Butter Scraped Over Too Much Bread

Image by Phil Hawksworth

I’m old, Gandalf. I know I don’t look it, but I’m beginning to feel it in my heart. I feel…thin. Sort of stretched, like…butter scraped over too much bread. I need a holiday. A very long holiday.

– Bilbo Baggins, from J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring

I’m feeling worn out lately.  That may have something to do with having three kids under four years old.  Or it may be that I erred in over-scheduling us last week.  Or it may be that I still haven’t found my rhythm after our long trip.

Whatever the cause, I feel stretched, like there’s not enough of me to go around – like the butter on Bilbo’s bread.

I feel achy.  I feel out-of-shape.  And there’s a lot of crying some days.  Like yesterday.  And the day before that.  And there’s always laundry to wash.  And then to fold.  And dinner to make.  And “Stop yelling and eat your food” to say.

Lather.  Rinse.  Repeat.

Even the good days are hard.

Sometimes I feel like I’m waiting for the grown-up to show up and sort things out for me.  Someone to do the grocery shopping, to call the plumber, to figure out if Little Brother’s random summertime fever warrants a doctor’s visit.  Someone else to do the worrying.  Someone else to make the decisions.

And it’s disconcerting to feel like a kid when I’m the one in charge of the kids.

A wise and wonderful lady recently told me that things get easier; that, as my babies get older (stay small! don’t grow!), I might find myself sinking into my days, finding the joy more effortless than effort-full.  And I hope that’s true.

In the meantime, I will do the laundry and make dinner and call the plumber.  I will be the grown-up.  I will wear my choices like badges of honor instead of albatrosses around my neck.

I will smile.

And I will wring as much joy out of these moments as I can, dammit.  🙂

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49 responses to “Butter Scraped Over Too Much Bread

  1. Oh how I hear you. I hear you as I live and breathe. Every day. Hard. But I’m starting to notice small snippets of time, like this weekend, when time seemed to unfold more effortlessly than I remember in a long-long time. I only have two, but they are growing, it does happen, and though my heart aches for it, occasionally I can feel it singing again too.

    Thinking of you! Do only what you need to and take care.
    xo

  2. Curious you should post this today. I’ve been making changes in my life (and insisting my husband make some too) that, while they may seem like sacrifices (less time for writing, for one, less time hanging out around the internet, for another), are designed solely and purposefully to help me discover the joy and the love that can come from being here with my family. Because right now it’s HARD. And the only thing that makes it any easier is the hope that someday it won’t be quite so difficult!

    (And I have to say that I love the quote you started with today. Bilbo Baggins is one of my favorite characters!)

  3. For a long time, I thought I wouldn’t feel this way, once my daughter was older. Well, she is now a senior in high school and I’m still right there with you! Maybe once we get her off to college? I don’t know, but I know that I’ll never regret the time I have spent with her and try hard to live into every minute of it.

    More and more, I see that there will always be something in the way of doing what I truly love to do. Maybe that’s the way it is supposed to be? Maybe I need to filter out more – who knows! I just try to be right here, right now, as much as possible. It’s the only way I know to ride the waves.

    Thanks so much for this…

    • I fear sometimes that I am too much of an “Everything will be easier as soon as…” person. As you point out, it’s not as if everything if going to – poof! – magically become easier just because my kids are older. I know in my heart that these moments are precious and fleeting; I just need my heart to remind the rest of me to drink the good parts in while they’re still here.

      Life with kids isn’t easy, is it?

  4. I only have one child and I struggle like that :s It’s a hard balance this motherhood thing.

    • Hi Kimberly – Thanks so much for being here.

      And, for the record, I struggled when I had one. And then I struggled when I had two. And now I have three and I’m still struggling. 🙂 I guess I either need to get used to it or relish those moments when things feel more effortless.

  5. That’s the spirit!

  6. It’s hard to find purpose in everything I have to do, but it helps when I try, so I can remind myself when I get resentful (not that you sound resentful, you don’t.) We have only one kid, but Nora often turns to me in frustration and says, “You know what we need? A wife.”

    I like the meditation teachers (usually Buddhist) who say you need an hour of meditation a day, unless you don’t have time, in which case you need two hours.

  7. Kristen, you have your hands full right now, but things will get easier. Your post is honest and I am certain that many of your readers will identify with your feelings. My children are 25 and 10. I juggle home and business and sometimes it feels like there’s not much left of me to go around, so I can imagine how difficult it must be for you . Hang in there, and take a deep breath once in awhile . xo

  8. It IS hard. And overwhelming. I hope that you are able to steal away a few minutes every day to just be YOU. Not mom, wife, or the one who cleans and cooks and responds…. Just YOU.

  9. I love Tolkien and I appreciate that quote in so many ways. Some days I want to go see Cirdan and sail over the sea. but the time hasn’t quite come yet. At the moment I feel more like I am Gandalf fighting the Balrog in the Mines of Moriah- so much going on and it is all I can do to keep the fellowship moving in the right direction.

