Anxiety & Depression & Kids Are Exhausting

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Act I, Scene I: 
Our kitchen. Backpacks, papers, folders, and lunch boxes are everywhere. We’ve been home from school for approximately 26 minutes.

“Mommy, I’m done, can you please sign my homework?” Abby asks. “I wanna play outside.”

“Yeah, just a sec, I’m helping Izzy.” Before I can even look she’s out the door and I refuse to chase her. On the flip side, Izzy’s ADD meds don’t seem to be working. She can’t stay in her chair. She’s standing next to it drumming her pencil, humming under her breath, and alternately shoveling bites of pumpkin bread into her mouth, stringing crumbs all over her papers, the table, and the floor. I grit my teeth, take a deep breath again, and plead, “Focus, Izzy, focus. Sit in your seat.”

I sound like a broken record. I say this twenty-two times every afternoon. At least.
I’m so tired. And I really have to pee.

Piper starts whining “eeeeeeeeessse,” and points to a box on the counter. I know what she wants — Goldfish — and I know I should give her something healthier. But she’s hungry and I can’t deal with both her and Izzy at once. Piper’s speech delays make everything a guessing game. I hear her therapist’s warnings in my head: “Don’t anticipate her needs! Make her sign or try to say the words!” However, this becomes frustrating for us both, and can quickly escalate into her and me crying. Meanwhile, Izzy’s doodling all over her homework sheets, and this irritates the shit out of me. “What are you doing?” I screech. “Do your math and stop scribbling!” I yank the remnants of her snack away.

Piper whimpers and stands on tiptoe to try and reach the crackers. She’s increased the volume on “EEEEEEEEEEEESSSSSE!” I want to growl, “Use your words,” but I don’t because it’s pointless. Because Piper doesn’t have many words. And I’m frustrated.

I relent. Goldfish it is. I toss her in her seat with a bowl, praying for crunching sounds and silence.

The elementary school teachers have said there should be roughly 10 minutes of homework per grade level each day. Since the girls are in second grade, that means 20 minutes every day. Abby is almost always done in that amount of time, but Izzy and I are still at the table.

I’m trying to explain carrying the one to the tens column in addition. Izzy’s having trouble paying attention during class, so homework becomes time for me to re-teach her the concepts she’s “missed” during the school day. And then help her through the homework afterwards.

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So I explain carrying (again). And clean up the baby’s snack mess, as well as the pumpkin bread crumbs strewn everywhere. The dog catches my eye and heads to the front door, a signal that he needs to potty. Of course he poops. And because my kids (& their friends) are always playing in the yard, I’m diligent about scooping it promptly. By the time I come back inside, the baby is standing up in her booster seat at the table, two seconds away from a trip to the ER.

After Izzy finally seems to “get it,” I hose down the baby at the kitchen sink. Then I remember the laundry and head upstairs. I take the dry load out and begin sorting it. I put the wet load in the dryer and start it, then toss a new load into the washer. I’ve never understood how people delegate laundry to certain days of the week. I do laundry every.single.day. I can’t stand dirty clothes hanging over my head.

I add the dry things to the twins’ growing pile of clean clothes on the chair in the hallway. The same stack I’ve been nagging them to put away for three or four days.

No one listens to me. And when they do, it’s met with grumbling, complaining, and asking, “When will Daddy be home?” Or calling Daddy on his cell phone to ask him that exact question. Daddy gets to be the fun parent.

I still have to pee. But kids need me in the kitchen. Will wait.

I head back downstairs as Izzy’s finishing her spelling. The clock says 5:05. Basically 90 minutes on homework. She asks to play outside and I let her, because days are shorter in winter and she’s been at the table for so long. I realize I’ve forgotten to empty their lunch boxes. I pull out part of a turkey sandwich, an empty juice box, and cheese stick wrappers. Someone put her half-eaten yogurt tube back in her lunch box. Nice. I wash and wipe out the inside of that and then empty the dishwasher. I haven’t even thought about dinner.

