Ritual Confessions

March 3, 2008

The wall

Filed under: Uncategorized — elissakaren @ 5:17 am

Nick and I had an agreement about how to divide child care this past weekend: he took Charlotte all day yesterday, so that Jen and I could be unencumbered during her last day here, and I had her all day today. I knew today would be a challenge, although I failed to fully consider a few factors. The first was that having an out-of-town visitor is exhausting, even if she’s the model guest, which Jen is: neat and clean and considerate and thoughtful nearly to a fault. It just takes a lot out of you, I think, when you feel responsible for someone else’s physical and emotional well-being in your home and city for many days running. The second unfortunate factor is that Charlotte woke me up this morning at 3:40 and I failed to fall back to sleep. So, I got up officially at around 6:00, had dropped Jen off by 7:00, and had to figure out how I was going to get through the next twelve straight hours with my lovely toddler.

From a parenting perspective, I haven’t hit a wall like this in months. There have been other days over the last few weeks where I’ve had her for twelve straight hours and it’s been fine. I’m very emotionally vulnerable to fatigue; there have been times when I’ve felt savagely (if very temporarily) depressed amidst even the rosiest of external circumstances if I’ve had very little sleep for many nights in a row.

By 2:30 this afternoon, at one of the play spaces we frequent, I was shedding tears of misery and feeling nearly crushed by the guilt of being in this state. Charlotte was giving me no trouble at all. She was being her sweet, joyous self. My head spins when I think of all the single mothers in the world who don’t get long breaks during the week, who don’t have a partner in parenting, who don’t have such nice play spaces near them or the resources to use them, whose children aren’t healthy… and then, too, I have only one child. And such a well-behaved child! I felt ferocious self-contempt, which made everything worse, and yet the fact was that I couldn’t believe how slowly the day was going, how many more hours there were before me, how unequal I was feeling to the task at hand.

I came home around 3:00 and an hour later, when I was able to put her down for a nap, I lay down myself and was out the moment I closed my eyes. When I woke up an hour and a half later, I felt like a new woman.



  1. Little naps, even shorter than the hour and a half that you had, are the secret. When I had my kids, it was just me. My ex was not into helping with them at all. So it was all on me. I learned to nap when they napped, otherwise I would not have made it. That was okay for the first one. When there were more, it was tougher because they didn’t nap at the same time. Then I got divorced when my kids were 2, 8, and 11. The bad part about that was that I couldn’t sleep at night. Somehow, because I was the only adult in the house, I just couldn’t relax enough to get to sleep so I didn’t sleep more than just dozing for a few minutes at a time, and I tried to sleep when the older kids were at school and the little one napped.

    But, I got through it. They’re grown now. My baby is 17. We made it.

    Comment by Corina — March 3, 2008 @ 10:06 am

  2. I simply can’t function if I haven’t had enough sleep, which is yet another reason why I’m quite sure that parenting a baby or small child isn’t in my future. I don’t know how you, or Corina, or any other parent, ever does it.

    I wish I hadn’t been working all day yesterday … I miss Charlotte,and I could have watched her while you napped in the car.:-)

    Comment by davidrochester — March 3, 2008 @ 3:13 pm

  3. Oh, that was supposed to be a smiley, but it got too close to the period, and now it’s some weird mutant punctuation.

    Comment by davidrochester — March 3, 2008 @ 3:14 pm

  4. Corina, I’ve been having a lot of trouble falling asleep lately too! That’s part of the problem. It’s like I’m afraid to relax and get comfortable because I’m expecting the peace to be shattered at any moment by Charlotte waking up and needing me. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been right on the delicious edge of sleep when…

    David, yeah, it would have been great to visit… even if I were awake, the section of your house where we usually have tea while Charlotte cavorts seems so childproof and safe that I would have relaxed. The problem at these play spaces is that there are so many opportunities for disaster even though the owners take every precaution they can… there are bigger kids to trample her, structures for her to climb and fall from, etc. Oh well… some other weekend, hopefully. I hope at least yesterday had more potential than you thought?

    Comment by elissakaren — March 3, 2008 @ 6:23 pm

  5. Not sure yet — I’ll know later in the week. About the potential, I mean.

    Comment by davidrochester — March 4, 2008 @ 1:29 am

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