A few mom friends and I took our kids to the pool yesterday, and while the kids alternately whined, begged for sodas, and occasionally got into the pool (mind you, these are all school-aged kids, grades 1 & up, not toddlers who you might be able to argue are entitled to a little whining around naptime) we moms got talking.
Mostly we whined, too. Was it our naptime? I think so.
But the consensus, the thesis of our whining was the same, even though we each had different complaints, different issues.
We're feeling depleted.
While musing over this as a blog topic, I came across this great post by WritRams about how elusive relaxation is.
You see, for the non-Stay at Home Parent, summer sounds like such fun. Trips to the pool, a relaxed schedule, playdates, parks, summer camp.
It does, doesn't it? Why then at the end of the summer do we feel more exhausted than ever? I think WritRams said it best with this:
When you give birth to a child, there’s some physiological change that takes place and puts every single nerve ending in your body at attention…forever.
FOREVER. I've tried to explain this constant buzz of my attention to my husband at times. How being with the kids, even now that they are older (6.5 and almost 9) and very capable and very nice people...it's a drain on my mental resources. A constant little bit of me paying attention - even when asleep! When they're in the swimming pool it's like 95% of my brain processing power is focused on where they both are (at all times,) leaving me 5% for speech and autonomic functions like breathing and regulating heartbeat.
During the school year, I can at least let my guard down during the school day. Though, of course, not completely down. I have to keep an ear tuned for the phone (you know, like when the school secretary calls to tell you your child fell down on the playground and hurt his elbow but he seems just fine. Which actually happened. And the cast went from wrist to armpit. Four days before the start of summer. Not this summer, though, thankfully. And really he's completely fine. I didn't have a panic attack then, but I am damn sure to answer the phone whenever the school calls...)
But in the summer that buzz of attention is constant, and, as it turns out, exhausting!
The thing I feel most frustrated by right now, and this was echoed in my friends' reflections, is that I feel so depleted that the things that I can usually do to handle the everyday stuff that is part of being a mom are harder to do. It takes an enormous amount of creativity to parent, in my opinion, and creativity is almost impossible when feeling this way.
My friends feel like they are failing their kids. We moms never pass up an opportunity to apply guilt to ourselves.
So when I say that I'm ready for school to start next week, it's not because I'm tired of being with my kids (I'm not) or that I want the school to deal with their problems (there aren't any problems other than very normal sibling stuff) or that I just can't handle it (puh-lease.) It's because I want to get some of my focus and energy back, have a break from the constant monitoring I do so that I can let my mind relax even just a little bit, because in that relaxation is the creativity I need to effectively parent.