All I can think about?? Is going to bed. And peeing.

Instead, I throw the baby in the tub. When the warm water hits my hand, I know for certain I’ve waited too long. Urine leaks into my underwear just as I’m yanking everything down to sit on the toilet right by the tub. Great, just fucking GREAT. Wet panties and yoga pants go into the washer and I grab clean ones, then run back to Piper’s tub.

The bath turns into a very wet wrestling match. When that’s done, she’s ready for dinner. Don’t get me started on The Things Piper Won’t Eat: meat, cheese, eggs, chicken nuggets, pizza, pasta, peanut butter. Aside from her other delays she may have some sensory issues and flat out refuses most foods. Everything is a battle. It’s all my fault.

Once she’s back in her seat, I give her things I know she’ll eat. Crackers, apple slices, raisins, and yogurt. But being a two-year-old means she likes to use her fingers instead of utensils.

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Then the twins come in from outside, smelling like horses. After we do corrections on their homework, I order them upstairs into the shower where wicked fighting and water wasting ensue. I go up and down the stairs no less than three times (because I shouldn’t really leave the baby alone in her booster at the table, should I?) before they’re even close to finishing.

My nerves are shot.

I’m yelling. I’m threatening. I pour a glass of wine. I smell my armpits, not sure when I last showered. And pissing myself didn’t help.

And suddenly it’s all there, in my face. Overwhelming.

and then my husband walks in from work. all three children run to him gleefully, squealing, “DADDY!” abandoning bad moods and tantrums.

I swallow hard and stifle the sob rising in my throat. I shake my head because… well, because there are no words. How do you sum up all these feelings from the last few hours and make it into a pretty package when it doesn’t feel that way?

Curtain.

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  • Maggie May

    We all have those days, or weeks. You are not alone.
    What helps me most in these times is picking one or two at most things that I am going to work on with my kids and saying fuck it to the other things. So for instance I would focus on getting them all to bed on time and getting them to all pick up their bath towels, and forget ALL THE REST of it. It really does help and over the long road more gets accomplished. Let yourself off the hook and them too. xo

  • natalie

    I so understand! I look back on pictures when my kids were young and barely recognize myself! I was so busy being mom to them, that I lost me somewhere in there. There were many days that my husband walked in and I walked out just to have some peace and quiet! After numerous breakdowns on my part, he finally got that I needed breaks every now and then. I went on weekend trips to visit friends in cities close by or to a hotel a night by myself. It was heavenly! I can say without hesitation that it gets better. There are still issues here and there, but the fact that they can bathe, feed, and clean up after themselves is huge! If you can, take some time for yourself. Like a day or two! It makes all the difference. You will feel more equipped to handle things when you’ve rested and enjoyed you time! Hugs!

  • Keia

    Oh my gosh! I feel your pain. But I have one child and always feel bad when I hear of other stressed mom’s with more than one. Strangely, today has been my crazy day. I guess my son gave me a break yesterday!

    This has to be the third post I’ve read to day from a stressed mom. Keep your head up and know you’re not alone although it feels that way…trust I just read your post.

  • imstillafloat

    You’re an effing rockstar! You need love, support and a goddam break. And it wouldn’t hurt to have the fun parent (it’s daddy over here, too) walk in and say,”Whoa; how can I help?” I get it, sister. I totally get it. (And you’re a rockstar)

  • Melissa Ruppert Olivero

    Goodness… I know this. I lived my versions of it. I’m so glad you wrote and shared and vented. I hope you can feel us nodding our heads in empathy. None — NONE of it is a blame issue and there is no fault. Definitely not with you. You are okay. And your children are too. Breathe and know you are loved.

