I talk to a lot of moms, and I read a lot of mom blogs, and I've realized something over the past few months. All of us who have young children are fighting the same battles.
We all feel like our spouses (note the gender neutral) could do more something. We all feel like we're stretched too thin. We all feel that "caregiver fatigue" that I talked about the other day sometimes. We're all not quite sure how we're ever going to get through everything we have to do in the next week/day/hour. All of us are past the "just starting out" phase, but not quite to the "financially secure" phase, so one unexpected emergency can set us back - sometimes way back - and that's scary. Some of us are dealing with the big homewreckers - addiction, adultery, abuse. Some of us are dealing with serious stuff that pushes us to our limits - our spouse's or our own depression, conflicts over finances, lack of intimacy in our marriages, serious conflicts in parenting style, or an illness in our family (whether self, spouse, or child). Some of us are dealing with our aging parents, already, and the "sandwich generation" things that our parents have complained about - where your small kids really need you and your parents really need you and you have no time for yourself.
I'll bet that every single person reading can relate to a lot of the above. I promise I'm not breaking one friend's confidence, here. These observations are the aggregate of a hundred conversations I've had and a thousand blog posts I've read. We're ALL going through it, and a lot of us are going through a lot of it at once.
I know, for me, that when I think about everything at once, it's easy to get seriously overwhelmed. When I find myself doing that, I have to consciously stop and remind myself that I can only do one thing at a time, and I only have to get through one minute at a time.
We all have that image in our mind of the perfect mom, and someone we know in real life who seems to be her. Her house is clean and her bank account is balanced and in the black. Her husband is gorgeous and successful, maybe she has her own successful career, maybe not. She's gorgeous. Her kids are always dressed in matching clothes, and they never have snot or spit up or yesterday's lunch in their hair. I promise you, though, you're comparing your every-day to her best-foot-forward. What you see isn't her true reality, not all the time. Underneath it all she is every bit as overwhelmed as you are, as I am, because we ALL are. (I think half the reason Pinterest is so popular is because it's selling the best-foot-forward. Pinterest speaks directly to our wish to be the mom with the perfect house and the perfectly organized kid's craft station that gets used daily for wholesome, educational, creative play, and the adorable professional looking cupcakes for the party and the perfectly balanced and delicious meal made from scratch using whole, natural, locally grown ingredients and and AND.... Pinterest promises that we can be that girl, if only we have the right set of instructions).
I think it's going to get a lot easier once all the kids are in school full time. Not only will they be better able to take care of their own basic needs, by then, but they'll also be out of the house more and we'll have more time for ourselves (unless you homeschool, in which case, good luck! I hope you have a good babysitter on speed dial!). I've been told that we're building the foundation now, as parents-of-toddlers, that will inform how our experiences as parents-of-teenagers turn out. (So build wisely!) The challenges will change, but at least they'll be able to wipe their own butts and noses by then.
As for our marriages, I think we need to remember that this (whatever this is) isn't forever. It won't always be this hard. We'll have room and time to breathe again. Soon. In the meantime, it's important for all of us to remember why we got married in the first place. Make a list of the things that you loved about your spouse when you were engaged, and tape it to the visor on your car. Look at it at every stoplight. Of course you shouldn't put up with a situation that is unsafe for you or your kids, but if the thing putting your marriage in jeopardy is in any way temporary or fixable, you owe it to yourself and your family to try to fix it or ride it out. I've talked to divorced friends, too, and it is not something you want to do unless it is completely unavoidable. Divorce comes with its own set of really serious problems - you're just trading one for the other. My best advice is to try to be the kind of person that you would want to be married to, and to remember that almost everything can be temporary.
In the meantime, keep your sense of humor and your perspective, cut yourself and your spouse some slack, lean on your friends and your family (and be supportive of them, too, when you can), and hold on. It gets better.