One glorious minute.
I'm pretty sure that this is the most alone time I've gotten all day, including when I peed and took a shower, and so I felt both grateful for the re-boot and guilty that I was even taking it. Despite peeing alone, it's not like Ian’s gotten his alone time yet and the dishes are just sitting there, dirty and waiting to be cleaned off and put away so I can sweep up the scattered corn on the ground from the tiny hands that are still figuring out utensils and the limits of their parents’ patience.
But I just needed a minute. My phone buzzed on the counter and I ignored it. I’m sure it’s a work email or a friend or a family member saying hi, asking how things are going, or telling me about their day. But I can’t. Not right now. I can’t be a frazzled mom, wife, friend/sister/daughter, and employee, so I’ll check the phone later. Or I won’t, because I’ll forget that it buzzed and fall asleep before checking it, but I’ll deal with that tomorrow. Besides, recently hadn’t I made a pact with myself that I should put my phone away during the two evening hours of family time we get during the week so I can focus more on the present?
And so I’m focusing on my head being on the table and what it feels like just not to move for a second.
Meanwhile, I forgot to say hi to Ian. Ooops. I didn’t give him a hug hello, we didn’t high five, we definitely didn’t get close enough in proximity to give each other a quick kiss. I’m not even sure we’ve looked at each other’s faces yet tonight? But I’m pretty sure he still has a beard and probably best that he doesn’t get too close to see the dried piece of processed powdered cheese that landed on my face earlier. It’s a look, and one he’s seen hundreds of times before, because, you know, I’m a catch.
He’s been home 30 minutes and we've been passing each other and asking various favors of one another as the swirling, somewhat organized (lie) chaos of dinner and bath time happens. And if I’m being really honest, we probably won’t even look at or talk directly to each other, about each other or our days, for another hour until the last toddler head hits the pillow for the night. We often try, but it typically ends with one or both of us saying “I can’t hear you. What?” until we just mental high-five in agreement that this shit is bananas and we’ll talk later.
Is that bad? Am I the only exhausted mama out there who has a loving husband she barely makes eye contact with for hours?
And this, my friends, is what I call Love in the Time of Toddlers. Sort of like Love in the Time of Cholera, but with less disease that could kill us...I think. And it’s not something I foresee changing anytime soon, which I’m embracing because, contrary to popular belief, I typically like to live in reality. I embrace the fact that we both work full time jobs and have two kids under the age of 4. I embrace the fact that I’ve been traveling a ton for work, we’ve moved to a house in the midst of it, and this is an exceptionally crazy time in our lives. And I even embrace the fact that Ian and I talk regularly about how we’re totally down for some alone time together, pre-kid’s style, while also acknowledging that it’s quite possible that one or both of us will fall asleep and so what’s important is that we acknowledge that we’re still thinking about it. We’ve decided. Also, when I was at Target buying Christmas decorations a few weeks ago, I decided to buy new underwear and surprise him with it. Except then I forgot and just found them a few days ago with the tag still on them. So I think I should just start a new text chain with him called "things that show I really care but then I forgot to tell you about."
This was on the heels of finding out recently that some women actually wear matching, cute, even sexy PJ’s to bed on the regular.
WHAT?!I thought we had a deal, you guys! I thought we collectively agreed that we wanted to be comfy and that we all had to live within these parameters so that we (I) wouldn't look bad when Ian finally found out that it's not every woman (as you've been telling him for seven years) who wears his over-sized Georgia sweatshirt and whatever sweatpants are the cleanest to bed each night.
So...Love in the Time of Toddlers is this. It’s all of this and the this I can’t describe. I love it, in all honesty, and wouldn’t change a day of it. Except that day I got thrown up on within the same 24 hours that I picked up poop off the floor and none of those bodily excrements were mine, unfortunately (fortunately? The line is so blurry now it’s unreal.)
And if I tell you how vulnerable I felt writing this, does that help? Because I want to be honest with you guys and need you to be honest back. I know there are other Uncurated Mamas out there who love their mom-life and their partners and their jobs and their sweatpants....right?