I have nothing left to give, and it’s only Thursday. My husband doesn’t come home for another 12 hours and the last 72 have been…heavy. I took the kids grocery shopping on Monday. By the time we got back, one was crying, the other was starving, and I juggled their needs, the 19 bags, and my piercing headache with little to no grace. I finished multiple loads of laundry and tried to piece our house back together after an exhausting weekend. I stole time away from my kids to crank out some freelance copy and served leftovers for dinner because who has time to cook? Stay-at-home moms do, right? Wrong.
Tuesday came early as it always does, especially when I can’t shut off my brain and go to sleep. Should I leave the front porch light on or off? “On would deter intruders,” I think. But then again, what if someone sees the light through the woods and decides tonight is the night to take their next victim? What to do? What to do? The light stays on. “I would rather see who is coming to attack me,” I suppose.
I get the boys to school on time, use my spare 15 minutes in the parking lot between drop offs to do my make-up. My unwashed hair is in a bun. My glasses are on. Mascara will help. I meet a girlfriend for a rushed breakfast, and my child stares into his tablet the entire meal because otherwise I can’t have a conversation, and right now, I need to be a friend first, and a mom second. His M&M pancakes should make up for my hour of digital parenting.
I leave the restaurant and receive a prank call from a blocked number. The man tells me I’ve won the Publisher’s Clearing House, and when I ask him to stop calling my phone, he growls, “Go to fucking HELL!” Looks like I’ll have another night with little sleep.
I make it to my son’s preschool just in time (mini-win) but the stress from driving so fast through the rain has my shoulders in knots. Home we go to throw together soup that never gets eaten because I forgot I had to meet Keys Express at a dealership to fashion a duplicate key for our new-to-us vehicle that the salesman (who already no longer works there) failed to tell us did not exist – a salesman who, when I requested the dealership cover the cost of the second key, also called me “Ma’am” – not in the sweet southern way, in the condescending “Shut your mouth, old woman” kind of way. They did pay for it (another win), but I quietly hope his departure from the dealership was not on his terms. That’s where my mind is, wishing termination upon dude-bro males with greasy hair.
I race across town to get my oldest a non-dude-bro haircut. This makes us 15 minutes late to his football practice which he is not happy about. Neither am I. The parking lot near the field is blocked, so I drag our chairs and over-stuffed backpack a half mile. The baby falls within the first 10 feet, and now his elbow is bleeding and he is howling. Earlier that morning, I’m pretty sure I broke my toe, and at this point, it is taped together, throbbing, and I am about to crack. I scoop up my youngest and shout at my two oldest to slow down and wait for me. I’ve been shouting a lot this week.
Wednesday starts out like all the rest – urging children along through their dressing and their breakfast and into their car seats with tricky buckles. We drop the oldest at school as the bell rings, and the two little ones and I make it downtown in time for a women’s group and story hour at a local church. It’s the first week, and I feel a calm come once the coffee hits my lips and a kind woman calls me over to sit down. “I needed a familiar face this morning,” I tell her and she smiles. She has three grown boys. She survived. She gives me hope, and the knots in my shoulders relax.
As I pull in the driveway two hours later, I am met by a sticky note on my door. “Please come see me” it reads. It’s from our neighbor. I unpack our things and take my boys by the hand across the street where I’m met by an angry man and an Animal Control officer. The neighbor shouts that our cat has to go. “You have to get rid of it! I’ve had enough!” The neighborhood animals and all variety of rodents have gotten into his greenhouse again, and I’m bearing the brunt of his anger. He doesn’t have names for the other owners.
In the midst of the man’s outburst, my middle son looks up at me and asks, “We have to get rid of the kitties, Mama?” I don’t answer. He pulls at my hand. “Mama, do we have to get rid of the kitties?” I can’t answer him. The tears are right under the surface, and I can’t break in front of this shouting, red-faced man. I let him know we will take care of it, then throw my littlest over my shoulder and retreat back across the street. When I hit the safety of our driveway, I burst into a mess of embarrassment and frustration in front of the officer who kindly gives me a minute to collect myself, but there’s no point. The floodgates have opened, and I cannot take one more thing this week.
I cry most of the afternoon, and I think the neighbor’s shouting has triggered some memory of helplessness or humiliation. Maybe both. I’m not even a cat person.
I pick up my oldest from school and sit him down to break the news. “Blaze has got to go, buddy. We have to find him a new home.” I try to explain as simply as possible what has happened, but he boils over and I see his eyes go wide as he fights back the tears and rattles off any number of alternatives. Slowly, I explain that we don’t have a choice on this one. “But I keep giving you good ideas, Mama, and you won’t try them.” Mama can’t try anything else this week. Mama is throwing up her hands in surrender. Mama needs to lay down and accept defeat.
I call the Humane Society to turn over the cat. I re-tape my swollen toe. I cancel on a friend who’ll understand why I can’t fit in one more thing. I punch out a few paragraphs to redistribute some of the weight on my brain. I have one more day to get through before the weekend reprieve. My husband is on his way home, and I am counting the hours until I have someone to fall into, someone to help me carry the load. My safety net is wearing thin, the strands of rope unraveling, snapping one by one as each new problem stacks on my shoulders. I think of the parents with no net, who always bear the weight alone, steel themselves against these tiny pin pricks that bruise and bleed into one another.
These problems are small, and when looked at individually, they feel silly and insignificant. It’s easy to trivialize my reaction to them, and I usually do. I am overly emotional. I am too sensitive. I am weak.
But I am not these things. I am a helper and a doer and a lover and a poet, who has broad, strong shoulders that can carry countless things and has bigger, wiser feelings that show me when it’s time to set things down. Today I have nothing left to give, but I have the wisdom that comes with a sensitive heart and a partner who picks up the load when my shoulders get tired. I just need that partner to drive a little faster.