    • You know where I’d like to go for a holiday? Rivendell. I’d spend a lot of time resting and reading. And maybe I’d even work on my memoir, just like Bilbo did when he was there. 🙂

  10. I’m feeling scraped over too much bread myself. Enjoy these times as much as possible. I agree with Christine, only do what you must. The world won’t come to an end if you go to bed without putting the laundry away. Hang in there!

  11. Oh, my – does this resonate with me today! I was so fed up with my older child this weekend that I couldn’t wait to go to work this morning. I thought about you and two other good friends of mine who don’t have that escape option, and I wondered how in the world you maintain your sanity and good humor. I’m sorry that it’s been especially challenging of late for you, too, but it’s always a little comforting to know that I’m not alone. Maybe we should trade kids for a few days? Or maybe meet up to swap stories over wine next time we have a day like that?

  12. Sweetheart, you have a newborn. I told Heather of the EO this the other day and I’ll repeat it again–as weird as it sounds, get that morning shower. Seriously. I don’t know what it does, but it matters. I love you, kid.
    ~The WAY older lady

  13. we moms are THE ones at th moment 2 do everything at home with th kids.
    we have 2 learn 2 enjoy it because it’s very quick!!! it vanishes suddenly!!
    whenever I start going into despair i put those words in my mind and a beautiful smile!!

    • Hi Luisina – Thanks so much for your comment. Your advice reminds me of Gretchen Rubin’s in The Happiness Project: sing in the morning. Help usher in a better frame of mind by putting on a happy face. I know that studies show that smiling even when you’re down really does help. I’ll have to try to remember that when things are at their toughest.

  14. Yes, even the good days are hard. And they are hard, truly. Three under four? You have every right to be tired.

    And it does get easier. Really.

  15. Hi Kristen, I have a dear friend who has 3 kids and a FT salaried work. Though her husband is very hands on and they have a full time nanny, my friend always tells me that just keeping clean is a big challenge.
    “It’s your choice” — I think we’ve heard this too many times; as though we should simply grin and bear it and anything less is undignified. Not so. Keep wringing your laundry along with every ounce of joy out of the good and the not-so-good days.

    • Belinda, thank you so much for this: “‘It’s your choice’ — I think we’ve heard this too many times; as though we should simply grin and bear it and anything less is undignified. Not so.”

      I really do feel guilty complaining and I know how lucky I am to have the opportunity to be able to be home with my kids. But pretending that it’s all cuddles and coos doesn’t make me feel any better, but sometimes just getting it off my chest and moving on does.

      So thanks for listening and for not thinking me undignified. 🙂

  16. Wow this was almost uncanny…I was musing over the same things this morning and then there was your post! I struggle between trying to “think myself happy” and just giving in and taking what joy may came. I only have one toddler (and another on the way soon) AND I get to go to work [as hard as it is, its more manageable as I have just the ONE role there vs. the 8 million at home, plus I get to SIT most of the time which is heaven right now!!] I don’t know how you do it!
    Like Belinda said, I kinda hate the “its your choice” argument. Why yes, I did chose my career and I chose to have children but that doesn’t take away my right to find it difficult.

    • Congratulations of your pregnancy! I know from experience how hard it is to take care of a toddler while pregnant; some days I had so little energy that I wanted to take to my bed (not really an option, obviously). I hope you find many easy, joyful days ahead – and, selfishly, I hope I do too! 🙂

  17. Kristen, I only have two and I’m already feeling this way; I can’t imagine having three under four. I admire your resolve and also your candor. Sometimes we do what we can to make it to the end of the day and hope that the next day will be better. And that guilt – shouldn’t have yelled, should’ve done the dishes, shoulda would coulda – just seems to lurk in every corner, waiting to pounce at us but we have to remind each other to be gentle with ourselves. We matter too. Easier said than done, I know.

    Btw, I LOVE that you used a quote from Tolkien. It’s such a shame that we don’t live closer. We’d work on our post-baby weight and be in a book club together. How awesome would that be?

    • I love being reminded of all the ways we are similarly nerdy. 🙂 (And you know I’m relying on you to be my chaperone through Google Plus.)

      The word that stood out to me from your comment was “gentle.” I think about the moms that I really admire and they all seem to have a gentle attitude that gets them through their days: gentle to their kids, gentle on themselves, gentle on their partners and friends. A stance worth cultivating, I think.

  18. Being the grownup SUCKS! It sounds like you’re in need of a little break, I hope you can get some you time soon.

  19. Oh sweetie, let’s go have a glass of wine!

  20. I was feeling this today too. Once I finally got us out the door and to the library the bickering and complaining was enough to make me wonder “why bother?” Often I feel as if whatever I’m doing is not enough but I don’t honestly know how I could do more. I worry that my oldest is feeling neglected, that my middle one is so used to her brother being mean to her she doesn’t know how to treat people and that the baby needs to be held more. The baby has a huge bald spot on the back of her head from rubbing on her bouncy chair, swing and all the “back to sleep” stuff. I feel like that bald spot is broadcasting to everyone that she isn’t being held enough. I keep trying to make this summer fun and educational and memorable but the amount of complaining and bickering that leaving the house entails is frustrating. I feel like my whole motto this summer has been “Hurry up and have fun!!!” with very little fun happening. Ugh.

