Why The Hell Do I Put Myself Through This?

There are those days. Those days start at midnight when your 7 year old wakes you up because she has explosively vomited a four egg-and-cheese omelette down the side of her bed and the putrid mess has leached so far past the sheets that it has permeated the very springs of the mattress itself.

You clean her and the bed up as best you can one-handed because you’re holding your sleeping infant in the other arm. You can’t set him down because he’s cutting a tooth. He’s spent all day either gnawing your nipple raw or screaming and pulling at your shirt in an effort to get back on the boob and you’ll be goddamned if you’ll risk waking him up now, not even for omelette puke.

Your daughter stays home from school the next morning and watches tv. Well, not really tv because you cancelled cable years ago, but you let her watch nature documentaries from National Geographic that you stream though Netflix. She looks up at you and says, “I’m hungry.”

No doubt, kid. You left your dinner between the sheets and the boxsping 12 hours ago.

“What sounds good to you?”

“Not eggs.”

No. No, I suppose not.

Toast would be good. Dry toast. But you don’t have any bread in the house because you haven’t made any and you don’t just buy bread on a regular basis like normal people. You have a few jars of yogurt left but let’s face it, yogurt is awfully close to eggs when you are judging what foods you’d prefer not to deal with, should your kid reintroduce them to the world a half-hour after eating.

The kid is hungry now, so you can’t really wait the 3 hours it would take to make a loaf of bread. You could buy a loaf – people do that – but your daughter is in no position to walk to the store, and if you put the infant in the car seat it will be the longest, loudest, most painful 7 minute drive of your life.  On three hours of interrupted sleep you aren’t sure you wouldn’t drive into a telephone pole, possibly on purpose. The infant is still leeched to your breast and in an effort to keep him calm you are holding him in such away that your lower back has gone into regular spasms.

You take a deep breath and tell your daughter you will see what you can come up with. You bend down to check the lower shelf of the freezer for inspiration and hear something crack ominously. You are now old enough that bending to 90-degrees is an act of cacophonic heroism.

The crack hurts. You mutter a word one shouldn’t say in front of children. Possibly a few of them. Your daughter – who, when engaged in any activity of her own choosing will not hear you if you yell her name from four feet away – hears your choice vocabulary and, from two rooms over, admonishes: “MOM!!! You swore!”

“Fuck right I did!” you yell back before you can stop yourself.

Damnit, that was the wrong thing to say. But the sleep, you see, the sleep. It’s hard without the sleep.

And now you feel guilty because you know you shouldn’t have sworn, and you know the shooting pain that is spreading from the crack in your knee all the way up to your neck isn’t the result of looking for food for your daughter. No, if you are really honest with yourself, you were poking in the freezer looking for a stash of caffeinated coffee and possibly – just possibly – dark chocolate.

Your stomach feels warm. It’s nice. You think how, even though the infant won’t stop screaming and nursing, when he sleeps like this, cradled in your arms, against your chest and stomach, he is the most incredible, wonderful little creature. And then you realize the warm is also wet. He has managed to pee sideways, around his diaper, and all down your shirt. You look down at this little bundle and, for the first time in days, he is smiling.

Little bastard.

There is no caffeinated coffee in the house. There is no cereal in the house because you haven’t made granola. There is no bread in the house because you didn’t start a batch last night. There is nothing that can be microwaved into edibility in the house. And this is because, most days, this is how you like to live: homemade, frugal, consciously, garden-centered.

But right now, at this exact moment, you would give anything to have paper plates and paper towels and Pop-Tarts and microwave dinners and those ludicrous pre-hard-boiled-and-peeled eggs that cost a dollar each on hand. You’d write someone a $1000 check to go to Costco – no, let’s go really crazy and send them to Wal-Mart, that great corporate evil – and just buy you stuff. Stuff you could mindlessly enjoy without thought to what underpaid worker made it, or with what petroleum derivative it was made. Stuff you could use once and throw away and forget about. Stuff you don’t need and don’t have room for, but that holds the promise of solution. Stuff you can’t afford and barely want, but that advertises the ability to makes your life just a tiny, tiny bit easier.

Can you help me, Barbie? Can you?

Because to hell with frugality and your urban homesteader cred. To hell with your carbon footprint and your culinary standards. To hell with health and environmental sustainability. To hell with global warming and peak oil and the evils of monocrop deserts of corn. To hell with all of it.

All you want is a branded Starbucks cup in your hand and 14 hours of uninterrupted sleep and the knowledge that it’s okay to do anything you have to do to get by.

But somewhere, deep in your heart, deeper even than the sleep deprivation, you know that you’ve had all that stuff and it never really helped anyway. It was hope, packaged in appealing bottles and boxes and sold disguised as cleaning products and wrinkle creams and convenience food and home organizers. But it was always only hope in a bottle.

And so you just carry on and do what you do.