    • http://www.erinmargolin.com/ Erin Margolin

      Melissa,

      Thank you, dear one. I am so lucky to have you in my corner and YOU ARE LOVED, TOO! xoxo

  • http://www.iasoupmama.com/ IASoupMama

    I so get this. In the last 12 months, I went from married mom working part-time out of the house to divorced mom working full time out of the house, part time in the evenings, taking classes online, trying to sell the house, and raising the kids (8, 6, 2.5 and 2.5) pretty much solo. Because flake midlife crisis dad has the kids every other weekend (when he’s not traveling for work or vacationing at his girlfriend’s out of state). I sleep four hours on a good night and don’t have anything remotely considered “me time.” I’ll do it, though, to make sure my kids have a good life. But I might be hanging on by my fingernails until the twins get into school. I’m not drinking wine, though, because it’s an unnecessary expense and because drinking alone is probably a bad thing, especially when I’m the only one in five miles (we live in the country in the middle of nowhere, too) who can drive the van to the hospital if someone is hurt or sick. So I put on the responsibility panties and push myself far past any limit I knew existed.

    Our kids might like the fun parent, but I’ve learned this year that mine don’t want the fun parent full-time. They’ve been with their dad the last week and each of them has asked to come home several times. Your girls are both lucky and glad to have you. When push comes to shove, they know they can count on you and that they always can.

    Hang in there, mama.

    • http://www.erinmargolin.com/ Erin Margolin

      SoupMama,

      I am so sorry, I didn’t know about all you’re going through, but all I can say about that is that marriage is tough. I may not be divorced, but we have our own struggles. I admire you for taking the strong stance you have, and for keeping yourself together, especially without the occasional glass of wine! Twins/multiples are tough no matter the age…and yes, I quite know the feeling of hanging on by your fingernails. It sounds like you’re doing incredibly well considering the raw deal you got with the husband. BIG HUGS, mama. xo

  • http://writingwishing.com/ Alison

    Oh honey. It is hard, this parenting thing. Many, many parts of it is freaking impossible, some of it bearable, and if you look hard enough, there are the wonderful parts. And I know, I KNOW, that the days get foggy with the parts that are impossible. Hang on in there. Love you. xo

  • Bobbi Parish-Logie

    Oh mercy, but I’ve had my own version of this day you describe. Its grueling, demoralizing, and defeating. And there’s no end in sight. And there’s no support from your partner in sight. And there’s dang little hope. I wish I could help in a tangible way, in a way that truly made a difference. But the best I can do is offer you my love, my prayers and my unconditional support from this place called online. ~ Bobbi

  • http://www.about100percent.com/ Andrea

    Oh Erin. I so wish I could be there to help in some small way, if only to give you company while drinking wine. You are a good mom because you love your kids, because you want to take care of them and do the best for them. They know that. We all do.

    • http://www.erinmargolin.com/ Erin Margolin

      Andrea,
      SO sorry for the late reply. I’d welcome your company ANY time, so my door is always open to you if you feel like making a trip to Kansas City?! And I hope I get to meet you sometime soon… like maybe at a CONFERENCE?! xo

  • alexandra

    It’s impossible to explain. And even harder to get others to understand. THis feeling of everything towering over you like an avalanche. Deep breaths, Erin. Take ONE thing at a time and push the rest out of your mind. Write a list and check off things as you go. It doesn’t get easier, but we do find tricks along the way. Never give up, reach out to us, and do not ever, ever feel alone. You’re not. I love you.

    • http://www.erinmargolin.com/ Erin Margolin

      Alexandra,

      I’m so late to these replies, it’s awful. I’m happy to say I started with a new therapist yesterday. It was a 50-minute session full of tears, self-loathing and even some revelations I didn’t anticipate. Nothing huge, but food for thought I wouldn’t normally expect in a getting-to-know-you session. Thank you for reminding me to reach out. I love you, too. xo

  • James&Jax

    I had one of those days yesterday, actually. And then I spent the evening being a huge bitch to everyone, including myself. My brain kept telling me, “You can’t even handle a day at home with your son. You’d rather be at work, wouldn’t you?” And of course I felt incredibly guilty.

