For the first few months after coming home from China in June, I found myself in a inexplicable fog. My memory failed me, I couldn’t focus, and no matter how I tried to get back into my old routine, I found exhaustion had become my new normal. I’d wake up every day and want to go right back to bed.
When I would bring this up, most people would respond with, “Umm… you have six kids. Isn’t this what you’re supposed to feel like?”
No, I didn’t think it was. After all, I seemed to have plenty of energy when I had five. Or at least I thought I did… now I can’t remember because I’m tired.
Fortunately, as the summer came to a close my fog began to lift. As it did, I began to realize why I struggled. After years of being out of toddler mode, I was abruptly placed right back in. Our new girl may be four, but she is developmentally closer to a 2 year old. Imagine watching your neighbor’s 2 year old for a few months with absolutely no instructions for her care. Now imagine she doesn’t speak English. Will she stick a fork in that electric outlet? Will she open the front door and run into the street? Does she like pizza? Is she allergic to anything? Is she hungry? Is she thirsty? Is she tired?
Fortunately for me I was rarely alone so there were always another set of hands and eyes with me to try to keep her safe. Unfortunately, they weren’t always that helpful.
Me: What is she eating?
Kid who I thought was trustworthy: She’s eating the cat food. She likes it.
While I have had little ones in my home for many years, it’s been a while. Only a few short months ago my husband and I were going on dates regularly and not having to wipe anyone else’s butt.
And… now we’re back.
We’re back to diapers and high chairs, to a rear-facing car seat and giving baths. We’re back to cutting up food into bite-sized pieces and playing Mother Goose Club on Spotify.
Meanwhile, we have five other children. And while some of them are older (with one out of the house), they all still need me. I didn’t grow up with a mom, so I LOVE that I can give them what I didn’t have. But at times it was too much for me.
I eat well, drink plenty of water, get a decent amount of sleep and exercise regularly. But no matter how much I tried to fit in moments of “self-care,” it didn’t erase the amount of energy I expended. At any given time (day or night) there was someone following me around either talking to me or asking me for help on something. Someone needed a ride somewhere, someone else needed to talk about a crush they had, and another wanted to know (again) what we were having for dinner. Not to mention the
fights misunderstandings that would break out on a somewhat regular basis that required mediation. Summer is wonderful (it is my favorite time of year) but it is filled with late nights, more cooking, more dishes, more laundry, and less structure.
As the summer wore on, my house became a strange hybrid of frat house and Hello Kitty where pink sparkles and dirty dishes came together in a way that most assuredly contributed to my feeling of defeat (where do you even start?). Because when you’re tired, housework becomes low on the priority list and living in a messy house made me feel even worse.
And because we had a new child in the home, we didn’t do many of our usual summer activities as we got her accustomed to life in our family. So, we weren’t going Up North for a week, going on fun excursions or going out for bike rides. Our normal wasn’t there this year and getting used to a new normal took some time.
What finally got me out of that fog? I think it was time. I needed time to get to know my new daughter and get past the many appointments and paperwork that come with bringing home a child from a foreign country with special needs. I needed to adjust my mental load to talking about cross country season one minute to helping my seven year old learn to ride a two wheeler to running our girl to the potty. I needed to make an effort to get away from those that needed me and make regular nights out with my husband and friends because there is always something to be done and someone to talk to as long as I’m at home.
Having school starting up with it’s structure has also helped. They all go to school, even the littlest one which gives me a chance to breathe, meet my own needs for a few hours and have silence.
I love all of my people. I wouldn’t change my busy wonderful family-life for the world. But Mama just needs a tiny bit more time for herself.