You make your daughter a strawberry smoothie with berries you froze last summer. It soothes her throat. You get your son a new cloth diaper and get him adjusted into the baby carrier. You begin to make chicken broth with a frozen carcass you uncovered while pawing around for coffee. Everyone will have chicken soup for lunch. By then you might even get a loaf of bread together. You call your husband. You tell him to pick up some real coffee on the way home. Something fair trade and shade grown and caffeinated for godssakes.

It’ll be okay. You’ll get through this, even if you never get into a clean shirt today. You look out the window and see the beauty and potential of the garden. The garden is hope that manifests. Everything is better in a garden.

The cats are using the tender seedlings you just set out as their litter box.


  1. says

    Do you know how many times I wanted to chuck my kid out the window? And when he got teeth and discovered biting my nipples – he didn't do what the experts say and stop, oh no. HE BIT HARDER!! We switched to bottles. Tea bags help. Like a poultice.

    I love him though, very very much. But there are definitely times when I feel like you did in this post.

  2. says

    I almost peed MY pants this was so funny, and it should be noted, that's because I haven't had the chance to make it to the bathroom in hours. Isn't it interesting how we can put off our own needs for so long when our kids need us? Excellent post- I feel your pain acutely. If I could, I would drive over with poptarts. Wait, I don't have any of those either….

  3. says

    Ugh.. what a day! I have to say I am sorry I talked about the coffee yesterday :) Hang in there and hope for a better day today. Feel free to send me a message or call if I can indulge any of your caffeine needs in the future. Us moms have to stick together.

  4. says

    Good times. I personally would have headed straight for the liquor cabinet when the coffee thing didn't work out. We put ourselves through it because just when we think we can't do it for another damn minute, they giggle or tell you they love you. And we need someone to change OUR diapers one day.

  5. -Heidi says

    lol! I'm sorry for laughing… but my three are all grown up!

    I was once a young single parent with three in diapers at one time… a newborn, a one year old, and my oldest in potty training. I felt like I was going to lose my mind! I could so relate to your post!

    You are such a good mommy!

  6. says

    LOL.. perfect story to add to the "joys of Parenting" book… the real story of your childhood from a parent(s) perspective.

  7. says

    OMG, it's my life. Only my darling son wouldn't latch, he just bit. And bit. And bit. Nurses, lactation specialists, and midwives all paraded through my hospital room, and later my home, solemnly examining my boobs and handing out the same tired advice that never worked. It got to the point that if a stranger walked in, I hauled out a boob and handed it to them. The housing inspector was a little surprised…

    He never stopped biting and I was just proud that I hadn't ever thrown him across the room. So we started formula, and that began two years of dealing with the Nursing Nazis, whose disapproval is legion.

    He never really slept, either. Like for two years. Rlly. And when he was awake, he was screaming. Often, I was, too. I look back and wonder how either of us survived. I don't remember much, except that for two years about all I ever said was, "I will not kill my only child. I will not kill my only child." I'd longed for 25 years to be a mom. That's two and a half decades of pastel, cooing fantasies, up in a puff of baby powder and projectile vomiting. That's a lot of disillusionment for one sleep-deprived, middle-aged mommy!

    He's six now, and I still love him with all my heart and soul, and he's still busy ruining all my fantasies and enriching my life…

  8. says

    Such a cruel world sometimes, that's for sure. I do recall those days, though our kids are only 2 years apart, having both sick at once is no fun for anyone.

    Being sustainable in winter is no fun at all either. That's why some creative folks invented convenience foods and commercial preservation. I'm not advocating those foods, but rationalizing their existance. We're definitely in what was once the lean months, and where you're going back to. Freezing bread helps, but you made it through, which is all that one can expect in times like these. Bravo! Get some much needed rest and hope your family gets better.

  9. says

    Delicious. Witty, and hilariously delicious! And hoe leaning as a tag? You are my kind of mama I tell you. Next time this happens, remember this- I may not have any home made bread for you (you need to teach me that too) and I may not have a dead chicken carcass to make you stock out of, BUT directly seated between my house and your is the PCC, and I am happy to stop there on my way to help a fellow mama in need ;).

  10. LF says

    Oh LOVE IT LOVE IT LOVE IT :) This totally made me laugh, and I've had so many days like this thank you for sharing!!!

  11. says

    That was so refreshing, hilarious! Made my day! Brought up memories. My kids are aside of one all out of the house now.
    I think most of us probably have been in similar places. I become unpleasant after some days of little sleep >lol< Please keep your humor for the Teenage years, you will need it even more so.
    Hope today will be better for you.
    I got a tip for you, put a stash of sliced bread into the freezer, separated by waxed paper. You can take single slices out and pop them in the toaster to thaw.

  12. says

    What an awesome last line! Such was the fate of the last two sets of seedlings at my house. They now live in the kitchen where she Wouldn't. Even. Dare. I hope.

