Dear Everyone I Know,
I’m sorry I couldn’t make your bridal shower. I’m sorry I missed that meeting (and the one before that, too). I’m sorry that I forgot to mail your birthday card for the last two years.
I’m sorry I didn’t respond to your email sooner. Or your text. Or your message in Facebook. Or your Instagram comment. Or your tweet. Or picked up the phone and listened to my 17 messages. Or returned any of those calls.
I’m sorry I spend most of my time feeding, bathing, dressing, undressing, moisturizing, soothing, entertaining and cooking for someone other than myself.
I’m sorry my days are a blur of diapers and baby food and laundry and Swiffering and walking dogs and feeding chickens and washing dishes. Somehow, I’ve managed to fit in important things, like writing stories for my job, interviewing sources, meeting with coworkers, paying bills, applying for preschools (yes, already) and visiting doctors. I’m lucky if I have time to take a shower or brush my teeth, much less meet friends for drinks after work or go to yoga class. (I don’t even know where that mat is anymore.)
And I should apologize to my son, too, who’s had to tag along with me on assignments — to farms, to media previews at restaurants, to meetings, to the office, twice to a bar. Poor kid. At least he can’t say his first year of life wasn’t interesting.
Yes, I knew life would change once I got pregnant. But, I’ll be honest, I didn’t realize just how much it would. I thought I could balance it all. Work, friends, family, dogs, volunteering, surfing, reading a book every now and again. I had done it before. What would be so hard about adding one more (little) thing to my schedule?
I found an old daily planner — remember those? — from just a few years ago. On one particular weekend in August, I went to work, had a doctor’s appointment, got my legs waxed, met a friend for lunch, played tennis, surfed three times, hiked with the dogs, met another friend for lunch, went to dinner in Waikīkī, stayed over at a hotel with girlfriends, brunched the following morning and went to dinner at my parents’ house. All in a 36-hour period.
Want to know what my schedule is like now? Except for the part where I jump in the shower, down a can of Diet Coke (sometimes warm) and get as much work done as I can, the rest of my day revolves around the baby. The only breaks I have are when he’s playing happily by himself (which can last 30 minutes, if I’m lucky) and napping (which can range from half an hour to two hours). And, during those breaks, I’m either working or cooking dinner or making baby food or washing clothes or folding clothes or vacuuming or cleaning toilets or disinfecting everything or scrolling through Instagram or looking for my iPhone.
I’m not complaining. Not at all. This life, albeit not the one I had imagined, is pretty awesome. Unpredictable, frustratingly challenging, outrageously fun. I never knew I could carry a carseat (occupied by a large child), a diaper bag, a fold-up beach tent, a bag of towels, sunscreen and a Hydroflask up and down 22 steps. Right there, I should get an award.
But, I’ll admit, I’m not myself anymore. I can’t seem to return phone calls or respond to emails promptly. I’m too lazy to check Facebook, so I rarely read messages. I keep meaning to send cards or pass on recipes. I can’t meet friends for dinner — or even breakfast, for that matter. I can’t do epic hikes (at least not with the baby) or commit to anything — because I just never know. I don’t know if I can make it to weekly taiko classes or train regularly for the marathon. I don’t know if I can find childcare to attend that luncheon or restaurant opening or baby lūʻau.
I was commiserating with a friend of mine, a mother of a toddler and an infant who still works full time — who I don’t see very often despite living less than a mile away. But we text, often at strange times, when we’re in the midst of something exceedingly mundane, like pumping breastmilk or staring blankly at the ceiling in sheer exhaustion. “That’s the mom life,” she wrote. “Always feeling guilty no matter how much you give … I have no friends anymore.”
I laughed at that last part.
I feel like an awful friend, a worse employee, a terrible sister, daughter, wife, cousin, neighbor, coworker. I can’t seem to be there for everyone like I used to. I never usually forgot birthdays, I always planned extravagant anniversaries and parties, I loved buying gifts and writing letters. Now, I order takeout, send gifts through Amazon and text instead of call. I decline invitations and back out of any responsibility I know I can’t see through. Sometimes I hate the person I’ve become.
How do moms do it? How do they whip up Pinterest-worthy meals — from scratch! — while raising an infant, whom they’re still breastfeeding, work demanding jobs and still find time to flat-iron their hair before leaving the house?
I’m hoping all the perfect mothers I see on Instagram who seem to have it all together really don’t. Otherwise, I’m going to delete my account and start reading the newspaper again.
But it was the last part of my friend’s text that stuck with me: “But that’s OK,” she wrote. “My family is the priority now.”
That’s what makes this whole thing feel so foreign to me. Before marrying my husband and having this child, I didn’t have this kind of family. My “family” then really just consisted of friends, dogs and neighbors. Now I have this other, new family — one with a husband and child — and I’ve had to re-prioritize. So, while at one point in my life, my family looked very different, I treated them the same way I do this little new one. It’s just this family — namely, the small human — is very demanding and needy.
So I’m sorry for everything I’ve done, not done, won’t do, and probably will never do in the future. But right now, I’ve got something I need to take good care of. Hope you understand.
Sincerely and with gratitude,
A Very Overwhelmed Mom