Years ago, before I had two kids, I read about living a simpler life. Now, if I want to disconnect and take a walk in the woods, I must pack diapers and band aids and snacks and sunscreen, and then catch a bus and listen to Phoebe whine about tired feet before we even reach the forest.
I’m tired, too, tired of cooking from scratch and sharing a car. I just spent the morning yelling at Phoebe for not putting away her toys. I could throw away the toys. I tried that once. But I think tripping over toys is just a symptom. Phoebe is as lonely as I am—she is just trying to cope by keeping things she loves close at hand.
When I broke my phone a couple months ago, I felt cut off and had a meltdown. I screamed at Matt, “This house is my cage.” It felt like part of me was dying inside— my iPhone is a lifeline. People tell me my life would be more centered if I stuck to taking care of the house and kids. Meanwhile, friends are deleting their online accounts. They believe that social media merely distracts them from living connected lives.
I met Cherrisa through Instagram and discovered we live only 10 minutes apart. The first time we texted, we talked for hours, and I fell asleep with my phone on the pillow. A week later, she was diagnosed with cancer. When I visited her home, our girls hit it off, too, and we stayed hours longer than we’d planned. Then I cried all the way home from the thought of losing her.
Instead of being connected to The World or other moms or people online, maybe I need to try to just focus on being more connected to my kids? But I’m so exhausted I find it really hard to care about knock-knock jokes while I’m juggling a cranky baby and trying to read a text from Matt that says we can’t afford to buy a half gallon of milk.
Each day, I steal moments for painting, standing in the kitchen, while the baby chews on chips at my feet. I can earn enough for each painting I create to help put milk in the fridge. But sometimes I am stuck while she nurses, and I stare at photos on my phone from the day, preoccupied with who I am online, wondering what I’ll edit for instagram, searching my heart to find something honest and meaningful to say. But all I want to do is rest. I worry that the idea of who I am online has veered away from my actual self. So I hide on tumblr and reblog memes I didn’t write on an anonymous account.
I’m tired of eating beans and quinoa, so I make brownies, which of course spikes Phoebe’s blood sugar and she’s bouncing off the walls. I hope the sugar in my breastmilk doesn’t keep the baby awake.
I’m standing in the kitchen with Matt late at night. I ask, “Do you want me to stop working?”
“But I don’t have energy to work and do the dishes. I’m so tired.”
“I’ll do the dishes.”
“But I miss you. I’d rather spend time with you.”
“I know. I miss you, too.”
Instead of doing dishes, we watch TV, until the baby cries.
I wake up in the middle of the night and curse the brownies for screwing with my sleep rhythm. I check Instagram. One of my followers sent me a private message. She’s been struggling with motherhood, and my posts help her feel less alone. There’s something about her photos that pulls me in. I scroll back, hearting photos here and there, leaving comments, until the baby rolls over, laughs to find me awake, and tries to teethe on my phone.
I toss the phone aside. She tries to stand and crashes into my belly. Her giggles remind me of what I lose sight of: that struggling together is what connects me to her and to others and to Matt, and all of this is how we grow.