The need to change.
“I guess this is one of those nights you’re crying again,” my six year old son Aaron said to me from the side of the bed.
It was 7 p.m. on a weekday and my three boys were bathed, pajama-ed, and playing. Even though the hard part was behind me, my cheerful front couldn’t disguise how overwhelmed I felt from steering this ship, our house, for so many hours. Watching my youngest, 2 yr old Matias, age-appropriately dump another box of toys all over the floor, the tears spilled out.
“No, no,” I said to Aaron, quickly finding an excuse. “I’m just tired.” But I couldn’t perk up, and he started crying with me. We hugged and soon my eight year old, Diego, and Matias joined in for a snuggle, too. It felt cathartic, but it also felt wrong. Crying is one way I safely channel the anger I often feel when I’m home with my kids. It’s also a side of me that only the people smiling out from my annual fabulous holiday card know about.
“You have such a can-do spirit,” a school foundation member recently told me at a volunteer fair. “Silvie, can I just bottle up some of your enthusiasm?” a friend joked at the playground. At school drop-off, I often get, “I wish I could be peppy like you every morning.”
Easy, I want to tell them. I’m a wreck at home. Moody, resentful, bitter – that’s how my husband might describe me on those weeknights when he gets home after the boys are in bed. The house is quiet, but the chaos from the hours just prior – the refusal to eat the red sauce, the wrong PJ’s – hangs in the air. Sometimes I am too worked up to speak. I literally can’t tell him a thing about our day because I’m spent from reading books, playing hide-and-seek, folding the laundry and pretending to be Mr. Potato Head with the purse, who sees a coyote but isn’t afraid.
Let me just say that I was never angry like this before, even after I had kids. I realize a lot of it has to do with the fact that I’m not working anymore because of a work injury. That is something that I know Jose resents. Especially since he makes sure to let me know it every end of the month when most of our bills are due.
I didn’t know it was possible for so many distinct personalities to co-exist inside of me – the happy me, the mad me, the sad me, the anxious me – and the fact that they do now makes me feel like a big fake, a hypocrite of happy. I often wonder if I should have to wear a name tag when I leave home that reveals my other sides.
When I am at the park chasing my kids down the slide or zipping down the aisles with them at the supermarket, I’m good. In fact, I look back at the at-home me who was scrubbing the splat mat under the table with hot tears in her eyes just that very morning, and I can’t articulate what I was so upset about except that it felt real.
At this point, you may be probably wondering if Jose is ever home. He leaves the house most weekdays before 6 a.m. and gets home at 7 p.m. or later. No, he will not be changing jobs so he can work less. We are wise enough – and by that I mostly mean old enough – to be thankful that he’s got what he’s got. Plus, he’s a great dad.
Recently, on a Thursday night, I was invited to a friend’s house for dinner. When I reminded him of it, he reassured me he’d be home from work by seven, and when I said that he’d be putting all three boys to bed and not just the older two, he said, “Not a problem. Never a problem for me.”
But that reply IS a problem for me. His easy going attitude toward bedtime clashes so hard with my overwhelment toward it that I feel like a failure. Could he not just add, “But putting the three boys down would be a problem for me if I had to do it most nights like you do, plus you do it on top of dinner and bath”? When I bring this up during our rerun “who has it worse” argument, he would say all of that is implicit. He just wants me to not worry when I leave. He would add that he can’t win with me, and maybe he is right – he can’t win with angry-me.
Outside, in the big world with my boys, there is a sense of adventure that I thrive on. Unlike at home where I feel the simultaneous tug to engage my children and breakdown the mess on the dining room table, at the pool or children’s museum, there is just one focus – them. When we went to get new shoes at the mall, I kept thinking there must have been a spill on my shirt because other parents were so openly gaping at me there with three young children. I came home so energized from our happy outing, that I put Matias down for his nap and baked cookies with my two big boys.
I know that my kids would rather be home playing with me than visiting the seals at the aquarium. They don’t need to get out, but I do, in order to see the beauty of life at home. Otherwise, I lose control, and the hurt feelings, the fighting, the extra snacks, and the spilled juice overwhelm me. The best way I have figured out how to feel like myself is to regularly take my kids out into the world with me.
That is why I decided it’s time for a change! Searching online as to how not to get angry and yell at the boys for their arguing, fighting (yes it does get physical sometimes between them) I found a wonderful blog! And even better an amazing challenge! I’m talking about The Orange Rhino Challenge after reading her latest post, not only could I relate but I felt as if I was reading a page out of my own diary. So of course my next move was finding out what the challenge was all about. Let me say that I was hooked! I definitely need this. For me, for the boys, for our happiness. So I’ve decided to take the challenge. Please if you can relate and want to do something about it I recommend you read her blog. Also feel free to comment on my blog. I will not only offer you my experiences with this challenge but also give you my support. Wish me luck!