I'll admit, I think dealing with crushing depression has made me more of a quiet person. I used to be pretty outspoken and snarky and I don't know, maybe it's depression. Maybe it's aging, maybe it's me losing faith in humanity as a whole but I don't usually care enough about anything to really give a damn.
But I will tell you what- if I hear from one more person trying to be sympathetic with my absolute exhaustion and stress levels that they can totally relate because they have fur babies? I will likely land in jail. I just know it.
And listen, I have pets. I have a dog (Twinky, a morkie) and four cats (Stumpy, Batman, Lola, and Ginger) so I fully understand how frustrating they can be, how time consuming they can be, and how when they get sick your heart hurts. I totally get it. When I had to put Lenny down years ago, I cried hard for days because I just loved that weird little cat.
But you don't know exhaustion until you become a parent. There is a real reason they use sleep deprivation as a torture technique because lack of sleep will screw with you in ways you cannot even imagine. I was so tired at one point after Penelope was born that I legit thought there were cows all over the road while driving the kids to school. No, I am not joking. I thought cows were darting out in front of me and I kept slamming on my brakes. How we made it school, I will never know. But I hadn't slept for 36 hours straight at that point and I couldn't even nap when she did because I didn't think I'd wake up when she did. Once I'm out, I'm (usually) out, especially when I'm that tired.
I read this article on HuffPost yesterday and it is so on point that I feel compelled to share it. The points raised in the article are done well and with humor, but some of the points I know non-parents would brush off or try to draw similarities. Which, legitimately, you could depending on the level of your pets and their particular needs.
But here's the thing- it really never stops. I can leave my cats and dog after I have fed and watered them, taken the dog out to pee. I know that they are not going to die or seriously hurt themselves. Let's be honest- they are laying down and walking on things they aren't allowed to when I'm there and that's fine. I'll be none the wiser and they are happy little clams. If I left Penelope to go to the store I would land in jail for child neglect, as I should.
I haven't been able to grocery shop alone in MONTHS. If I decided I want to go run errands oh no- I can't do that. I have to time it around naps, feedings, and changing her, not to mention gauging the mood. But even then- that doesn't always work because I have to get the older kids from school on time. If I'm lucky, and everything goes as planned, I have a 45 minute window each day to get all of my errands done.
I can no longer eat alone. Sure, it's kind of adorable to have Penelope grabbing at my legs and looking at me wanting all of the love in the world. Her smiley face melts my heart and I want to give her whatever she's asking for.
But I'm also really fucking hungry because I get, on average, one meal a day and it isn't even hot. I am pregnant and want to eat all of the things and I can't because this child is demanding. I feel like a bad ass if I eat breakfast. Like I have won the daily lottery and I feel like I can literally tackle anything that comes at me if I eat breakfast. It happens, maybe, once a week. I'll be honest, sometimes I let her cry it out so I can eat my piece of toast. That's right- I'm that asshole mom who has to eat because her blood sugar is screaming while my baby is really screaming.
Let's not even mention the fact I'm trying, every single day, to parent these children into respectful, kind, responsible people. It's fucking DIFFICULT. You never know if you're doing a good job or if you're really screwing them up and they'll end up serial killers. I know that I was that person before having kids who always knew what I would or wouldn't do, "my kids would never", and I could easily point out what those parents were clearly doing wrong. It's funny, it seems like the people without kids have all of the answers and know exactly what the rest of us should be doing.
Then I had Olivia and I suddenly realized I have no idea what I'm doing, these kids don't come with manuals, and nobody can really help you. You get plenty of advice but nothing really helps. Nobody is there with you at 2 a.m. when your baby will not stop crying, go to sleep, eat, nothing. It's hard to remember that this screaming tiny human is supposed to be a blessing and that this is the most rewarding job we'll supposedly ever have. That these are the best years of our lives. That we'll ever be ourselves ever again.
Parenting can be rewarding. It can be a blessing. It can be all of those wonderful moments that you remember later on and you miss the sweet smell of a fresh bathed baby, or the smell of their skin as you rock them against your chest. The way your heart squeezes when they cling to you and squeeze your finger and want only you because only you can make them feel better.
A pet parent doesn't lose their identity. They don't know what it's like to get up every ten minutes for no god damn reason. To be feeding a human at ungodly hours only to be vomited on. To try to do this as your boobs are leaking for no reason, your vagina is pushing out blood clots the size of your hand and you can't just pee- oh no. You have to pee (or poop) and fill a squeeze bottle to clean yourself (at least for the first few weeks if you delivered vaginally) and hold an infant at the same time. Maybe even feeding them at the same time. Not showering for days.
Fun fact- do you know how many bottles of dry shampoo I got for my birthday? Ten. I'm trying to not take offense by this because let's be honest- I get to wash my hair once a week right now. To be pregnant with a baby and two older kids is sucking every last bit of me out.
I'm not trying to say pet parenting doesn't have it's challenges, it absolutely does. (I swear, if Twinky eats one more pair of underwear I will give up on them all together. I'm serious.) But I find that, especially as my kids get older, I really feel more and more unsure of what I'm doing. At least with an infant I knew my goal was to just keep them alive. Now as they get older and they have problems at school and questions about life and their bodies, it becomes more and more clear at how incredibly difficult parenting is. I'm really struggling and my fear is that I will screw them up. I am 100% responsible for how they end up. It's a lot of pressure. You just figure it'll come naturally and it just doesn't.
I'd like to think that eventually I'll not feel like I'm on the brink of a panic attack all of the time. I'm told by friends with children who are grown and gone that no, that doesn't happen. Not really. Your worries for them just change. Super. A lifetime of stress, guilt, panic attacks, worry, and all of the good stuff too.