I’ve had those days where everything goes wrong. You know, the days where you drop the entire dozen eggs on the floor. And then the 2 year old colors all over the kitchen walls with a blue crayon, and the baby is cutting teeth and wants to be held constantly. You are down to your last pair of clean underwear and have cereal for dinner because you forgot to plug in the crock-pot. And then during bath-time your “potty trained” 3 year old poops in the tub and after you drain, clean and re-fill the tub, she poops again in the new bath water!
Yes. I’ve had days like that. But at least after a terrible day, you can go to bed, get up the next day and start over again. That is not the case when you are on vacation. You don’t have your own bed, you have to sleep on the pull out couch, or the old lumpy mattress that’s been banished to the guest room. You can’t even have some comfort food and watch your favorite movie as a pick-me-up before bed, because one of your dear relatives is watching something strange on their TV, and the only food you can find in the pantry is uncooked noodles and dry granola bars.
Vacation is exhausting.
My sister’s wedding a few weeks ago marks the first time we’ve ever attempted an all day public activity with all 3 babies. My hubby was officiating the wedding, and anyone who could have babysat was attending, so I was trying to wrangle all 3 of my kids alone. Let me tell you, attending a wedding alone with 3 kids under the age of 4 is no picnic.
For starters, I had the period from hell. Seriously, I don’t think I’ve bled and cramped that much since my after-birth pains. Thank God for Ibuprofen (and for random people at weddings who actually remember to carry Ibuprofen in their purse and are willing to share it with desperate people like me).
We made it about 2 minutes into the ceremony before people started turning in their seats to look at us. I gave up and lugged all of my exhausted, mommy-time-deprived, missed-their-nap children into the cry room. Between the 3 of them, they had polished off the last of the snacks I had brought along for the trip (including an entire jar of strawberry Gerber puffs that were supposed to be for the baby) so they were hungry too. I realize now that I could have planned the whole thing better, but like I said, I had never tried to do an all day activity, away from home turf, by myself, with all 3 kids in tow, and it had been a long week.
I pushed Ms Drama in the stroller around and around the cry room, Baby girl hung onto my legs and cried because she wanted to nap. Ms. Action pressed her nose against the window and pointed at the bride shouting “Omygosh! Look mom! A princess!” I hoped that the room really was sound proof. And when I opened up my wedding program and realized that the entire center of it had been eaten by my youngest, I wondered for the first time (honestly) why the heck we had ever had children.
After the ceremony, Hubby and I beat a hasty retreat. Hoping that maybe the kids would sleep in the car and we would come out at the reception a whole new family. We stopped to get frappacinos, and things were looking a little bit better. 2 out of the 3 kids napped. I could have used a nap myself, but I was stuck trying to entertain the wired Ms. Drama to keep her from being loud and waking up her sisters.
When we arrived at the reception, starving, hot, and crabby, it felt like we were back to square one. The baby was happy again, but 45 minutes of sleep was not enough for Ms Action, who insisted on being carried, and when Ms Drama saw her sister being carried, she wanted to be carried too. When you see a tired mom sweating through her layered-linen skirt in the 95 degree heat lugging a heavy toddler around on either hip, don’t ask why the kids are crabby.
The reception was lovely after we sprayed ourselves and our kids with bug spray and rolled up the tent wall to get a breeze at our table. I watched the kids while hubby went up to get a big plate of food to share, and then later I went up while he watched the kids. The kids ate some cheese, and spilled their juice on their dresses, but after I changed them into the extra outfits I’d brought things were looking up. I managed to eat, while the girls danced fairly quietly on the corner of the dance floor.
But just when I was getting emotional, watching my sister dance the father-daughter dance that I had never had because of the religious excess in my family at the time, someone gave my kids bubbles. And I’m not talking about the tiny little bottles they give out at weddings, I mean full-size bottles of bubbles. One minute I was wiping away tears watching the speeches and dancing, and then next minute Ms Action was stripping off her soaking wet clothes. I managed to get to her before she went commando, but you get the picture. Both toddlers were stickily covered in bubbles, completely soaking the only extra outfits I had brought along in my overstuffed diaper bag.
Hubby asked me what I wanted to do, and as I stood there sweating, holding Baby girl who was attempting to nurse through my shirt, watching Ms Drama happily pour another bottle of bubbles over her head, trying to think of a coherent explanation to convince Ms Action to leave her wet clothes on, I realized that I had not had a chance to go to the bathroom in over 7 hours.
So when my hubby realized that I was far beyond the point where anything I said was going to make sense, he suggested we leave, and I practically cried from relief. All I wanted was to pee, take a shower and change out of my sweat soaked clothes.
Yes, I felt guilty for leaving early, especially when my Mom was upset that we were packing up. But it was time for us to go. On the drive back to where we would sleep for the night, all I could think about was how I had let everyone down.
It is easy to feel overwhelmed when you have small children. But many times I add my own pressure by worrying what everyone else will think. This is the hardest for me when we visit family.
This trip in particular made me realize just how much my perspective on life has changed since we moved away from home 18 months ago. I am no longer a Protestant at heart, I think of my children as fellow humans and I’ve changed the way I discipline. My old understanding of gender roles and stereotypes has been thrown out the window. But no matter how confident I think I am, no matter how sure I am of my perspectives, it all crumbles when I go back home again.
When Ms Action and the child of a family member get into trouble together and the other child gets spanked, why do I feel ashamed of my parenting? When an overtired Ms Drama throws a fit, why do I feel as though everyone is looking on thinking that if I only spanked my kids they would be better behaved. Sometimes I wish I had never told them that I no longer spank. My kids aren’t any worse behaved then they ever were, but my relatives act as though they are. Why do I want their approval so badly?
We attend Mass with my bereaved Catholic Grandma on Sunday and then have to hear everyone’s concern about our faith walk. We cannot talk about leaving ministry without major spiritual manipulation from his family. My husband finally got up enough courage to share some of his ideas for a career after ministry and the response was disappointment that his ideas have nothing to do with his degree, and long discussions laden with “concern” about our spiritual life and guilt trips that he won’t be able to make enough money to “support” us.
I dream of living near my family again someday, it’s like this grand ideal in my head. I want my children to know their grandparents, I want to be able to be a part of my younger siblings lives. I want to be together for the holidays and birthday parties, I miss the free babysitting, and I want to live close enough that we can go back to our own home at the end of the day, instead of having to stay over night. But after vacation, I always have mixed feelings. I want so badly, to be confident.
Would it be worth it to live with all that negativity and pressure? Would I be able to be my own person if I lived nearby? Would I learn how to keep my confidence in my religious and parenting decisions, even when family will not agree with them? Why do I doubt myself so much? Why do their words and disapproval have so much power over me?
Bigger Picture Moments is a place where we step back and take in life. This week it’s being hosted by Madeline Bea. Hop over to her blog to read more about the Bigger Picture, and maybe share your own moment.