I spend a lot of my time worrying about letting people down. To my siblings, I’m the rational, nonemotional one. To my parents, I’m the one they never had to worry about. To my friends, I’m the one the checks in and makes sure everyone’s doing ok. To my guests, I’m the one who’s always making sure people are tended to. To my hosts, I’m the one who tries to RSVP immediately and offers to help clean up. To my kids, I’m their everything (with my awesome hubs, who’s their other everything).
And, you know what, being those things all the time is exhausting.
I’ve been hearing it more and more lately – you have to put your own oxygen mask on before you can help someone else.
Basically, I’ve been gasping for air.
I’ve noticed that my situational, stays in the background, undiagnosed because I refuse to acknowledge it, anxiety has decided that this is the year it makes its public debut. This is the year it rears its ugly head and makes itself big enough that I can’t disguise it. The things I used to brush off have become roadblocks. The comments I used to ignore have become daggers. The social obligations have become stifling.
And no one sees it, or no one says anything. It’s a silent scream. You’d probably only notice if you were actively looking for it. And no one was looking.
A couple months ago, when our government started separating families at the US border, I fell into a bit of depression. I was devastated watching the news stories flood my timeline and found myself in tears over and over as I tried to imagine the agony of what these families were going through. It was like 9/11. I couldn’t stop watching. I couldn’t breathe.
In that moment, I realized I needed a break from the constant repetition of gut wrenching news. I logged out of my Facebook account and didn’t log back in for 6 weeks. In recent years, I don’t love what Facebook has become anyway. A place for people to say things they’d never say face to face. A place for political memes that accomplish nothing more than hurting the people who disagree. A place to advertise, buy, trade, sell.
I kept my Instagram active, because it has remained – for the most part – a place for family photos, design inspiration, food porn, and cheeky humor.
In taking a break from Facebook, though, I noticed how much I miss my friends. It’s a hard place in life right now. I’m stretched thin working a stressful job, raising 2 little ones, attempting to be a decent wife, running a household. Probably doing it as well as some, better than others, and far worse than a few. I have many friends in a similar place. We’re all synchronized swimmers – smiling, calm faces when people are looking and desperately thrashing below the surface.
But we rarely see each other. We have so much we need from each other, and we can barely arrange a playdate, let alone a real girls night out. (And for those unaware, playdates typically mean that it can take an hour to chat through a single topic, due to the 29,382,372 interruptions from the littles during that time). Our husbands are fantastic, but we still need our girlfriends.
It’s so easy to feel lonely. It’s easy to feel so busy that the days blur one into the next and when you blink it’s been 6 days and you still haven’t returned that text message. It’s easy to see an update on social media and think your friend has it all together, when they’re really needing you as much as you’re needing them. And it’s so hard to ask for help. Especially when you’ve always been the one people come to, not the one they expect to come to them.
I’m not sure what prompted the realization, but it’s been pretty lonely as I’ve been figuring it out. I’m pretty sure I have friends who think I’m a horrible friend. I barely call (I hate talking on the phone), I forget to reply to texts, I’m unable to easily commit to plans.
I don’t have an excuse and I’m not trying to make one. I’m just imagining that if I’m feeling this way, I’m probably not the only one. I’m trying to pay attention and look to see if anyone dear to me has the same silent scream in their eyes. Sometimes I catch a glimpse of it in my friends faces, and I want them to know that I see it. Maybe I can’t fix it, and maybe we just need to ride out the storm, but I see it and I know that feeling. Sometimes that’s enough. And I hope, that when I come out of the storm, my true friends will be there waiting with open arms.
2 thoughts on “The Lonely Parent – Being Everything To Everyone Except Yourself”
Holy Crap, Jen, you are talking the entire culture. We ALL feel that way. You are SOOOOO not alone. And yet, do we know how to reach out? How to actually SEE what we are all feeling??? Nope. We all exist in this weird anti-social, self-deprivation bubble. Please. I’m so glad you see it. I’m so glad your realization is coming around. NO ONE expects you to be perfect, nor requires you to be perfect, except you. This is so enormous. That you have to blog to get our attention. That we don’t personally appreciate each other. That we hate talking on the phone. REALLY? REALLY? What the heck???!!!! Let’s just start. Talking. On the phone. Ignoring texting. I love you. I will call you tomorrow. And talk.
YES, silent scream, off FB for 3 months, and the surprising loneliness of being a loved wife and an idealized MOM.. I’m here and I resonate with your words. I enjoy our infrequent visits with our 245, 956 interruptions. And yes, you are all those things to everyone because you are an amazing and caring human being. And imperfection is the newest standard to hold yourself too. All the rage, really! You are appreciated. We see you, THANK YOU for your vulnerability.