Thursday, July 14, 2011

Crabby Morning

This morning I got out of bed at 6:15, hoping for an hour to myself before the girls woke up. I walked to the bathroom to shower, flipped the light switch and my four year old came barrelling out of her room, bleary-eyed, shouting in a distraught voice, "Mom! You didn't let me snuggle you!"

I am an introvert living in a raucous house full of small children who demand my attention constantly. I get through my day much more cheerfully if I get some quiet time to myself in the morning before they get up. The children, however, prefer me to wake up when they flop onto my bed. They want me to groggily open my eyes when they snuggle into my shoulder.

So when I have the chance to get up early, I creep as quietly as I can. I turn on the fan in the bathroom because its white noise sometimes lulls them into sleeping longer. But this summer, nothing has worked. At least one of them will wake up, run to me and wail that I am not in my bed, awaiting their company.

The loss of that morning solitude makes everything harder. It is harder to keep my temper. It is hard to accept with equanimity the other thousand things they prevent me from doing. It is harder to smile when they ask the same damn question for the fourteenth time that hour.

Right now I am sitting on my front porch while the children play in the yard. I can't leave them outside alone to play; they are too young and our neighborhood is too rough. I have to sit here, looking at all the yard work that needs to be done, work that I cannot do because little hands will constantly grab at the pruning shears, or because the two year old will run into the street or into the woods if I turn my back on her. I am hating the demands of parenthood right now, and I know I would find it less onerous if I had been allowed twenty minutes to drink a cup of coffee in silence.

I remember C.S. Lewis remonstrating once that we are tempted to think of time as something we own, so that when someone asks for our attention we see them as thieves of our time. I get his point, but it's also an easy one for a bachelor don to make. When all my time is claimed by the kids, I become a kind of childcare automaton. I cannot share any of myself with my husband or my friends because there is no self left.

So here I am, turning to the blog as in the past, because in the half attention it took to write this (two children are whining to me right now, another is banging on a metal tin, and my oldest, God bless her, promised to leave me alone for twenty minutes and is doing so), I feel slightly more human than I did before I started.

Thank you, dear reader.


  1. I want to cry as I read your post, because I understand just how you feel. (5yo, 3yo, 1yo plus expecting w/morning sickness) It is SO HARD not to feel like everyone's slave, not to think of myself as "waiting to actually LIVE", not to see myself as a victim.

    When we found out we were unexpectedly expecting a month ago, I was immediately overwhelmed with peace and the knowledge that God was going to do something great here, if I let Him. I have been forced to rely on Him, because my life is just too overwhelming otherwise. I suppose that is the point. He's put me in a position where I absolutely need Him.

    Still, moment to moment, it is an incredible struggle with more hard moments than joyful ones...thank you for sharing this.

  2. God bless you, it's good to know I'm not the only one :) There are only three demanding my constant attention right now, but it's enough. More than enough.

  3. That need for solitude has morphed me into a night owl. I love this post.

  4. Oh I understand. So well. I stay up until 11:00 at night, just to soak up the quiet time, and then of course regret it in the morning when I am tired and irritable.

    I just told my older girls they were amazing, astounding, awesome children because they made sandwiches for all five kids eating lunch.

  5. Anonymous7/14/2011

    "Childcare automaton" - EXACTLY. I'm starting to attempt to invest myself more into my children because I don't want to be that automaton, but ohmygoodness it is so hard. And my youngest wakes up at 6 every morning, so unless I want to be cranky from lack of sufficient sleep every day, I really do have to accept that they are going to be with me from my first waking moment!

  6. Someone just quoted on Twitter, "I love my exploration of centering prayer. But no spiritual discipline holds a candle to the discipline of raising kids. None at all."


    My mom always says that having kids will take the selfishness out of you. I don't think so. I am just as selfish as I was before. I don't exercise SOME behavior (like sleeping in, or, you know, sleeping until after 5) but it isn't because I wouldn't, it is because I CAN'T.

    Often there are moments of parenting that I choose, and those I perform better than the ones that are thrust upon me.

