Sitting alone on a park bench, shivering in the middle of an unseasonally freezing shower, I came to some realisations yesterday.
I should have seen the signs. The glasses of wine getting gradually more full, the reaching for some form of edible distraction when the dinnertime meltdowns started, the adding of more elements to my beauty routine, the seeking of affirmation and admiration from external sources, the anger simmering only slightly below the surface…
It has come to this point. A creature built upon affirmation with zero outlets anymore. Motherhood offers up far too many challenges and roadblocks for me to feel as if I’ve ‘made it’ as a capable mother. I gave up my career in law just before the craziness with Hudson began. Open House, while such a valuable and worthwhile idea (and experience), has become very difficult with the weekly emotional and practical burden it levies upon our family. With the constant giving and service for a community, the majority of whom are in a life stage of ‘flexible priorities’ in terms of showing up at all, let alone being in a position to lend assistance. My eldest child tells me passionately how ‘mean’ I am and that he ‘hates’ me whenever the slightest thing falls wayward from his plan of how it was supposed to happen. If I had any emotional energy left I don’t even know how I would choose to spend it!
I guess I’m saying I’m ‘burnt out’, stripped back to nothing…. the layers of my onion now down to the tiny core.
After being told for the 20th time yesterday how hateful I was and being hit by my son yet again, I snapped at him and yelled, (childishly) throwing aside the figurine he had placed on the bench for emphasis. I had been so patient and calm the whole freaking day, redirecting his near explosions and scrambling for ways to rescue the situation and help him find words to express his volatile emotions. Dave had come home early, but his focus was on Open House work and the bulk of the drama completely washed over him, despite (what I had felt were) very obvious hints that I was nearing my breaking point. Then when he witnessed my anger, he did the unthinkable, choosing to scorn my outburst rather than lend assistance. Shaking with barely controlled emotion, I ceased chopping carrots and grabbed my things, my exit thwarted by being parked in, so I hit the pavement instead.
The wind cut through my thin cardigan with its icy tendrils, but I kept going, eventually landing at the deserted playground. I huddled beneath the open shelter, feeling the ice creep into my bones. But I didn’t care. At that point the wintery conditions felt more welcoming than my home.
Motherhood at the moment is brutal. It seems like anything can trigger a meltdown from Eli and I’m getting used to Ivy being on the move and therefore a ‘threat’ to the boys’ activities. Hudson is constantly climbing on things, reaching, spilling, falling, disagreeing, invading and it is impossible to keep a step ahead of any of them. In the midst of this there are, of course, so many beautiful and heartwarming moments- Eli teaching Hudson about colours and excitedly celebrating any answer that he got right, Ivy watching her brothers with delight and clapping at their entertaining dance moves. Shrieks of delight emanating from the trampoline as brothers come up with games, Ivy’s excitement at being able to get from Point A to Point B for the first time, overheard conversations between brothers, offers of ‘help’ with household tasks, focused faces creating colourful worlds in their imaginations to moving Spotify soundtracks… But when your emotional energy is hovering above zero, often it can feel like getting to the end of the day is an achievement, let alone then releasing Dave to attend additional meetings, events and catch ups that often crop up in the evenings.
Dave and I had a meaningful chat last night with many tears spilled by me. Sometimes it is hard to recognise the signs until it is too late, and all we can do is move forward together. He apologised for siding against me in the parenting battle and has now outlined to Eli his zero tolerance for his hateful language and behaviour towards our family anymore. It has been a difficult and busy period, with reports, marking, neighbourhood meetings, letter box drops, medical appointments, Open House commitments, interstate weddings and road trips. I guess it makes sense that the tipping point has been reached.
My name for myself is ‘Supporter’. Any clash of others needs with my own will automatically result in mine being pushed aside (I’m an ISFJ on the Myers-Briggs scale). This sounds noble, but in reality it just ends up at the place I am now. Emptied. If Dave even hints at being tired I just figure I have to step up more, rejecting his offer of letting me get out for an hour to recharge. Really the only activity I have for myself is this blog, and the words point weekly to my efforts for others rather than my own passions (whatever they are). I feel like a one-dimensional cut out of myself, shunning any paths that lead anywhere that doesn’t also benefit my family. The realisation hit me when talking with a friend from the past this week and the only stories I could muster were ones about what Dave was doing… it felt like I had absolutely nothing to share of my own. Realistically this is also just part of the life stage we are in, though Dave seems to find a multitude of opportunities to further his passions in philosophy and education because he looks for these options. I wouldn’t even know where to begin.
So I guess I’m going to look for some counselling as a first step. I’ve always said that this blog was my rescue point from that, but maybe an external source that will have some objective advice and encouragement can also be helpful. I feel like a bit of a mess, like the corner of the blemished rug, but in having nothing left to hide I also feel a bit of freedom too. I really don’t know how to go about getting my identity from God, but I’m more than open to exploring that. Guess it can only be up from here?