    In the morning and early afternoon, I’d totally rocked the momming thing. I built toy after toy, I played, I made donation piles of old toys and had someone pick them up, I made a big breakfast… But by 2:00, I was fantasizing about when I could squeeze in a glass of wine between building toys. And by 5:00? Forget it. I was well on the way to feeling overwhelmed and resentful.

    So I took a bubble bath and read a book–while Jax knocked on the other side of the door over & over. But it helped somewhat.

    I hope you get a super restful break ASAP. You need one. Please tell your husband, or someone who will help make this happen for you.

    • http://www.erinmargolin.com/ Erin Margolin

      James & Jax,

      Thank you for sharing a bit of your day and experiences with me, it’s always helpful and reassuring to hear from others who feel similarly or who have been there. I love how you talk about your day from start to finish– isn’t it so interesting how we can “rock the whole momming thing” early on, and then by afternoon we’re ready to throw in the towel?? AMEN. and thanks again! ;-)

  • Jennifer Meer

    Wow Erin. Just wow. Your words so perfectly summed up so many of our days. Two things – it’s not your fault and you are not alone. We all have moments like this and days and weeks like this. I like to call my husband the magician – how does he manage to magically fix everything just by showing up? Just keep breathing and loving them and yourself. Wonderful job on this.

    • http://www.erinmargolin.com/ Erin Margolin

      Jennifer,

      Thank you so much for stopping by, and for reading. For letting me know it’s not just me. I appreciate your reaching out. I hope your new year is off to a great start and BIG HUGS! ;-)

  • Sili

    That question is the worst. When someone can come in, not knowing what you’ve been dealing with (because it can’t be that hard, right?) and asks that question in a way that is filled with judgement and lack of understanding. Ugh! I wish you were right here so I could hug you and tell you that some days, I have no idea when I last showered either.

    And sometimes the only reason I change my shirt is so that the teachers at carpool don’t talk about me. Sending you hugs and strength and help in some way, shape or fashion. Here for you and thank you for verbalizing this! It means you’re a great mom! <3

    • http://www.erinmargolin.com/ Erin Margolin

      Sili,

      Yes, that’s the hardest thing. The only comfort is knowing that, at the end of the day, I was there. I showed up. I did what had to be done. They had clean clothes, food on the table, they had a parent at home to hang out with, they had all their dr.’s appointments, medications, needs met. As for carpool line, I usually don’t bother to change my shirt, so you’re winning there! xoxo

  • http://amandamagee.com amandamagee

    Eliminate the “all my fault.” It’s not your fault, not your failure. I wear a rut up and down a staircase on the other side of the country, stare crestfallen and hurt at the scattered homework pages, permission slips, and unpaired mittens and gloves. This unpredictable and damn near unmanageable relay race with the sensation that we have no one to pass the baton to is a beast, but no one manages to smell good, look good, stay calm, and stay cool through the whole thing, it just isn’t possible.

    Maybe let the laundry sit, just once. xo

    • http://www.erinmargolin.com/ Erin Margolin

      Amanda,

      I’m not good at letting things sit. Well, unless you mean my piles of paperwork (my personal stuff, not the kids’ stuff!). I love your analogy— the relay race, not having anyone to pass the baton to. Maybe I just think everyone else is so much more together… or they seem that way. And dear God, if I went one day without laundry, we might just spontaneously combust! xoxo

  • Ally

    It’s so unfair, isn’t it? To deal with it all and not get much understanding. But know this: it is NOT your fault. You’re doing the best you can with a whole lot of rough circumstances.
    That said, Piper is adorable and I can’t believe how big all your girls are getting. And you’re writing is great :)

    • http://www.erinmargolin.com/ Erin Margolin

      Ally,

      Thank you. It’s also hard when people jump on the pity party bandwagon and feel like they need to leave nasty comments. Oh well. Don’t feed the trolls, right? HAPPY FRIDAY! xoxo

  • http://aladyinfrance.com/ Lady Jennie

    You know what’s so strange dear Erin? This is a very normal day in the life of a mom. Every single thing you mentioned is normal – easy snacks instead of a homemade dinner, kids getting into (or nearly getting into) accidents, messy house, messy kids, messy mom, bills unpaid, demanding dog, overwhelmed at all the homework and there is just no way it’s going to get done, peeing pants – yes, even that.