  7. Yes! Me too!!! Oh, after 5 1/2 years I am finally learning to just let go of my expectations but it doesn't get any easier . . . when the day begins and ends with children, it is hard hard hard- you've expressed this far better than I could. I'm going to link to this soon!

  8. I so completely understand. I know it's hard for our husbands to go off every day to work for our family's living, but I also think many underestimate how hard it is for the wives at home. It's so monotonous. And you're never, ever, ever alone. Ever. Last night I could not sleep. Every half hour or so, my 2 year old who insisted on sleeping on our floor would whimper, so if I was about to drift off, that killed it for me. Or my baby son would wake up to nurse my empty breasts again. I'm pregnant, with a two year old and 9 month old, and some days I have told my husband that I feel like a childcare robot. (As well as a dishwashing and vacuuming robot). I know I chose this, and I wouldn't change it, but that does not make it easy.

    Hey, I thought, someone else who can't leave their kids out alone and can't do yard work with them! I'm not alone! I sit on the steps despondently and get mosquito bitten. What neighbourhood do you live in, if you mind my asking? I'm in Cheviot and though I know families who are okay with it, I am not comfortable here letting a two year old play in the backyard alone. Too much wandering riffraff.

    Hope you feel better about life soon!

  9. I've tried to respond a million times with something empathetic and helpful but it's not coming out right. I'll just say Hang in there, Sister! Some days that's all there is, but it always gets better. But from one introvert to another, I so get what you're saying.

  10. It's so nice to read all the "I hear ya, sister!" comments, and I will throw mine into the ring, and I only have two (ha!) Is there something, also, about the oppressive heat of summer that makes this worse? I feel like heat and introversion do not mix - when it is hot out, it drives me further in, to the house, to the basement, to myself /sigh. Thanks for posting, I'm glad it helped a little :)

  11. I was going to post a long empathic comment....but I will leave you alone with your coffee ;)

  12. Emily G, I live on the west side too. Email me and maybe we can arrange a playdate.

  13. I feel that way too...sometimes just being overstimulated by the noise and constant distractions. The good news, I guess, is that now that my youngest is five (I have two kids) I do get those moments to myself, sometimes even in the middle of the day. Not that it makes now any easier, but sometimes it helps me to remind myself that it's only a moment. That it will not last.

  14. "I am an introvert living in a raucous house full of small children who demand attention constantly."

    You too? (Fist bump.)

  15. Debbie7/16/2011

    My children are all in their 30s now, but I too am an introvert and had 3 children within 4-1/2 years, so I understand where you're coming from. It truly DOES get better, I promise!! The days seemed so long, but the years went by so fast. One thing I did after mine got a little older was to lock myself in the bathroom for about 15 minutes after telling the kids where I'd be, but not to bother mommy unless somebody was bleeding or the house was on fire. :-D We made it through, but I can remember thinking how nice it would be just to have a little adult conversation for a change. Hang in there, ladies. It is so totally worth it!!!!

  16. Yes, yes, YES. Yes. (One more for good measure.)

    When don't get quiet time to myself, I start to go insane. (Like today, for example. I have been interrupted four times while writing the previous few sentences. Does "it is quiet time" seem like a complicated statement to you? Evidently it is.)

    Anyway, thanks for a great post. So good to know I'm not alone.

  17. I don't think I've ever told you how much I love the things you write. This piece especially. I can relate to every. single. word. Sometimes it's just nice to know we're not alone, isn't it? So, thank you.

  18. I related to everything in this post. I smiled at what you said about CS Lewis. So true. It would have been so *easy* for him. :)
    Feeling overwhelmed is my natural state these days - 'relentless' is the word I use to describe most things most often.
    Thinking of you - with empathy.

  19. Last week I had the pleasure, pure unadulterated pleasure, of managing 347 volunteers for our VBS. It was positively exhilarating and made me realize how much I long to go back to know, where I can THINK. On the same hand, I somehow still have this yearning to adopt. But I'm wondering if maybe I should let the fact that I am a complete loser at this motherhood gig start bearing more weight in that decision. If I was an introvert, I probably would have hung myself by now. I honestly don't know how you do it.