While I sit here and write, I’m surrounded by toys. Half-folded laundry is scattered on my dining room table and my sink is full of dishes. None of these things are really that big of deal, but to me, they speak to what is going on underneath: I’m a new mom of three and I’m struggling. I’m struggling with the small tasks that find their way onto my to-do list each day. Things that should be so simple, like getting everyone’s teeth brushed, making dinner each night, and making sure my kids have baths more than once a week, are enough to reduce me to tears. It is exhausting knowing that, even if I managed to check each to-do off my list, it will be full once again long before I wake in the morning the next day. Add to that the fact that I am trying my best to work nearly full-time from home with limited childcare, and each day begins to feel more like an battle I can't win long before my children even wake. It’s exhausting and defeating. Honestly, this first month of parenting three children has been much more difficult than I expected.
Here’s the thing: I completely expected to struggle. I remember what it was like to add my first and then a second child to our family. I remember wondering when I would shower again or if we would eat anything but frozen meals during their first year of life. I remember crying over how hard it was to breastfeed and feeling completely defeated by postpartum depression.
I have loved my children, fed my children, and talked to my children all day, and I have nothing left to give him or anyone one else in my life.
This time, however, something is different. My struggle reaches beyond managing my day-to-day. For the first time since becoming a mom, I'm struggling to understand how the future of my identity as a woman is changing with the addition of a third child.
Every time I send off one more apologetic email to an editor over a missed deadline or submit an essay I am less than proud of, I find myself wondering how or even if this is going to work. Can I keep being the woman who loves to write, who loves to work, and be the mom who loves to care for my children, to take them to the park, and read them stacks of books in the middle of the day?
When my first two children arrived, I learned the hard way that I had to hold on to some fraction of myself that existed apart from being a mom. I learned to prioritize my needs and keep doing the things essential to maintain a secure idea of who I was and who I was becoming. But lately, I feel as if I've completely lost track of who I am.
I'm struggling to envision my future as a mom who is also a professional. For the life of me, I can’t figure out how my career can grow, or even survive, the changes to our family dynamic. Every time I send off one more apologetic email to an editor over a missed deadline or submit an essay I am less than proud of, I find myself wondering how or even if this is going to work. Can I keep being the woman who loves to write, who loves to work, and be the mom who loves to care for my children, to take them to the park, and read them stacks of books in the middle of the day?
When my husband comes home at night, I know he can see the blank look on my face. I have loved my children, fed my children, and talked to my children all day, and I have nothing left to give him or anyone one else in my life. I sit quietly through conversations, expending all of my energy just trying to follow what he's saying while my brain runs through checklists and wonders when I have to feed the baby again or if I have time to shower. Outside of my relationships, my work, and my children, there are countless other little pieces of me I'm watching fracture and drift out my reach. Evidence of this can be seen in the stacks of unread books, the hiking shoes whose laces haven’t been tied for months, the search history of my computer that shows flights left unbooked. I am struggling to keep up, to keep going, to move forward.
And I often wonder, at the end of the day, what to tell this part of myself. How do I comfort that woman inside of me whose interests go neglected, forgotten, unfinished? Is it enough to repeat the same words I've shared with countless new moms, assuring them it gets better, that you find yourself again? How often do I need to tell myself this until it resonates? Until I believe it, too?
Honestly, as a new mom of three I’m struggling to believe my own words, I’m struggling to believe I'll find myself again when the haze of round-the-clock feedings and diaper changes lifts. I'm struggling to direct myself forwards, to the next day, the next need, the next step. Sometimes it's just a miracle I have the strength to float along.