the wonder of opening up

Me and one of my sick, sweet babies. Still smiling!

The other day, I wrote a really honest post about the exhausting hardness that is being a parent to two small children and trying to do just about anything else. I was feeling incompetent at life, and because I’m a writer, because literally that is who I am, because even the code of my DNA probably spells words, the way I worked out those feelings was to write them. And cry.

And then something amazing happened: that post got (as of this writing) 21 amazing comments. And on Facebook, where I also shared it, I got 12 other amazing comments, plus a couple of supportive private messages. And the support continued on Twitter. And this morning, a lovely friend took the time to send me an email that warmed my heart and brought tears to my eyes. While one commenter called me a downer, every single other woman who commented did two things: they affirmed that my feelings were normal and OK, and they assured me, things do get better. Time passes. Nothing stays the same. It was an amazing experience of the best of the internet and its power to bring us together and let us know we are not alone. I am beyond grateful. Today, even though I’m home, still in my pjs at 3 pm with two sick babies who have croup and are just beyond pitiful, my heart is lighter. And I feel strong and confident.

Buoyed by this love and more than a little indignant at the downer comment, I posted this on Facebook:

And while I’m actually kind of proud of that line and think it really says it all, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about what it means to be a woman, a mother, and a writer, and what it means to put my heart out into the world through my words, and I’ve found (shock me shock me) that I still have some more to say.

Despite a comment that would minimize and silence my giving voice to my experiences with the more painful side of motherhood, I will not be minimized and silenced. Tellingly, that comment, the only one that wasn’t encouraging in some way, came from a man. I’m taking a course on women writers this term, and over and over in the works I’ve studied, women writers depict women writers with men in their lives who don’t understand why they can’t just be content, grateful even, with their lives as wives and mothers. Why they feel a yearning for more, why they simply must write. Any woman who, like me, attempts to express anything but sweetness and light concerning motherhood feels the need to qualify it with caveats about how much they really do love their children, husbands, and homes, for fear of being criticized by a society that constantly tells us to be grateful and enjoy every moment.

All that does is leave you feeling guilty when you inevitably fail to live up to that standard.

Based on the love that was poured out to me when I poured out my heart, I have to say: it is worth that risk. Because when you pour out your heart, you invite others to do the same, and they will, and you will feel less alone. The great Flannery O’Connor wrote in one of her letters: “In the face of anyone’s experience, someone like myself who has had almost no experience, must be humble.” We don’t get to tell other people how to understand, frame, or feel about their experience. But we can let them know that they’re not alone in having it.

I’m so thankful to all the folks who let me know that I’m not alone this week or in this life. You have been a model for how I hope to respond the next time the shoe is on the other foot and someone opens themselves up.

incompetence

“Mine are three. It doesn’t get any better.”

That’s what she said to me as I wheeled my two baby girls into daycare this morning. “I’m sure they keep you busy. Mine are three. It doesn’t get any better.”

Well, I guess there’s no “It gets better” project for twin moms.

Which sucks, because for the last few days I just feel like life is hard. I feel incompetent. Like, not only can’t I do it all, but I can’t even do the little bit that I want to do. The little bit that I thought was achievable.

All I want to be when I grow up is an English professor. I’m beginning to think it will never happen. I’m beginning to think I won’t even get my freakin’ masters, let alone a PhD, because it’s all I can do to take two classes per term and stay on top of my coursework. A full load for most people is three courses, but two seriously puts me at my limit. And don’t even get me started on studying for my comps exam, which I’m supposed to be doing somehow on top of and outside of my course work. I truly cannot find the time. Not that I know where the time goes, except that there is always someone to be held or fed or changed, forever and ever, amen. Sometimes I manage to make dinner, or do a little laundry, but please don’t look at the tumbleweeds of dog hair on my floors or my dirty toilets and sinks. We’re just getting by here. Every night that we put two babies to bed feels like a victory.

And yet a few of my profs found out I hadn’t signed up to take the comps this term, and they told me I should take it, so I decided to give it a try, despite the whole not studying thing. And then I had a disaster morning and a baby peed on me, and a car seat came unbuckled in my moving car, and earlier daycare drop off was a nightmare, and I was ten minutes late for the first day of the test, and the door was barred to me, and there were many many public tears. And then someone fought for me, and I got to take it after all, and I’m still pretty sure I failed. And I still rallied for Day 2, the essay portion, and I think I did ok on 2 essays, but I needed to write 3, and I just didn’t have an answer for any of my other options, so I came home, and went to bed. I am not used to feeling this incompetent

I can try again in the spring, and I will make a study schedule and try again in the spring, but I just feel so defeated. I feel like it is such a battle to just make time for my academic pursuits, and I know that it’s not going to get any better, and then I wonder about all of it, and what I’m doing with myself. And we have to maybe move again at the end of this year, and I have to maybe start a new life in a new place all over again, and make a life for two small people, and it’s just exhausting.

I feel like a broken record lately, “But I have two babies.” Two babies. So small. I underestimated them. Perhaps I overestimated myself. It’s just so very hard sometimes, and I can’t even really explain the hardness, except to say that it is. And right now it feels a little too much for me. Two classes I can do very well on top of two babies, but graduating might just prove to be too much.

So there’s that.

I was afraid to even write this because I know my family reads this now, and I know they will freak out and also give me a bunch of platitudes about how I can do it. But I just need to feel my feelings, right now, and this is what I’ve got.