What You Don’t See

If you follow me on Instagram, from the photos of my home and garden you’d think my life while sheltering in place has been pretty chill and stress-free. After reading a NYT parenting article on the social media performance of parenthood, I started writing about the things in my life that you don’t see: the outtakes, the lulls between images, the breakdowns.

I described how bedtime with a 23-month-old is hard. How I eat food off the floor because it’s easier than cleaning it up. How my mouth is full of canker sores from stress and my back aches because I don’t have time to do yoga anymore. How Emilia throws my phone across the room because she constantly sees me on it and knows she competes with it for my attention. How I can’t wait each day to escape to the tiny house to work — and not be the one on toddler duty. How I cry and tell myself I’m not a mother.

I went on and on, even using the repetition of “what you don’t see” to make it more dramatic, and it just felt off. I let it sit for a while, then revisited it last night and deleted it. How can I complain about my life at a time like this, when people are dying and families are trying to survive?

Last month, a quote came up in my Instagram feed, in one of Mary Laura Philpott’s posts:

One person’s more-sad doesn’t cancel out another person’s less-sad… Our personal concerns don’t go away just because the world is going up in flames on a global scale. That’s not how it works.

I Miss You When I Blink

In her caption, she wrote:

“If you feel bad about feeling bad about something that’s bad but not THAT bad… you’re not bad. There’s a wiiiiiiide range of hurt out there, now and always. We’re capable of feeling for ourselves, feeling for others, and feeling for the world at large. 💗

I was reminded of this — that there’s a wide range of hurt out there, and that it’s okay for me to admit and say out loud that I’m struggling right now. I’m currently safe, I’m currently healthy, I have a home, I have a job, and my loved ones are fine so far.

But I’m still struggling.

Published by Cheri Lucas Rowlands

Senior editor at Longreads / Automattic

8 thoughts on “What You Don’t See

  1. Dearest Cheri just remember the age old saying “This too shall pass”! Keep blogging you are doing a great job!

  2. Wellcome into the club girl 🙂 yeaah… we forgot, this suppose to be just life. Stocks of problems to be solved. Some seems to be bigger than other people’s, but that’s an illusion. everyone fights his own battle. the thing that matters most is someone at your side, who will be there when we feel weak. now you are that one for your kid. your hard times can teach him/her how to fight when she’ll grow. be safe 🙂

  3. Sending love and strength and – as a friend always says to me – solidarity. The early years are incredibly tough. N is just over three-and-a-half now and it’s definitely easier than it was, mainly because he sleeps through the night and that can make all the difference – though it’s still incredibly challenging at times. Hang in there – this is the toughest gig in the world but you will – slowly – reclaim yourself; not the same self perhaps, but you’ll figure it out. You’ve got this. x

  4. Oh, sweetie…I so remember those feelings…even tho it has been almost 50 years since my daughter has seen 23 months! it is impossible, I think to go thru motherhood without guilt of some kind. But your struggle is no less impacting than another’s–this you know. But know this: we watch, we listen, we love you.

  5. Thank you. It takes courage to share this part of you.

    You are a mighty fine human being.

  6. If you have the time – or feel like it! – you can read this post :
    Many of us suffered just like you and regret the freedom of the before-a-parent-time. I’m now 47 and remember very very well when it was “my money, my time, my dreams, my life, my choices”.
    This person I used to be has disappeared and I don’t really know if we’ll meet again. Which is sad, because I liked her.

    Love from France.

  7. Argh, the comparisons thing. Yeah, I hear you.

    But it so quickly turns into a kind of imposter-syndrome-in-another-form. There’s the bad way of expressing it, with self-importance and zero empathy for others, or even a holier(miserabler?)-than-thou attitude to it. That stuff is obnoxious. But there’s a better, truer way, and you’re doing it here. Because pain *is* relative. Always. Even within our own lives, one experience that’s vastly harder than another can feel easier because of something different in the mix, something changed in our ability to deal with it. There is no moral heirarchy of feeling bad, and there is no perfectly-calibrated comparative scale of it either…

    I’m so sorry you’re struggling.

    And we do want to listen, because in this specific case, this *is* about you, not the whole world.

  8. I can so relate. We recently started keeping our two grandkids four afternoons a week, and just that often feels overwhelming. So much energy, busyness, drama! All in all, enriching. But . . . a struggle, too.

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