When did everything get so hard?
I can vaguely recall my standard Saturday circa 2009: At 9:30 or 10 a.m., I’d emerge from about 10 hours of sleep, wondering what the magical weekend would bring. I’d fix a bowl of granola or chocolate chip pancakes, and flip through the Washington Post. Then I’d move from the kitchen island to the living room couch, about 10 feet away in our one-bedroom Washington, D.C., apartment.
There I’d settle in until about 3 p.m. watching reruns of Friday Night Lights and folding laundry with my husband, after which I’d consider taking a shower. Around 4:30, he and I would head over to E Street Cinema for the new Woody Allen film, enjoyed with a beer, and then meet friends for drinks and dinner on 14th or H Street. Saturdays were about being slow and lazy, taking the day as it came, letting things unfold.
Those Saturdays are definitely gone.
Now, I’m awakened each weekend day at about 6:15 a.m. by one of my two adorable but loud children, jumping onto my bed and launching into a soliloquy laced with potty humor. My husband reaches over for the remote to throw on a DVR’d golf tournament and the kids are content for another hour while we fade in and out of sleep. At about 7:30, we throw on clothes for a morning of birthday parties, dance classes and a whole lot of driving around the suburbs.
By the time we return home, we’re wiped out and it’s only 12:30. My husband makes the kids sandwiches and I lay them down for naps. My daughter then springs out of bed to pepper me with questions while I try unsuccessfully to get in an hour of work; instead, I close my laptop and take her on a couple of errands, aimlessly walking the aisles of Home Goods. Around 4, we pick up the guys for grocery shopping.
Both children insist on pushing tiny carts, which means my toddler son is fully mobile in a store full of breakable items. While he repeatedly crashes his cart into my shin, my daughter loads more Chobanis into her cart than we could ever eat. We get to the register, and my husband realizes we forgot paper towels. In the two minutes he’s away, my son crawls under my grocery cart and gets both his legs stuck between the fence-like structure at the bottom. Full-on crisis mode.
A fellow shopper thankfully helps extract him and I try to silence his screams with a free grocery-store cookie. At 6, we arrive home, unload all the groceries, fix dinner for the kids, give them a bath, beg them to stop running and put their pajamas on, read them two or three stories, rock the little one and practice math with the older one, tuck them in and then tuck them in one more time when they inevitably appear downstairs for another drink of water.
It’s 8 p.m. We stuff ourselves with sushi or Chinese food in front of half an episode of Breaking Bad, which we still haven’t had time to catch up on. (The series ended FOUR years ago.) And by 9, we’re in bed.
What happened to the weekend?
Life. Kids. Responsibilities.
I’m responsible for getting my son to school and picking him up (usually late). Responsible for turning my magazine stories in on time (always late). Responsible for paying the bills (can never find a stamp). Responsible for staying on top of the laundry (never done). Responsible for replacing my tires (probably paid too much). Responsible for managing kid meltdowns (while trying to stay calm). Responsible for preventing my own meltdowns (still working on that one).
“Responsible” has replaced “fun” as the adjective that best describes me.
But I know I’m not the only one. Nearly every mom I know is overwhelmed, whether they work full-time or stay at home. Most of us have no time to exercise. No time to pick up a hobby. No time to meet friends for dinner. No time to make pancakes. No time to be silly. No time to just be.
We are overworked, overwhelmed and overly hard on ourselves, the subject of countless books like Brigid Schulte’s Overwhelmed: How to Work, Love and Play When No One Has Time and Katrina Alcorn’s Maxed Out: American Moms On the Brink.
So what can I do?
I can start by remembering the things that make me most happy: performing in community theater, having drinks with girlfriends, being in a band, enjoying a game of Uno with the kids, going to movies with my husband. I can figure out how to work some of those things in, maybe not all at once, but just enough to feel more like my younger, less-stressed self again.
I can try not to work on the weekends. I can squeeze in a couple of morning workouts a week. I can call friends during my 1.5 hour commute home. I can make jokes with my co-workers and try to laugh at myself.
I can put faith in the fact that there will be another time, soon, when I’ll be able to take on less of the things that I have to do and more of the things I want to do.
But until then, I’m taking it one day—and sometimes one hour—at a time.