    But the strange thing is, that when you’re anxious and depressed you think it’s because YOU are not good enough. But that’s not true. That’s a lie. Many days are like this and no one has to feel guilty. It is what it is. We do what we can do.

    You don’t need to shape up. What you really need is grace because you are meeting all of their needs despite having anxiety and depression. You’re not on drugs somewhere. You didn’t walk out on them. You make at least an attempt of cleaning and providing and listening and helping. You need to give yourself grace because the rest of us think you’re doing just fine.

    • http://www.erinmargolin.com/ Erin Margolin

      Jennie,

      Thank you so much. I guess I’ve been feeling like I don’t deserve much grace. I am grateful for you and your reassurance. I’m glad this is a “normal” day, because I have such trouble seeing it that way…and feel so alone sometimes. xo

  • http://mommynanibooboo.com/ Jenni Chiu

    I agree with Lady Jennie 100%
    I also know and understand every bit of what you’re feeling. Your thoughts and mine are so similar.
    And the, “Why are you in such a bad mood”… I’ve heard it too many times. I heart you, Erin Margolin… And I wish us both tremendous grace. Xoxo

    • http://www.erinmargolin.com/ Erin Margolin

      Jenni,

      Thank you for the validation and affirmation, but you know I don’t wish this (or anything remotely similar) on anyone. I’m sorry you’re struggling as well. And I hope I get to see you soon? Are you coming to BlogHer? xoxoxo

  • Amy Adams Goldman

    Erin,
    I wrote you a big lengthy heart felt response about how every thing you’re going thru is normal and although maybe not discussed at PTA meetings and soccer games , so totally common. I wrote a funny antidote about how I wet my pants on an almost daily basis and I said it is 8:30 pm and my kids haven’t had dinner yet. I went on to say that at the end of the day, I fucking love my kids with every fiber of my being so if I never get a “mother of the year” award, I don’t care ….. and I’m certain they don’t either.
    I have a weeks worth of laundry to do, my dog hasn’t been to the vet in almost 2 years and I still put my 9 year old to bed every night because I am too tired to deal with the alternative of letting her work it out . My kids watch inappropriate tv shows, they have poor study habits and my daughter will only shower a few times a week. Here’s the thing though, …… they are great , loving kids …. They are kind to their peers and they respect their teachers. They are good people. I haven’t ruined them.
    All this and more was neatly wrapped up in a witty and thoughtful message when the microwave let out a loud burst …… turns out the edamame bag should be opened to vent or it will in fact explode when overheated. There goes mother of the year again !
    aaaaand, I just peed !

    • http://www.erinmargolin.com/ Erin Margolin

      Amy,

      I think I love you. And when can we have coffee? P.S. I just learned that same lesson about the edamame bag. KUDOS TO YOU for having healthy food around!! ;-) HUGS!

  • Nicole Morgan

    Ditto to all already said. Be kind to yourself … I am working on moments, not even day by day, just moments … LOVE to you xxx

    • http://www.erinmargolin.com/ Erin Margolin

      Nicole,

      Moments, yes. I can’t do day by day, either. I have to re-focus on smaller increments of time. And I hope you’re being kind to yourself as well. HUGS & Happy weekend, mama! xo

  • Cindy Reed

    I had a dream last night that I was Gulliver and the Lilliputians had trapped me with ropes to the ground and I couldn’t move. Trapped. Because of everything you just wrote, the relentlessness of it all, especially also having a child with special needs (OH GOD NOT THE HOMEWORK), and my own bipolar, and I also peed the bed this week. I had a dream I was peeing and then, actually peed. Thanks for naming it, even if we don’t know how to solve it.

