I’ve just finished getting the kids to bed, I am sat with my sleeping baby in my arms and I am crying. Everything feels too much today. Everything feels too much most days, actually. Before lockdown I think I was doing ok, just about managing to keep my head above the water. Now, 6 or 7 weeks in, the weight of all the changes and the fear and disruption the virus is causing are starting to pull me down. A lot of the time I feel moments away from drowning. It’s just too hard.
Young children are not programmed to spend all their time indoors; I am not made to live my days out inside either. My mental health has for years now been a very fragile thing, I spend lots of time teetering on the edge of an anxiety attack or an uncontrollable downpour of tears. I may be ‘recovered’ from postnatal depression but there’s no denying that that dark period in my life has left some lasting damage that resurfaces all too easily when I’m stressed. Lockdown life is making me stressed.
I love my kids, please don’t for a second think I don’t. My sons and my baby girl are my absolute world, I adore them, would do anything for them and as the cliche gies, I’d without a second thought take a bullet for them. That unconditional love isn’t taken away when I say some days I don’t want to be around them. Some days they are too much for me. They shout ‘mummy’ and hearing my name for the hundredth time grates on me like a fork screeching over a dinner plate. They follow me around. they’re in the bathroom when I’m using the toilet, they are climbing on me head while I try to answer emails, they’re in my bedroom messing up all my stuff while I’m trying to get dressed for the day. I enjoy their company, I do stuff with them, we craft and bake and play games with rules I don’t understand but I can’t do it all day every day for weeks. I just can’t. They don’t understand that though. Why was I up for painting. Superhero games and chasing each other around the house yesterday but today I don’t want to play or do anything with them at all? Of course they must feel confused and upset by that.
Kids have energy that is just on another level, I would do anything for a quarter of the get up and go of my six year old. Tired mums though? We are sustaining ourselves on coffee, chocolate eaten whilst hiding behind kitchen cupboard doors and the last of our energy is scraped from a dark recess somewhere deep inside us. I wish I was the mum who could happily play with my kids all day, the mum who didn’t shout when she felt overwhelmed, the mum who didn’t have to hide in her own house from her kids..the mum who didn’t cry the second she closed their bedroom door for the night.
It just all feels never ending. The boys fight, they are loud (so very very loud), the baby cries a lot, she wants to be held a lot, the house doesn’t clean itself, my job doesn’t do itself and the food and drinks don’t magically prepare themselves. I pick up toys so much that I’m surprised I haven’t pulled a muscles from all the bending down, I’m always searching for dummies and constantly handing out snacks. It’s fine, I’m their mum and I don’t mind doing it but there’s no time for a break. Someone always needs me,be it for a cuddle or to help them in the toilet or listen to their story or watch them do a new dance or hold them in my arms just because…I am always needed.
Some days, like today, the relentless demands to be their everything and do everything all of time gets too much. I get shoved over the edge and I can’t cope. I end up shouting and immediately feeling guilty. I snap at them when they just want to talk to me because if I hear someone say ‘mummy’ one more time, just when I’m about to release the breath I’ve been holding all day, then I might spontaneously combust.
Then of course comes the guilt.
How can I dare to feel this way when there are couples who have just lost their last chance of having a child because IVF treatments have been stopped due to the pandemic? What about all those nurses working on the frontline who have temporarily moved out of their family home so they don’t put their children at risk? Those parents who would do anything to be spending so much time with the children. I feel guilty when I think of these people and of the other key workers who are parents, who have to see people like me on social media staying home with their kids when they can’t do the same. Sometimes I hate myself for wishing I didn’t have to spend time with my children.
People are saying we should cherish these extra weeks at home with our families, we should be making ‘lockdown memories’ the children will remember fondly. I’m scared all my children will remember is me shouting because I’ve lost my patience or seeing me try and fail to hide my tears as I get their pyjamas on and put them to bed. My eldest asked why I shouted at him this evening, I told him it was because I was so tired and that I was sorry. I reminded him that there are three of you kids and just one of me and sometimes when you all need me at the same time it makes mummy feel a bit stressed. He made me so proud, told me he understood and that he feels stressed sometimes too so he gets it. I felt awful that my six year old was trying to make me feel better when it’s my job to look after him.
I felt sad and guilty and miserable and now I’m sitting here wondering do other mums find it so hard? Are there other mums sitting with tear stained cheeks with a baby in their arms dreading having to do it all again tomorrow? Are there other mums who can’t wait for lockdown to end so they can send the kids to the grandparents for an extra long weekend? Are there other mums spending their evening feeling like the worst parent in the world right now? I’m sure there are, I’m sure it’s not just me.
In this moment though, I feel like I’ve failed my kids today. I can’t go back in time and change how today panned out, all I can do is try to be nicer to myself and make a promise that I’ll get up and try again tomorrow. Lockdown with three kids age six and under was never going to be easy, I need to try and be kinder to myself. It you’ve read this and feel the same way, please by kinder to yourself too. Your children love you and you’re doing your best, we all have bad days sometimes. Let’s all try and have a better day tomorrow.