I broke down last night.
I went to the office, Lucas in tow. It was a long day, but productive. I completed a good amount of correspondence. I got feedback on various concerns. I got some writing done. I even filed for some reimbursement. All this, between breastfeeding, changing diapers, and putting Lucas to sleep, with plenty of help from my officemates. Oneal picked us up at the end of the day.
By all accounts, it was a good day, but by the time we were on the road, I was exhausted. My body ached from carrying Lucas in the carrier all day. I was drained from switching between work mode and mom mode, and all I wanted to do on the way home was close my eyes and pass out.
That didn’t happen. Lucas was also tired, and after being quiet and cheerful all day, he decided that this was the time to start crying. From Pioneer Street, to C5, past McKinley Road, until Libingan ng mga Bayani, through what felt like never-ending traffic, he screamed and cried and fidgeted. Nothing I did could quiet him. No amount of playing or distraction or singing would calm him.
Eventually I gave up, and just sat back, watching him cry. My chest hurt. I was near tears myself. All I could think was, “Please stop crying” and “Please sleep, please just sleep.” And constantly, “I’m so tired. I’m so, so tired. I’m just so tired.”
Eventually Lucas fell asleep, a few tears still rolling down his round, pink cheeks. When that happened, I grabbed a pillow, buried my face in it, and started crying. First, just a few tears, streaming down my face. Soon, sobs, my chest heaving. Then low wails, my entire body shaking, my breath ragged.
I couldn’t even find the words for how I felt. All I could think was that I was just tired, endlessly tired, and why couldn’t Lucas just sleep so I could close my eyes for a few moments? From the driver’s seat, Oneal heard me sobbing, and he couldn’t even ask what was wrong for fear of waking Lucas.
Eventually the tears slowed. I rested my head on the pillow, staring outside the window, too tired to even think about why I was so upset. We made it home, and Oneal opened my door, finally able to ask what was wrong. All I could say was, “I’m so tired,” before burying my face in his shoulder, the sobs returning. Beside me, in the car seat, Lucas woke, and started crying.
“I’ll take care of him. Go upstairs and rest,” Oneal told me. We went through the motions: dinner, giving Lucas a bath, feeding, putting him to sleep in the crib, falling asleep, feeding in the early hours of the morning.
In the morning, in tears, I found the words.
I wasn’t just physically tired. I was tired of thinking about so many things, all the time.
I was always thinking about Lucas, already a checklist of a million things. But I was also always thinking about the household needs. The groceries. When I would be able to buy them. Our menu for the week. Whether we were having enough vegetables. Doing laundry. Folding the laundry. The increasing pile of clothes that need ironing. Finding a yaya. Training a yaya. Planning our schedule for the week. Making sure Oneal takes medicine. Making sure there’s toilet paper in the bathroom. Making sure there’s soap in the shower. Millions of things.
Plus work. And a writing gig.
I was always thinking about ten million things. And there was just no time or energy left.
And I was supposed to take care of myself. Do things that made me happy. Stay healthy. How could I possibly?
The sheer volume of the things that needed doing, on top of taking care of Lucas, was crushing me, and there was just nothing left. I felt like an automaton, powered by a list of tasks, day in day out. Completing these tasks, ticking them of my checklist, didn’t bring me joy. That only meant that I could move on to the next thing, and the next, and the next, and again the next day.
Changing the bed sheets used to bring me so much joy: I would take a moment to roll on the bed, to smell the clean sheets, to hug the pillows in their new cases, before smoothing out the bed and looking forward to a good night’s sleep. But I no longer had a moment to enjoy even that.
I told Oneal that he had to take care of me, because self-care just wasn’t on my list of things to do, not these days. I remembered Lucas’s vitamins, Dad’s pan de sal, Oneal’s deodorant, but never my calcium or iron, or my OB appointment, or the foot spa I’ve wanted for the past six months. Taking time for myself just never seemed like an option, because there were too many other things that needed doing, that were more important.
Eventually the torrent of words stopped, and so did the tears. And we talked about about what we could do so I wouldn’t feel so overwhelmed.
All my life I’d gotten used to seeing tasks that needed doing, and doing them myself instead of delegating. For years I’d taken care of this household, and other people. For years I juggled multiple responsibilities.
I know I don’t have to do everything on my own. But it’s hard to kick the habit, and I need saving from my own relentless busy-ness.
How do I do that?