    • http://www.erinmargolin.com/ Erin Margolin

      Cindy,

      Ah, yes! The peeing. It’s lovely, isn’t it? Thank you for stopping by to read and reaffirm I’m not alone. I’ve had that same pee dream myself, albeit not recently. I just pee my pants when I’m awake. LOL!! xo

  • kablooey

    About to say “amen” and “I’ve got an Izzy too,” but then feel bad because I only have the one little one and my own medicated self to deal with, not three including a semi-verbal toddler. But I do know that toggle between “you’re an amazing, unique kid” and “stop talking and go to bed” happens reallll fast.

    • http://www.erinmargolin.com/ Erin Margolin

      Kablooey,

      Never never compare. Although saying that makes me a hypocrite because I do it, too. It’s a trap. We’re all in this together and you shouldn’t read this and feel badly about anything!! Love your honesty and your last line made me laugh. Much needed. Thank you!! ;-)

  • Willa

    It must be very difficult to be one of your daughters. You seem so burdened with the normal responsibilities of motherhood and your anxiety, depression or whatever term you want to use supersedes any joy or pride you have in your children. Lighten up lady and take time every day to laugh with them. A diagnosis of ADD or speech delays are only catastrophic if you allow them to be.

    • http://www.erinmargolin.com/ Erin Margolin

      Dear Willa,

      Thank you so much for reading and have a wonderful weekend! God bless!

    • Amy Adams Goldman

      Hi Willa …. I would like to suggest that you to kindly leave your judgmental and negative comments elsewhere. You seem to have mistaken this blog discussion group as an invitation to declare your motherhood superiority ….. or “whatever term you want to use” .
      While it must be so super easy to be one of your children as opposed to poor Erin’s daughters , what with her lacking any pride or joy in them , I think your awesome feedback should be saved just for them. After all, you really don’t want to burden poor Erin anymore since you have already pointed out she is burdened enough.

      Peace out

      *** by the way, telling someone that has written an honest piece about the difficulties and challenges of motherhood to “lighten up” is about as supportive as saying fuck off. Clearly, you have never pissed your pants !

      • http://www.erinmargolin.com/ Erin Margolin

        Dear Amy,

        I meant to reply to this right after you posted it, but…thank you. And can we have coffee sometime? I appreciate your support, your comments, and..I’d love to get to know you better. I am sort of an introvert. Terrible at putting myself out there and making new friends. hugs.

        • Amy Adams Goldman

          Erin , I would love to have coffee with you, precious ! I am not great at reaching out & I have a bad habit of making plans with every intention of following thru & then my own insecurities & “issues” get in the way …. and suddenly I cancel. With the new year I am hopeful to return to better physical , mental & social health. Perhaps you will be a starting place for me because you most definitely seem to be someone I would enjoy knowing :)
          We can meet and take a pledge to take better care of ourselves in 2014 !!!
          You will hear from me soon

  • http://www.crysalismum.blogspot.com/ Carolyn D

    Izzys numbers are so clever! Good girl :)
    I feel overwhelmed many days too, I been studying & started writing on my blog recently because I realise minor alone- many mumma’s hearts are aching and struggling with this important but exhausting job!
    Your not alone either sweet mumma, thank you for sharing your day- armpits, pee & all!! Sending a big cyber hug to you & feel free to visit me, I’ll put the kettle on!

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  • http://katbiggie.com/ Alexa

    I often feel overwhelmed in the same way. Sounds like a day in my house. I’ve been following your “no yelling” pledge, and trying so hard to implement the same in my house. This morning I only lasted thirty minutes. Hang in there.

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