Running the Daily Marathon

Before I begin, I wanted to thank all the women who commented on my post yesterday, especially the SAHMs. I was so impressed by how thoughtfully you made the transition to being a SAHM (not that I assumed anyone made the choice thoughtlessly, I guess it was just interesting to read how each of you came to that decision) and how much carefully consideration has gone into your financial planning. It was really informative for me, and I very much appreciated all the responses.

Now, onto today’s thoughts.

I’m three days into my first week back at work. Things continue to go well… enough. I know I’ve just started and that things will get better, but man, right now it feels like every day I’m running a marathon. It’s absolutely exhausting and I’m not sure I have the stamina to keep it up.

Now I’ve trained for, and completed, a marathon, so I don’t use this comparison lightly. Or better said, this is not hyperbole I’m employing. Running 26.2 miles was one of the hardest accomplishments–both physically and mentally–that I’ve ever accomplished. It pushed me to my breaking point, many, many times. I trained long and hard for that run but it still almost destroyed me. It was a truly challenging feat.

These days, making it through each and every day feels like a gargantuan accomplishment.

Every day, it feels like I’m running a marathon. Each morning I wake up and contemplate the day before me. There is so much to do and so few opportunities to slow down; I have to psych myself up every morning or I start to panic that I’m not going to make it through.

The mornings are like the initial miles of the race. Your muscles aren’t warmed up, so you start out slow. You’re not quite sure yet how you feel, if it’s going to be an “on” day, where your basic ability to run feels pretty effortless and the miles fly by, or an “off” day, where each mile drags by at a snail’s pace. Some mornings things go pretty well and my attitude is mostly positive, or at least neutral. Other mornings I’m stifling heated, “fuck my life”s and shaking my head in frustration (I’m really trying not to say that these days, as I feel it belittles how wonderful my life really is. Instead I’m trying to say something more specific like, “WHY is the fucking shower drain is clogged AGAIN?!”).

Teaching my four classes are like the first half of the marathon. 13 miles is a long way to run, especially when you know you have another 13 miles to go after the first are finished. If I’m having an “on” day the periods can fly by. If I’m not, they drag on endlessly. Either way, by the time I’m rushing to my car to pump and drive, I’m already exhausted.

Picking up Monito is like a quick break to pee and drink. It’s a nice respite but knowing how many more miles are left in the day makes it hard to enjoy it.

The final three hours before my kids go to bed are those last 8 miles. By then my feet are dragging and I’m barely able to keep my eyes open. I regularly fall asleep mid-sentence when I’m reading to Osita. It’s all I can do, most nights, not to just turn on the TV (we try to limit the TV to only one night a week). The first hour and half at home with the kids, we’re mostly in survival mode. I’m trying to get Monito a bottle, switch out the laundry, make Osita dinner and clean up the kitchen a bit, coax Osita into eating said dinner, keep Monito happy despite the fact that he’s approaching bed–and meltdown–time. Then I need to get Osita occupied with something while I bathe Monito, dress him, slather his poor face with cream, feed him and put him to bed. I walk right out of his room and into Osita’s, where I coax her into her clothes for the next day (we’re having her sleep in her school clothes because getting dressed was such a huge obstacle every morning), brush her teeth, read stories and have cuddle time.

By the time I’ve walked out of Osita’s room (for the second time–she ALWAYS has to get up and go to the bathroom about 10 minutes after being put to bed) I’ve crossed the finish line. At this point I’m so exhausted I can barely see straight, but I have to keep moving or I will collapse into a heap. The final hours of my day are spent doing what is necessary to repair any damage incurred throughout the day so that tomorrow, I’ll be in the best shape I can be to do it all again.

In the end, it’s first and foremost a mind game. Just like with any arduous physical feat (I’ve also completed several 100 mile back rides), your self-talk and attitude can make or break your ability to finish. If I start getting into a negative head space about my day, things will derail quickly. Last night Monito woke up at 3am and I never really got back to sleep. When my alarms went off at 5:45 I was fighting back panic–terrified that I’d never make it through the day when I already felt so incredibly tired. I spent the entire ride to work talking myself down off the ledge and then building myself up to run another marathon.

And I did it. I crossed the finish line. I certainly didn’t achieve a personal best, but I made it to the end. And I guess these days, that’s something to be proud of.

8 responses

  1. I think this is a great comparison. I certainly felt like I was in survival mode after going back to work with one child at home. It’s got to be even more survivalist with 2.

  2. Weekends should be better right? Just think about the light at the end of the tunnel (aka the weekend). Also, where is MV in that whole nightly routine? I didn’t see a mention of him helping. I know that you are trying to make sure that he can fill up his cup, but not helping with the kids at all at night is crazy!

  3. I think you are doing amazing, I’m cheering you on. I have one teeny tiny piece of assvice—if the TV will help, temporarily, with the crazy evenings (it sounds like MiVida is not around for dinner/bedtime routine with you? Oh my, that is HARD)…then could you just use it? I know how you feel, I’d be the same way, but sometimes I wonder if I’m making it harder on myself by refusing to use the shortcuts that LOTS of mothers I greatly respect and admire admit to using (TV, tablets, treats). There was a terrible phase where B had tantrums when it was time to “sit on the toilet” and I resorted to letting him watch videos on my phone for a few weeks until that phase passed. Then I instituted a “no phone in the bathroom” rule and after a day of whining he has OK. Could you use the TV for Osita on days you are alone and need her to be occupied and when/if it becomes unnecessary, replace it with another activity? (like when Monito is more mobile, they can do something together) When I had to put both boys to put to bed alone and L was littler, I let B watch videos on my iphone while I get L bathed and to bed. Its the ONLY thing that will keep him from barging in right when L was about to fall asleep.

  4. I remember going back to work (both of us) with Baby X and I swear it took almost 6months to get in the groove. Sounds like you’re on your way already! It can only get easier, right?

  5. To those who were wondering where Mi.Vida is during all this: Monday and Tuesday nights he doesn’t come home until after the kids are asleep, so I have to do everything those nights. And last night he was sick so he wasn’t much help. So that is why it seemed absent from my description. Wednesday-Friday he comes home right when I start getting Monito ready for bed, so he hangs out with Osita for that hour and then I take over and put Osita to bed while he cleans up the kitchen. We usually ask Osita who she wants to put her to bed and she almost always picks me. I think it’s important for me to do that with her because Mi.Vida gets her ready for school and I don’t even see her in the morning, so I want to spend that time with her one on one. I also want to put Monito to bed, because I don’t feel I get to have much time with him either. I want to be with my kids in the evening–I miss them when I’m away all day!

  6. I will echo that it might be worth trying the TV if you need it, or coloring. We set the kid up after we get home with paper and crayons/markers and she just chills making drawings while we cook and do baby care and stuff. When she was smaller, TV worked and she watched a half hour show to unwind while we cooked. Now at almost 6 (too old! too soon!) TV is a recipe for weeknight disaster so no TV. I feel like after 6 weeks we got into a groove more or less but it has stayed exhausting at week 13 (daycare time not contiguous for us).

  7. I feel the same. I was so stressed when I first went back to work, I was sneaking cigarettes every time my husband hopped in the shower. It’s gotten better though- give it time. It’s still hard, but I don’t feel like I’m going to lose it 😉

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