We spent yesterday in the hospital ER. Little N woke up in the middle of the night unable to breathe. Allergy-induced asthma. Seasonal allergies this time. We tried to treat him at home, but it just wasn’t working. His breathing was getting worse and worse. At 9 AM, we decided we couldn’t wait anymore. He was getting lethargic. Alarm bells ringing like crazy in my sleep-deprived head. We packed up the kids, grabbed our ER “Go Bag” and headed off to Mt. Sinai.
His blood oxygen level was 92 when we arrived. That’s still normal range, but toward the bottom. Worrisome. The doctor said that they don’t like people at home below 94, so it’s good we brought him in. The first round of medication didn’t help him enough, so we sat and sat and they gave him a second dose, and we waited to see if that was going to work. It did, thank heaven, and we weren’t admitted this time. (Last time, we were, and it was 3 days in the hospital.) We are really getting to know the hospital. This was our fourth trip in six months. My husband was even giving other patients’ families directions to the cafeteria. Sad.
The day before was stressful, too. We had martial arts class for Big E in the morning and an awards concert we were singing on together in the afternoon. Easy, right? Two things? Simple! Not with two little kids. My general rule is that we schedule only one thing per day because that’s all we can guarantee will happen. However. Martial arts is Big E’s favorite thing of the week (ours, too) and the concert was important to us.
The stress happened before the class. Husband (from now own I will refer to him as RHR – less typing) was in the shower. I was responsible for getting the kids fed. Big E is looking small lately – we are concerned with allergy elimination diet for him. He’s growing and needs his nutrition, so we have cautiously added back Little N’s allergens. But it makes me a nervous wreck. Big E can have milk on his cereal, but only if Little N is asleep in the other room or is strapped into his high chair. Otherwise, Little N will find a way to pour his brother’s deadly milk all over his vulnerable little head.
So – you can see this coming a mile away – we are running late. We need to leave in 15 minutes. I need Big E to eat and Little N to eat and I have to finish getting dressed. I try to oh so tenderly place Little N in his chair, at which point he arches his sweet little back, stiffens his tender little legs, and shrieks like all of the cats in hell. No WAY that child was going in that high chair. I try to press the point with him. Shrieking gets louder, more determined. “Buh buh buh buh BUUUHHHHH!!!!!!!!,” he yells. Well, SHIT! I just nursed him. Literally minutes ago. This kid is NOT in need of a nursing session. He NEEDS to sit in the high chair and eat some cereal and fruit and let me feed his brother. “RHRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” I yell. Nothing. He either can’t hear me or is strategically ignoring me. I sit down with Little N and nurse. But I’m really frustrated and angry. If we are late, Big E can’t participate in the class. Discipline is part of the whole deal – they don’t let lazy parents just waltz in whenever they feel like it to let their undisciplined children disrupt everyone else. No, we have to be there on time. And They. MUST. EAT. But picture it – how am I supposed to pour what is essentially poison to Little N into Big E’s bowl while I’m holding a thrashing screaming Little N? Man, oh MAN I was wishing for telekinesis just then!
But I don’t have it, so my tension level got higher and higher and higher and I started to imagine smashing a baseball bat into a wall, and then I picked up a pillow and
screamed sang a high A in alt into a pillow. (RHR heard that one!)
Did I mention yet that I haven’t had any caffeine yet at this point?
The rest of getting to class is somewhat of a blur. RHR got dressed and somehow we got Big E fed and we arrived in class just in the nick of time.
And then we sang the afternoon concert and then we spent Sunday in the hospital, forced to cancel singing on a studio class in the afternoon, and the angst that came with that. (I need to sing this aria in front of people, will people question our commitment if we don’t show up, etc, etc, etc.) And the whole weekend forced some serious conversations between me and RHR about how we juggle our careers and caring for a special needs kiddo. We have some ground rules now and a master plan, which feels good.
