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On July 13, 2019, my son Joey came into the world screaming at the injustice of having a man in blue scrubs tear him from his home in a dark, warm womb and thrust him into a hell of bright lights and cold hands.
When I was sitting in the hallway outside the operating room and satisfied my wife Flora, and the baby were both healthy, my mind started giving me visions of how my life would change, but I never realized how much I would miss having free time and sleep.
Since bringing him home three days later, Joey has insisted on staying awake at night when his mother and I are trying to sleep. I’ll admit, Flora gets the brunt of it since she’s breastfeeding. I haven’t evolved milk glands, so all I’m responsible for is burping and changing stinky diapers in the middle of the night.
Sometimes, she takes pity on me and handles my duties and lets me sleep, but if I hear Joey crying his pitiful wail, I’ll roll out of bed and help if I can.
During the day, Flora is either tending to the baby or working. She went back to work two weeks ago because, like me, she is an over-thinker, and our pile of bills sitting on the dresser is getting bigger every day. Of course, she lied and told me she wanted to work because she felt bored, but I know the score.
We spend our days, from morning until night, doing laundry, dishes, cooking, cleaning, errands, shopping, diapers, and cleaning throw up. When Joey is sleeping, we find time to work at our respective jobs. Flora teaches English, and I write essays and publish them on a few websites.
I work when I can. I generally get interrupted every 10 minutes or so, but if I fit a few minutes here, and an hour there, I can get done what needs doing. I managed to publish on Elephant Journal twice and on Medium five times this week. And, this work isn’t a rush job that I throw out on the web because I want to look like I’m producing. These are well-thought-out pieces that I edit and proof like a maniac. I don’t publish anything unless I can say it’s my best work.
To add to the mix, Zoey, my daughter, has been at home for the past month, so I’ve been knee-deep in second-grade English and math. I kept her home because here in the Philippines, the cases of Dengue Fever have gone up dramatically and the only way I know to keep Zoey away from the infected mosquitoes is to regulate her environment. There are no bugs in this house, and I feel safer knowing that.
You can imagine the panic I felt—as someone who suffers from anxiety and is an over-thinker—when I heard children were dying because they were bitten by mosquitoes at school. I couldn’t sleep for days. Now, I have to decide when she can go back because I know she is getting behind. I either have to start homeschooling her permanently or send her back and let her take her chances.
It’s not an easy choice I’m having.
The combination of a new baby, a talkative seven-year-old, and working trying to create a brand for my writing have been making my stress go through the roof.
But there is always something I must always think about, mental illness. I have it, and it’s not a passing bug.
The past two months have been good for me. There has been some depression and the undercurrent of anxiety that makes my heart flutter, and my stomach hurt. There have been voices in the quiet parts of the day and night, which have been few recently.
I always have to be aware of my moods, so if something goes awry, I can take the appropriate steps to make sure my family doesn’t suffer. I can’t afford to have an episode right now. There is no space in my life for something that debilitating.
I keep taking my medication. I sleep as much as I can. I try to eat healthily, so my body and brain have enough nutrients to fight back when anything tries to take me down.
I keep a smile on my face and a spring in my step because Flora is an empath like me and she absorbs any negativity like a sponge. I can’t have her in a bad mood because when upset, she makes the wheels stop turning. She is the lubrication that keeps this machine I call a life running, and I need to make sure she is happy and fed, appreciated, loved, kissed, and shown that she is the queen of this kingdom and she can have whatever she wants.
My wife aside, I have to do the same to myself. I have to keep telling myself that I’m doing all the right things at the right time. I have to keep my feet on this rocky path because if I falter, I’ll lose any progress I’ve made recently.
My day-to-day plan comprises thousands of tiny pieces, and if one part fails, the whole thing fails. I have to keep my pieces in order.
Whether you’re a parent or not, we all have daily challenges that test our limits. Most of you reading this are trying to make a go of writing or another creative endeavor, and if you want to win this race, not only do you have to keep your pieces in order, but you have to do whatever it takes to keep your machine oiled.
There are a few things that work for me every day that I want to share with you on the off chance something I put down may help you. I know from personal experience and from reading all the great work by my writer friends that you never know when a little piece of information will help your situation.
May these be of benefit:
Have a plan but don’t expect to stick to it. If your days are crazy like mine, keeping to a plan is impossible. Any goals you may have will take a back seat to an emergency. An emergency can be anything from a sudden sickness to an impossibly full diaper.
Keep a positive attitude if you can. This is your life, so enjoy it. Keep a smile and wear it proudly. This is especially important if you spend your day side-by-side with a partner or spouse. Most people are sponges, and your bad mood can turn into their bad mood.
Take care of yourself. Eat, get plenty of rest, drink lots of H20, and pay attention to your mental health. You have one body and one mind. You spend all your time with both, so you better take care of them.
That’s it, no 12-step programs or fancy lists. Keep it simple. That’s what I always say.
Parenting is not the only hard job, but admit it, it’s crazy-hard. I’ve solved linear algebra problems easier. If you combine the needs of your family with the need to make money to support that family, you are going to get tired and stressed.
Remember parenting or anything you do that’s important is worthwhile, and the effort you put in will reap dividends in the end.
Know your struggle is noble and you should be happy in the knowledge that you are winning at life.