In the thick of it

Okay, how many parents feel like you are in the thick of it? Like never before. Yes, you no doubt know the feeling, and you can say first hand this stuff, the stuff we are working through, is some of the hardest!

We knew technology was ever evolving. We’ve talked about how our children would know technology beyond what we could fathom. We thought we would keep it at bay, fearing technology would keep them from productive things in life, and cause negative health impacts. Yet, here we are, running learning from a computer screen, at home.

Our six year old who is now attempting to navigate the first grade, with us dragging him every step of the way, kicking and screaming (and it’s unclear whether the child or the parent is the loudest, most resistant). He is learning to type, take photos, use a touch mouse, and get from one app to another, all with minimal reading and writing skills. He’s a wiz! He can show me how to do something that takes me much longer to figure out, and I know technology.

And yet, he’s still writing by hand, journaling, drawing pictures, working through math problems, and participating. He’s still developing all the skills we thought technology would remove from him. And, best yet, he knows when it’s time to walk away from all the tech and get out and play. A fine balance is happening here.

Now, I’m not one to say this all doesn’t come at a major cost of time, struggle and effort. This child of ours has zero ability to sit still for even five seconds (unless he’s ill). He cannot focus, and must be fighting through a thousand thoughts a second in his mind. I can only imagine what he struggles with internally.

And us? The parents? Well, we are both working full time and attempting to also raise a young toddler and a preschooler. Balance seems to not be our forte. We cannot keep up with anything and constantly feel like we are failing at everything.

For me, working from home adds a completely different level of stress and necessity. I am not sure how I’m managing any of it, and while I find pride in accomplishing even a single task, I turn around and cry because I feel like I am not giving anything my everything. And for someone who feels like things need to be successful and complete, this is not an easy pill to swallow.

None of our children are getting their particular emotional needs met, because we have too many balls in our court at any given time. Our oldest, while getting a bunch of attention from us directing his learning, falls short on feeling complete from the one on one fun time. Because, by the time we are done with his learning, we are scrambling to give the other two any semblance of devoted attention we can. But they feel left out because of the learning shift as well. So now we have a home full of children who are acting out because their emotional cups aren’t filled.

And speaking of emotional cups…My husband and I are so drained. So exhausted. So stressed. So…burnt…out… We aren’t filling our cups or our relationship’s cup. It’s just one exhausting day compounding on the next.

So where’s the light in this storm? Well…let me share. It’s in finding the funny, cute moments. It’s in reminding ourselves to be kind even when we feel like we cannot. It’s in seeing little successes. It’s in making it through another day and realizing we are one more step toward a weekend. It’s in the beautiful moments when our children do miraculous things (like potty training).

It’s in remembering that despite having limited adventures, we get to spend more time as a family than ever before.

Even if that means doing ten million things all at once, diverting our attentions in multiple directions, and trying to pull off a juggling act even the best of performers cannot fathom.

This is real life. This is what it’s like to be in the thick of it.

It is messy, hard, busy, exhausting, unappreciative, ungrateful, overwhelming, tear jerking, beautiful, rewarding, and strengthening.

It is perfectly impossible. And that is exactly where we want to be.

How will we ever learn to manage these new, more challenging than ever before, times?

I have always been one to take on many tasks. Always moving, always doing. The more the challenge, the more satisfying. Balancing, coordinating, and challenging myself has always been my way.

I think I have finally met my match though, in this “new normal” and in motherhood. The one challenge that has me trying to find ways to do less, because I can’t keep up. Balancing and coordinating cannot achieve what is necessary this time. Less would feel like so much more.

Each individual component is not necessarily overwhelming. I can care for our three young children while my husband is at work. I can work from home and complete my tasks. I can help our oldest son with his first-grade learning from home activities. I can keep up on my side hustles that demand my presence on social media. I can help our three-year old with her much needed potty-training tasks. I can keep up with chores and have a semblance of a managed home. But…I cannot do all these things, or even some of these things, with any real success.

And, as we all know, the opposite of success is failure. Something I do not manage well. Something many moms do not manage well. I feel like I am drowning almost all the time. Even if I have someone to help with the kids, I still can’t balance it all, because all three kids cannot be managed, with their different necessities, at the same time.

I’ve found myself crying more often. Much more often. More than I have ever cried before. Even more than the tears I shed during the holiday season, watching Hallmark movies that are predictable, but heartfelt and touching. What makes it more difficult is all the tears are sad tears. Frustrated tears. Defeated tears. No happy tears this time.

What’s more challenging, is it seems I am in this niche that is not all parents, or all moms, but rather a much smaller group. See, not all moms have three children. Not all families need both parents to work full time. Not all situations have a demanding job that requires availability and flexibility all day every day. Not all moms are trying to manage preschool aged children and school-aged children at the same time. And yet, not all children need a parent to be sitting with them, following along, and redirecting every moment of their learning experience.

Yet, I am not alone. I am so far from alone. And I do not need to feel alone. Because, you know what isn’t unique about my situation? What isn’t unique, is that it is unique.

You see, we all have quite different situations from one another. And, if we spend time dwelling on this, we will feel more alone than ever before. Instead, I do believe we should all focus on the aspects in which our unique perspectives can bring us together. I can support other moms who are trying to balance work and children. I can encourage others experiencing the pull of work while trying to help your child succeed while learning from home. I can recognize the exhaustion of crying, because it all feels too overwhelming to manage. And there are many other moms out there who can absolutely relate to these challenges, emotions, and blessings.

Blessings? Well yes! I have been forgetting lately my strong desire to be with my children more. Now I get to be. I have also been forgetting how incredibly empowering it is to need to be present with my son while he attempts to learn, rather than letting myself be pulled a thousand different directions.

You see, we can all relate to one another in some way. We are all struggling through this. Many of us likely feel like we are drowning every day, with so much uncertainty in whether we will make it through. And we are all getting to experience special moments that we wouldn’t be blessed with in any other situation than our own “new normal”.

Mama, you have got this! You will make it through. And if you need to cry (many, many times throughout the day) then so be it. It will make us stronger, better, and lead us to the mama and the person we truly are meant to be.