But I was still feeling totally completely overwhelmed. There’s just not enough time, not enough of me. And I feel that way all of the time. Every moment of every single little day, I feel like I am drowning in responsibility to a million different people. All of them only aware of their little tiny part of my day, all of them teetering on the verge of disappointment, possibly anger, possibly some kind of harm (to their peace, their schedule, their business, their reputation, their physical bodies – like not eating, for instance). All of them underestimating the time it takes for me to do what they want, and by underestimating, devaluing what I do. And I feel like a loser for not being able to meet every expectation effortlessly. I feel like other women can. I mean, honestly – I’m not unique. I know that. I don’t have an unusual amount of responsibility. My sister-in-law has a special needs kid. So do several of my friends. Lots of people deal with far more severe food allergies, or even worse illnesses, altogether. Some people can’t afford food. Some people don’t have access to health care or clean water or live in a war zone or dig ditches in Siberia I get it, I get it! Which makes me feel so much worse because why can’t I get a grip and do this little bit that I have to do well. Why can’t I succeed at, essentially, being a woman? A perfect wife, a perfect mother, a perfect singer, a perfect friend, a perfect daughter, a perfect niece, a perfect sister, a perfect teacher, a perfect employee, a perfect neighbor, a perfect citizen, a perfect boss?
It’s a shame. It’s shame. It’s – what’s the German word? – unmöglich. And here’s the thing – I know that no woman out there is doing it all perfectly. We’re just not talking about it.
When I told RHR that I feel exhausted and overwhelmed and nobody gets it, he challenged me to write a list of everything I have to do and post it somewhere public, so that the next time someone says, “I just need you to…” or “It’s just a little thing, it won’t take you more than…” I can point to the list and essentially say, take a number. But the more I thought of it, the more I thought, we need to know each other’s lists. We need to see in black and white, holy hell that is too much work for one person. We can’t possibly do it all. It’s unmöglich. And that’s ok. We are still enough. We are still worthy of being loved. We are still enough. Enough!
Feel free to post your own list in the comments below.
Here’s my list. I’m going to add to it as things come up. Yeah – I’m looking at this and already thinking it’s ludicrous!
- Give babysitter lowdown on asthma weekend, along with medication instructions
- Put bottles together for pumping session
- Sterilize pump parts
- Meet with boss #1
- Meet with boss #2
- File extension for taxes
- Hang up new HR signs
- Set up coffee with K
- Go to chiropractor appointment
- Put in research request for 3 companies
- Reschedule 5 separate reference calls
- Reschedule Friday meeting
- Schedule 2 new reference calls
- Return damaged handbag to Zappo
- Get flight itinerary for Thursday
- Send a travel link to colleague’s wife
- Check in with friend about weekend drama
- Schedule 3 coffee dates for client
- Go through bills
- Get resume & comp for candidate
- Instruct babysitter in way to force-feed medication to unwilling toddler
- Pump for Little N’s bottles for tomorrow – three times
- Nurse – 5-8 times while awake, 1-2 times in the middle of the night
- Make dinner
- Clean up apartment
- Write two lesson plans
- Go to voice lesson – sing the crap out of two of the hardest arias written for soprano
- Schedule conference call
- Prepare origination form
- Review and correct invoices
- Fix broken login
- Enter search information into database
- File expenses
- Request reimbursement for lost metrocard
- File boss’s expenses
- File boss’s personal travel with reimbursement company
- Give instruction on setting up a conference with a new vendor
- Pour caffeine down throat
- Respond to a call from Citizens’ Complaint Review Board about police violence
- Update two tracking sheets
- Type up a handwritten document
- Make two folders with labels
- Track two engagements (not own but for someone else)
- Schedule 4 Skype interviews
- Schedule 2 phone screens
- Contact Company A regarding questions from Fiscal Sponsor
- Thank Company B for nice note about declining to offer an in-kind donation and ask for other suggestions
- Make 5 initial fundraising inquiries
- Make marinade for ribs
- Play with kids
- Find a pianist for recording
- Schedule lessons
- Send fundraising file to husband
- Shower & Dress
- Schedule play date for Big E
- Confirm lesson with student
- Teach kids optimism and gratitude
- Book studio
- Get applications for CBO preschools
- Buy diapers and wipes
- Get kids ready for bed
- Schedule kids’ dentist appointments
- Make sure Little N is covered on our dental insurance
- Get laundry together to be done tomorrow
- Turn on out of office message
- Edit spec
- Second meeting with boss #2
NOTE: I know that not all of this will get done. That’s the point of putting the list here. I know your list is this long, and we all know it won’t all get done. So we can say enough is (quite literally) enough. And be compassionate with ourselves and with each other. And if someone isn’t compassionate with you – well, that’s their anxiety/insecurity/disconnect/shame and maybe they deserve an extra helping of compassion from you.