The exhaustion of being "on."

Parenting is exhausting. I don't mean the first months of sleepless nights, the crying, the night feedings, waking in the morning to find you have put a clean diaper over a dirty one.  Those are physically exhausting times, but the beauty of that early time is that if you are more cloth monkey than wire monkey in your mothering, your baby is going to be fine.  

I am talking about the exhaustion that comes when they are older.  The exhaustion that comes with being "on" almost all of your waking hours.  Even the most demanding professions usually come with two 15 minute breaks and a half hour or hour lunch.  I'm beginning to think I should loan my 3 children to investigative agencies for their tracking skills, because they ALWAYS FIND ME.  They must have a heightened sense of smell that is exclusively used in locating and zeroing in on the smell of despair, because within 42 seconds of locking the bathroom door, they have found me.   

As they age past nighttime feedings into toddlerdom and beyond, the exhaustion of trying to be a good parent is overwhelming.  I don't mean "good" as in mastering the most vogue pinterest birthday treats-giving the latest electronic device-ensuring they have the current in-fashion wardrobe "good".  I mean good as in my ultimate hope is we are raising children who will eventually be productive, accountable members of society, a society they don't feel entitlement from, or that they are owed from.  Children that, when finding themselves in tough situations, will make good choices because we have instilled them them decision making abilities.  Children that will know life isn't always fair.  It is exhausting being "on", and also continually shutting up that bad parent voice that sits on the exhausted, selfish, responsibility-free dusty shelf located in the corner of my brain.  For Example....

My Oldest (age 9): "Mom can I play Minecraft?"
Me: "No"
My Oldest: "PLEASE can I play Minecraft?"
Me: "No, go play with some Legos."
My Oldest: "Mom, I made my bed."
Me: "Thank you!!"
My Oldest: "Now I get to play Minecraft?"

Me: (Bad parent voice starting play in my head says: 'For the love of Pete, let him play already so we can get to page 3 of the People magazine, we have been trying to read this for 35 minutes!!') "No, I said no Minecraft! How about you go play with your Lego Minecraft set or go do some origami?"
My Oldest: "Mom, here is an origami Yoda and Darth Vader and a leaping frog and a  fox.  Now can I play Minecraft?
Me: (Bad parent voice really starting to bark 'Screw it!! Let him do it! We can enjoy the next 14 hours in peace!!) "No. I have said no, and my answer isn't going to change.  Please go find something to do!"  (Bad parent voice grumbles in my head, and knows this is probably round 1 of 3 of this same scenario that will occur this evening.)

When it comes to 3 year olds, they are not quite the negotiators, but the perpetual motion they are in, and the desire to teach them to make good choices creates never ending exhaustion.  Examples:
"No we don't eat BBQ chips for breakfast."
"No we don't stack stools on top of laundry baskets on top of chairs to get something (like childrens' Advil) because you can fall and get hurt."
"No we don't put kitties in the washing machine (or dryer) because they can get hurt."
"No we don't throw Thomas the Tank Engine at brother's head because it hurts."
"No we don't fee the dog chips (or Clif bars, or meat, or pretzels, or cereal, or crackers) even though she really likes them because she will get sick.
"No we don't eat 7 bags of fruit snack because you will get sick."
"No we don't color on the walls, only paper."
"I see you did that! That's wallpaper. We don't rip that off."
(Bad Parent: "Oh Shiiiiiiit.")
"No we don't cut Mommy's stuff, only paper.
(Bad Parent screams: "F&%$K! You CUT THAT ????)
"No, you can't watch Cars again, (and again and again...)"
(Bad parent pipes up, "Give the child a bag of cheetos and put in Cars, on repeat. We have a Hoarders marathon to watch.")

When I comes to my daughter, at every turn I feel like I am waging a war against societal pressures women face to be skinny, pretty and perfect.  The conversations are always heated and passionate, and exhausting:
My Daughter (age 6): "I want to wear my pink skirt."
Me: "I'm sorry, it isn't washed yet. Wear some jeans."
My Daughter: "JEANS are UUUUUGLY."
Me:  "It's -27, it is more important to be warm, and kind and smart."
My Daughter: "Jeans are not pretty!
Me:  "It's -27, it is more important to be warm, and kind and smart."
My Daughter:  "No one will think I'm pretty!!!" (insert flailing and back bending tantrum about here)
Me:  "It's -27, it is more important to be warm, and kind and smart.  How about jeggings?"
My Daughter:  " I HATE jeggings!! THEY FALL DOWN!!" (Said no female ever, except my daughter."
Me:  (Bad parent at this point is slugging back whiskey at 7:30am as she sits on that dusty shelf in my brain saying "Give her the damn skirt! Who cares if it smells like feet and dirty dishclothes! She'll stop this fit!) "It's -27, it is more important to be warm, and kind and smart."
And this will be the first of many of these encounters this week.

It is wearing. It is all out exhausting to be present, and meaningful, and honest. And honestly, there ARE days I miss those days of my 20's when I could sit, uninterrupted and watch TLC all afternoon, and eat a pint of spinach dip for lunch as I sat wrapped in a blanket.  No one to worry about except me and my cat.  My 17 year old geriatric cat probably misses those days more frequently than I.  And honestly, there may have been a morning recently where multigrain Doritos seemed close enough to Chex cereal to count for a breakfast food for the 3 year old.   And maybe I hope by acknowledging the exhaustion it will validate that I'm doing something right.  So as with so many things, I guess this quote is perfect for parenting: "It's not going to be easy, it's going to be worth it."