    • Oh, wow, Shannon. It sounds like you and I are in the same place right now. I think I said these exact words to my husband last night: “Often I feel as if whatever I’m doing is not enough but I don’t honestly know how I could do more.”

      As I rushed us from swimming lessons to tumbling class this morning, I wondered if I’m trying too hard. What if I planned nothing and we just hung out at home all day? Would that be so bad? I wonder if you ever feel that way – as if all of the effort on our part isn’t really worth it?

  21. Wring! Wring! With teeth gritted, I will wring out every last ounce of joy I can. A humorless job, but somebody has to do it.

    I am feeling this so much this year. Am I just getting old(er)? Is it the fact of having a baby in the house? Or am I pushing up against (possibly temporary) limits? Who knows. But I do think things will get easier one day…

  22. Oh, this is exactly how I feel some days. Reaching for the joy and watching it dodge my grasp. Then I remind myself these were my choices, made thoughtfully and willfully. The best days are still physically – and often emotionally – tough. The hardest days? I don’t need to tell you.

    My goal is to be here. To be present. I fail sometimes, but when I can keep my focus on this day – or this minute – I’m a better everything – wife, mother, friend, writer… Whatever it is I am attempting to be at that moment.

    • One mantra I really liked in Meagan Francis’s book The Happiest Mom was “Aim low and go slow.” I think I too often set expectations too high for myself, my kids, and our days. And then when one thing goes wrong, I lack the resilience to brush it off and rebound. Trying to do less and to just let myself enjoy whatever it is I’m doing at the moment would be so helpful to my overall happiness, I think.

      Thanks, Missy.

  23. Like the KitchenWitch, I’m another of the WAY older ladies. But I still loved this post, and remember so well those days that all feel like a kind of deja vu. The great thing is, they are also chances to start over again, every single one of them. Once I realized that, I began to welcome the repetition; I could do it all again the next day, and perhaps be a little more skillful at motherhood than I’d been the day before. Now the kids are grown, and I’d say this: Even the hard days are good.

    • Katrina, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve reread this comment since you posted it last week. These words especially have become a mantra for me: “Even the hard days are good.” You’re right, of course; they are.

      Thank you, as always, for sharing your wisdom and good wishes. xo

  24. Oh Kristen, 3 under 4 sounds really hard.
    It really does get better. Everyone gets more verbal, more ambulatory, more logical, more potty trained.
    And even then, it can be hard in other, new ways.

    I like what Katrina has to say, “even the hard days are good.”
    Wishing for you some breathing space,
    Rachel

  25. I sometimes feel surprised that I’m the grown-up, too, and I get to make the rules. And then I get a wave of relief. There is no one to tell me what to do. I can make all the rules.

    But that doesn’t mean I don’t get tired. Since I hold you up on a pedestal (I don’t know why, because you were my first blog-love?), I’m glad to know that you do, too.

    And your kids eat bread with butter? Mind have boycotted bread. mostly.

    • I’m so flattered, but am totally undeserving of a pedestal. My parenting lately has been suspect at best, as has my attitude. (An attitude adjustment, perhaps?)

      Do you ever feel like you’re doing lots of different things and none of them well? Let’s just say that pretty much defines me these past few weeks.

  26. I think the waxing moon’s been dripping melancholy these last few days… more like too much butter we’re not supposed to eat anyway and bread tinged with echoes of Les Miz… yes it gets easier, but then it gets difficult again and again… it’s the connecting in all ways we can authentically manage, even within ourselves that allows pain and melancholy to be a steadfast teacher. Sending all good wishes in the time of summer fruit that will be a jammy echo come winter.

  27. I so envy parents who have grandparents around to help them around. That’s how things used to work until this past century, when people started to moved hundreds, even thousands miles away from their families. I see other parents who have a great support system with their own parents helping out, and they never complain that having kids is hard. No wonder.

    • Among my local friends, almost no one has their extended families nearby. We all try to help each other out, but I don’t think it’s the same as it was when the expression “It takes a village” was more people’s reality rather than wish.

  28. It’s exhausting and you have a right to say it, Kristen. We all have a right to say it. We don’t have to justify it, we don’t have to add caveats, or gratitude lists that are always there unspoken anyway. It’s just a lot. Someone wants a piece of you and he or she is very insistent. And then, at some point in the day, you’re supposed to remember that you’re a woman and married.

    Here’s what I have to say as the mother of kids at the other end of the age spectrum (not quite out of the house yet, but still 15 and 11): remember the marriage. And I don’t say this because we’ve done it so perfectly; I say it because we haven’t.

    • My husband and I have just reinstated a weekly date night for this very reason. I know that I, for one, am a better parent when I’ve taken time (away from the kids!) to remember that I’m also a woman and a wife.

  29. It’s hard. It makes you cry. It makes your boobs and belly sag and your brain soft. It makes you want to run screaming, and laugh at the antics. But even in that spectrum of emotions, there is nothing that I wouldn’t do to make it work. There are still times when I wonder how I became the grownup in charge of so much and of so many. Hang in there, Kristen. You are not alone…

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