Mom plots escape from dishes, toddler

Way back when I only had one child, I got pretty devoted to that setup.

When I saw people with more than one kid or considered my life that way, I would shake my head or cringe or feel nauseous.

My body was quick to react to my worries. How could Distractable Me pay attention to two whole, independent, needy children? I considered a life where I was always chasing something—the conversation I wasn’t having, the connection I wasn’t getting, the moment I was missing. Cringe-worthy indeed.

I was right to be worried.

There is no such thing as fairness or equality in mothering. I don’t love my kids the same way. I don’t pay the same amount of attention to each. Depending on the day, the hour, the phase, I prefer to connect with one and avoid the challenges with the other. And then, when I factor my needs and desires into this crowded picture? Woa, Nelly. Good luck. I spend a very significant amount of time stomping my resentments around: that I don’t get enough time—to write, hang out with AJ in that spontaneous way we used to, check my phone, sleep, not wash dishes…

Kitchen Bride
Kitchen Bride by Barbara Butkus. You may remember this doosey of a photo from the Mommy Asana photo challenge a while back.

The dishes are relentless. I am always aware of them. And no matter how angry or accepting I am, they just rest in their plastic white tub, the crust of egg curling up, tipped at an angle by the glasses and spoons and bottles and soggy zip lock bag beneath them.

Cal is persistent and driven. Also relentless. I try to cook and he clings to my legs, screaming UUUPPPPPP! I ask him to please stop taking spoons out of the drawer and he just starts throwing them onto our tile floor with more joie de vivre. He does all the things that toddlers do to drive parents crazy. And it’s had me avoiding him like the plague.

I’m pissed off. And I just want Cal and the dishes and all this shit that I have to deal with to go away so I can sit in a silent room with a bowl full of grapes.

Since I don’t have a silent room or a bowl full of grapes, I do the next best thing: I pack my day full of friends and errands and watching the kids but not really having to connect with them. I distract myself. By the end of the day, the damned dishes are still leering and Cal is as feisty as hell. It grates at me–knowing that those things are still chasing me and I feel more depleted than ever.

Once again, I’ve painted myself into this tight, bitter corner that I’ve found my way in and out of a zillion times before. I know how to get out–the things that torment me grow smaller and softer when I pay more attention to them, not less. Ugh. It’s such an un-sexy, tedious solution.

If I just did the stupid dishes and built time into our evening to talk to Cal and acknowledge his needs, then I might not be so desperate for the silence or the grapes. Because the dishes would be washed, and Cal might tone down the screaming if he felt I was listening.

The only way out is through.

16 thoughts on “Mom plots escape from dishes, toddler

  1. Last week I had this moment where my husband got home from work early. I took off. I found myself sitting in the parking lot of Andronico’s, listening to NPR, and eating fudge covered pretzels. I was so elated I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. Motherhood is relentless. Much of the time it is lovely, and hilarious, and joyful, and amazing, then there are those times when I feel like I can’t breathe. And the dishes! Thanks for this post, I am so glad to know I am not the only one:)

  2. Oh, I just heard myself sighing along with you as a I read your post. I get it, I really do. How do you stop them from wanting to spend every second near you…by spending more seconds near them! How do you get time alone, by leaving them alone…hence aggravating issue #1. and not cooking or eating to avoid dishes just doesn’t sit well, because when i am stressed out i eat, and when i want the kids to stop whining, i feed them… I did the same thing, surrounded myself with friends, projects, outings etc…at least i felt productive and connected, even if i truly wasn’t, right? WRONG…it all backfired and I completely lost my mind. my suggestion – go back to basics, cut all of your extra ‘stuff’ – and work towards things that make you feel so good.

    For instance – I miss reading books and drinking tea, covered in a blanket on the couch. Keeps my mind and imagination going, it is me-time, I get to think about ‘grown up’ words, and sometimes i trade the tea for coffee with bailey’s. SOOO…no more watching crap TV before bed to ‘wind down’ (because it doesn’t). Pick a bed-time (I know, you don’t really get to pick your bed time, but once you see the possibility happening) 30 minutes before your eyes close and you start drooling. Get in your bed or couch and just READ. You didn’t lose any sleep to do this, you’ll feel better, and if it is herbal tea, you will sleep better.

    Second suggestion – CHEAT. only those super-hippy-crazy moms will judge you, and since you should have cut those women out of your life anyways you are safe. Only use one cup per person per day. Label them, make them pretty, whatever it takes. Did those pants NEED to be washed? Who folds kids’ laundry, really? Nope, NO ONE who is sane. Get bins – for everything. Kids toys, kids hats/mitts, socks, magazines, books…kids love the ‘tidy up by throwing everything in a bin’ game. (hint, if the bin fits easily under something so it hides away (like a bed, a couch or onto a shelf) mommy gets two points for being extra awesome.

    Suggestion Three – buy in bulk and buy for convenience – and buy more bins/containers too. I love having healthy, easy food on hand for snacks and side dishes. This doesn’t have to be more expensive if you are a good shopper. I love having tupperware containers filled with pretzels, raisins, cereals, dried fruit just ready and waiting. And single serving yogurt (the super cheapo brand), fruit in a bowl on the side table, pre-cut veggies. I have even been known to buy a ‘salad in a bag’ (shhh, don’t tell anyone) lately. The way I see it, I throw out a ton of veggies b/c i buy too many and then don’t want to bother chopping them up to make salads etc, that the cost of the super delicious and healthy salads in a bag (which get all eaten, no waste, and are fresh – no picking out the brown yucky pieces) are totally worth it once a week. All this equals: Less cooking, less shopping, more healthy food, happier mommy, happy kids, less dishes, more time, less headache (did I say less dishes yet?)

    Oh man, I could go on and on. Maybe if I keep giving you advice I’ll actually start practising what I preach…it all sounds very appealing! I may turn my comment turned advice rant into a blog post of my own, hope you don’t mind! – Julie

  3. Interestingly, “the only way out is through” was my insight during the hardest part of labor with both kids. Avoiding the pain was not allowing me to harness the energy required to bring them out.

    That insight has certainly proved useful while actively parenting as well, for both of us.

    Abby

  4. Holy Bejezzus. good post. i totally relate. Wish our kiddos could run around together ( or near eachother) while we had a cuppa tea (or something).

  5. When I read your post the years rolled back. My kids are in their teens now (one in college) and the challenges are just different. I used to struggle for “me time” when they were young and wait for the husband to walk in the door but now there’s only time on my hands..wonder where the time went?

    1. It is so strange how one phase melts into another without much fanfare. And the thing that used to be The Thing is barely even mentioned again. I know there are sweet things about where I’m at, but there are many days I’d happily trade places with you.

  6. My heart breaks for you. There is a despair in your voice that I recognize from the days when my kids were little. I do think you are suffering from depression though as I believe ivwas during those overwhelming days. Go talk to someone. Maybe the kids need to be in daycare and you need to go back to work. Forget about all the things supermoms are supposed to do and do just what you want to do. As for the dishes. Fuck em. Get a dishwasher and make it the kids job or your partners. If you do go back to work get a cleaning lady. I know all this stuff costs money and may be out of your reach but at the end of the day your mental health let’s you be the most loving mother you can be plus you are teaching your kids how they need to take care of themselves first in order to survive in the crazy world. Enjoy life. Don’t let the drudgery of domestic servitude destroy your kids memories of you and turn you into a shadow of who you were. I know I have done that and now the kids are gone and I don’t even recognize myself. Good luck.

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