    And I can completely sympathize with that moment of wishing that the Evil Empires would just make it all better. Barbie branded Pop Tarts from WalMart: Does it *get* any better than that?

  13. says

    thanks for your shameless self-promotion over at Apron Strings, this is a great post! full of the raw humor of real life. i love it!
    i also just love a cussin' mama. i hate to start a vicious self-promting cycle, but i can't help but wonder if you read my post from something like a year ago, entitled, "Sleep: Rated R for Language"
    sorry i'm not savvy enough to turn that into a link. how did you do that, tricky lady?

  14. Anonymous says

    You are as good a writer as Erma Bombeck – my old favorite! A little more Urban Homesteadie though, LOL.

  15. says

    This is so funny because you are so honest. It made me laugh out loud. I'm not a mom, but I want to share it because I think a lot of women can appreciate it.

  16. says

    fabulous post. I no longer have the wee one but sure can empathize with the siren call of ready made products. you are a frugal/green warrior and here you have yet again won a battle. well done!

  17. says

    This is hilarious! Please give us a head's up when your book comes out. YOu need to write one, ya know? And because of this particular entry, I can now confess that last week after two days of back-breaking labor on plant- all-the tomato-starts-at-once-day (or two), i DROVE thru a Wendy's (that I can see from my house) and bought dinner (two giant salads, one had chili!) cuz I was so exhausted and hungry and god-forbid my lovely partner learn any culinary skills. AND i got a frosty, and it was wonderful. Don't tell anybody, btw!

  18. Ma H says

    You gotta watch the fucking swearing! I raised 9 & also experienced all these "joys," including the pure bread dilemma. Still do & spent Thanksgiving with my family gathered around while I used more swear words than I've ever used on a holiday & it felt so good! Disasters like to pile up on us, but I cannot imagine allowing myself to run out of coffee!

  19. says

    You are such a great writer. I love your blog. "Our work is our love made visible." Does that quote help at all? Would it help to tell you how frickin lonely the emptiy nest is? Probably not. Anyway,keep the faith that what you are doing is worthwhile. Supremely so. And your wonderful sense of humor will keep you going!!

  20. says

    Um, I love you. You sum it up so perfectly. It is comforting to know that other people have this same struggle, this same passion, and same stubborness to make it work, despite the work.

  21. marci says

    I like to keep homemade “Hot pockets” in the freezer – for such an eventuality :)
    They save the day on a regular basis !!!

  22. says

    Been there and done it and now my ‘done it’s’ are being there and doing it! That was a fun read! could so relate, ’cause it doesn’t really change, even after they grow up. There is still you after all and hubby too… and that keeps things seeming like they’ve never changed, not really! Gotta love life and the garden, yes the garden…lifegiver, lifesaver, and like you said,the garden is hope. Gotta say it again, just loved reading it.

  23. Linda McHenry says

    I’m forwarding this to my daughter-in-law. She teaches, has a 14month old daughter and is expecting in September. She will love you for this.

  24. Deborah Aldridge says

    You simply MUST write a book. You can’t make this shit up. Look, even when I was at the height of my greenness, I kept a stash of pure, unadulterated SHIT on hand for just such occasions. You won’t go to hell for it. Well, you might, but if you do there will be a lot of your friends there. I had flu once. My son was six. The only thing he knew how to make was peanut butter sandwiches, and I was too sick to drive the 15 miles to the nearest grocery store for anything. He made me peanut butter sandwiches and water for us and brought them to me for 3 days, until I finally got to feeling human enough to get up and go to the store. I bought junk food…pop tarts, cereal, chips, cookies, and those horrible little kiddie meal packs that he could just open and eat. I bought microwaveable meals. I bought bologna and bread and vienna sausages. We ate this crap for four more days until I felt well enough to actually cook. We survived. When it was all over, we went back to eating good, healthy food which cleaned our systems of all the crap. But it was worth it at the time. After that, we had the “crap box,” where we kept all manner of easy-to-fix-and-eat stuff for just such occasions. I used to raid it on late nights after bad days when raising a child with ODD and ADHD, working a full-time job and taking care of a 5-acre farm got to be too damned much. And do you know what gave me lupus? Not the bad food…it was, as my doctor put it, the “constant, long-term, unrelenting stress” of trying to be a perfect mom in an imperfect world. Give yourself a break and get yourself a “crap box.”

  25. says

    It’s been a few years since you wrote this but it speaks to me today! my kids are 11, 7, and 7 weeks and my husband just left for a two week trip. Oh boy, here we go!


  1. […] Why The Hell Do I Put Myself Through This? Your daughter stays home from school the next morning and watches tv. Well, not really tv because you cancelled cable years ago, but you let her watch nature documentaries from National Geographic that you stream though Netflix. She looks up at you and says, “I’m hungry.” No doubt, kid. You left your dinner between the sheets and the boxsping 12 hours ago. […]

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