I used to be good at everything.
A typical day in my life seven years ago as a grad student probably included driving to my sweet little office on campus. It had a window with big trees outside and I would sit at my desk and gaze outside, pop in my earbuds and listen to my favorite music as I cozied up with research and formulas and just read and wrote and researched and calculated to my heart’s content. And I got paid for it. I was in my element. I was rewarded with praise, awards, money, good grades and glowing recommendations. I was good at being a student, and good at my job. It was easy, it was effortless.
Things that kept me up at night included stressors such as “how am I going to maximize my time in the sun this summer to ensure I am golden colored?” I was good at being pretty and thin and wearing the right clothes. I had not yet gone on my first diet. It was easy, it was effortless.
When my friends needed me, I could drop anything to be with them. If someone asked me if I was a good friend I wouldn’t hesitate with a “yes”. There was plenty of time for girl’s nights and weekly yoga or long walks or coffee or drinks or dinner or anything we wanted to do. Friendships were easy – they were effortless.
And the easiest thing in life? My relationship with him. Our first Christmas living together when we went off and spent time with our own families and then had our own Christmas at home under our own roof – because we had all the time in the world. All the disposable income to fill that tree up with overflowing presents to each other that we had all the time in the world to pick out. We stayed up late and talked and drank and watched trashy tv on the couch and made rice at midnight because it sounded good. And that was typical of our lives. Our relationship was easy – it was truly effortless.
Flash forward seven years to Saturday morning. I am standing in my kitchen with rubber cleaning gloves on, a dirty ponytail in my hair, listening to my youngest crying and my oldest whining downstairs with my husband, who I am feeling like I’m asking too much of by having him watch the kids while I CLEAN THE FREAKING HOUSE, and tears well up in my eyes. I am exhausted. I am anxious. I try and pinpoint what exactly it is that is making me feel like this. What is the thing? And it comes to me – nothing is easy anymore.
Now I’m struggling, in fact sometimes borderline downright failing at it all.
The amount of effort for things that were one effortless is overwhelming.
I long for those effortless days, even on the purely physical level.
Back when I ate anything and everything and just worked out in the summers so I could look good in a bikini. AND THAT SHIT WORKED. When I wanted my body to do one thing and it just, like, did it. Back before what feels like every woman my age was discussing their need for Botox. FUCKING BOTOX. BEFORE EVERY ONE OF MY FRIENDS WAS DISCUSSING THE NEED TO INJECT BOTULISM INTO THEIR FUCKING FACES TO LOOK FUCKING YOUNGER. WE ARE FUCKING THIRTY FUCKING YEARS OLD AND I ALREADY HAVE TO WORRY ABOUT LOOKING FUCKING YOUNGER.
I went on such a long rant about Botox to my husband that at the end I stopped before he even said a word and said “oh my god. I’m going to get Botox now, aren’t I?”
Y’all. I can cross my heart, hope to die, stick a needle in my eye swear that I had literally no idea that Botox was a thing that normal thirty-year-olds in Montana did. Months ago Botox was not even on my radar. Wrinkles were not anywhere near the list of worries I must be vigilant about.
And now it is. As much as I don’t want it to be, it’s crept up into my brain. It’s registered with me through repetition and it’s on my radar. And I fucking hate that.
All these products aimed directly at women of my age bracket – the eyelash serum and extensions, Botox, wraps, dry shampoo, lipstick you don’t have to reapply – it’s all aimed at reducing our effort. If you buy this eyelash serum/eyelash extensions you won’t have to spend so much time doing your makeup! If you get these Botox injections you don’t have to spend all the time to get surgery! Buy these wraps so you don’t have to spend all your time at the gym! Here’s some expensive dry shampoo so you don’t have to go through the Herculean task of washing and drying your hair every day! Who has time to reapply your lipstick after every meal and throughout the day? Here’s some that won’t budge!
These companies are genius because they are profiting off of two things – the fact that we are fucking constantly insecure about our appearance, and that we are BURNT. THE. FUCK. OUT. YES I WILL SPEND $100 ON SOMETHING TO SQUIRT IN MY HAIR IF IT MEANS I GET TO SLEEP AN EXTRA 15 MINUTES IN THE MORNING.
You know what’s not easy OR effortless? The amount of upkeep on our bodies. On every inch. I long for the days when I wouldn’t be looking for high-waisted ANYTHING. Before I had a baby and gained 40 pounds then lost 25 then had another baby and gained 26 then lost 25 then gained and lost and gained and lost but the net result is never, ever under that first 40 I gained. Before I knew what “diastasis recti” was and before I couldn’t do a sit up without looking like my organs are trying to escape between my non-existent stomach muscles. I long for when I wore fucking booty shorts and a tank top that showed my midriff TO THE GYM TO GET SKINNIER. Before I bought a GODDAMN SWIM SKIRT. A. GOD.DAMN. SWIM. SKIRT.
And really, all that is nothing – it’s a literal drop in the bucket -compared to the shit that keeps you up at night, like I am right now. The really scary shit.
Shit like – why am I the only woman who doesn’t seem like I was made to be a mom? Why is it so hard for me?
Why does the thing that we are literally socialized from birth to do sometimes go against every impulse in my body?
Why do I feel like I am being kicked in the gut when I see other moms say “these are the best days of my life” when my deep dark secret is these are easily the hardest days of mine?
Now maintaining friendships could be an Olympic sport. I want to be the friend offering to throw baby showers, offering to take my friends children when they have a hard day, offering to do more – I want to be her so bad – but I am not even close to her. The effort that goes into planning a get together is monumental – we plan months out in advance, coordinating nap schedules and babysitters and work in order to have an hour long dinner together.
What was once the easiest thing in my whole life, my relationship with my husband, is now yet another thing I feel like I’m letting down. Because it was the easiest, it gets the least attention. We have learned the meaning of “survival mode” – meaning date nights don’t happen when both kids are sick and grandparents are out of town and when that happens for months on end and you add in financial stress and exhaustion? Well, that’s not easy. When friends told me how hard two kids is on a marriage I really, truly thought – not us. And it turns out we aren’t superhuman – we are in fact, actual human. God, you guys. It’s so hard. I had no idea what two kids would really mean for us. We talk about how much we miss each other when we are in the same room. I miss him so much – miss us so much. Sometimes a thought creeps into my mind that maybe the people who seem happier after children are glad to be distracted from their crappy relationship by their kids. It’s a mean, nasty thought to make myself feel better for feeling resentful that it’s not just the two of us anymore. How do even mediocre marriages survive more than one kid?
The effort I put into keeping my children alive – tasking my hypervigilant, highly sensitive, anxiety prone brain with keeping them fed and safe and healthy – that alone is enough to bankrupt every energy reserve I’ve ever had. Now add onto that all of the above. Throw in trying to be the best employee – to overcompensate for being the only one who works from home – and feeling like I’m constantly falling short. Throw in working from home while you stay home with multiple kids full time. A gift – yes. But also, possibly the absolute furthest thing from effortless and easy.
And I preach about taking care of yourself – of your own needs. But here’s the damn truth – my needs are draining on those around me. If I need a break or need extra help, it means somebody else who is already operating at all they can handle has to take on more.
So in this epic manifesto of the opposite of effortless and easy – how do we survive with our sanity intact? This is my mission, the one I chose to accept. I’ll be back with my ideas in Part II. Until then, know you are not alone, mama who just wants something to be easy. You are so not alone.