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Attempting to strike a “balance” in any area of my life has always been challenging — to say the least. I gravitate towards excess — one of those “don’t know when to stop” folks — so it’s not uncommon for me to listen to the same newly released song on a loop until I hate it, overload myself at work until I burnout, or, as a mom, spend so much time with my kids I end up touched out, far too invested in the latest Peppa Pig plot point, and speaking in the third person a la Sesame Street’s Elmo.

And this was pre-COVID, mind you. Now that I’ve spent four months pretending to be a homeschool teacher, working from home as I shelter in place with two small humans, any semblance of balance I was able to strike between motherhood and the other aspects of my life has all but vanished. I can’t recall the last time I spent even 30 minutes away from my children. I haven’t hugged anyone who doesn’t live with me in… who the hell knows how long. My job is the only reason why the last four months’ worth of conversations haven’t focused solely on Paw Patrol

Of course, this extra time with my children has been welcomed in many respects. I’m privileged to still have a job, to still be able to pay rent, and to be able to stay home and keep myself and my family safe, so there’s been moments when the world has felt simpler. Slower. Just three people big. 

But in the absence of any sort of reprieve, it’s also incredibly clear that I’m spending way, way too much time with my children. All the multitasking, the overwhelm, and the fact that my kids are convinced mom is the only person who can help them with anything (Dad is literally right there, you guys), makes it obvious. And I know I’m not the only one who feels as if her children have somehow adhered themselves to her person, transforming into some kind of very loud extra limb no one asked for or needs. So if any of the following ring true for you, well, at least you know you’re in good company. 

1. You’re dangerously close to ending work emails with popular kids’ TV characters signature sign-offs

Recently, I sent an email to my managing editor that ended with, “And remember: Elmo loves you.” True story. My two sons were watching ‘Elmo’s Playdate this wonderful Sesame Street episode meant to help children better understand why they’re staying home and only seeing their friends via Zoom and my fingers ended up typing what my ears were hearing. 

Thank the tech gods for that “unsend button,” otherwise I would have likely died of embarrassment. But this is what happens when I’m trying to work and parent simultaneously, relying on the crew of Sesame Street to entertain my children as I attempt to keep up with my deadlines and timely deliverables.  

2. Your response to studies that show moms spend too much time with their kids with, “Well, f*cking obviously. We need a study for this?!”

In 2015, a study out of the University of Maryland found that, for moms, “the pressure to spend so much quality time with her children means all parents — working and stay-at-home — schedule both professional and housework around the children’s activities to maximize this presumed critical time together — at the detriment to all parties’ emotional well-being.” 

Well, no sh*t. People actually spent money to “study” this? If scientists had merely paid a visit to my house, me and my brood would have proved their hypothesis in a matter of minutes. 

If your reaction to this study is the same, it’s because you’re living it. 

3. You’re feeling touched out

For the uninitiated, being “touched out” occurs when you’ve spent so much time in close physical contact with your child — be it breastfeeding or becoming a human jungle gym for your toddler — that the thought of them, or anyone else, touching you again is grossly off-putting. Humans are affectionate animals, yes, but we also need space! And when that space is taken from us, our senses can become overloaded. 

If the thought of your kid giving you even one more hug, adorable though they may be, chances are you’re spending far too much time with them. 

4. You have a kindergartener’s palate

Suddenly, you’re craving frozen chicken nuggets over mushroom and onion risotto. You’d gladly pass up a delicious vegetable biryani in favor of a Tombstone pepperoni pizza. And a bubbling bowl of french onion soup? Hard pass. Just hand over a bowl of neon yellow Kraft macaroni and cheese, please. 

5. You have a favorite cup

Just like your unforgiving toddler, you have a favorite cup and heaven help you if someone serves you a drink in anything else. You can’t really say why it’s your favorite, but it is. And you certainly can’t understand why any other cup in your home can’t just magically become this cup — this one, perfect up — and end up overly emotional about this travesty on a far-too-regular basis. 

6. You loudly announce everything you have done, will do, or are doing

Need to go to the bathroom? Time to tell your entire household about it (especially if it’s to poop, because duh). Just completed one small task in a succession of tasks? Better make sure everyone around you knows, then promptly congratulates you accordingly. 

Like your children, you have found yourself needing to narrate every single aspect of your daily life — especially the most mundane parts literally no one cares about — so you can be showered in praise and applauded for the magical human you are. 

7. Once you start telling a story, you can’t stop

Discussing the latest episode of Grey’s Anatomy suddenly divulges into this one episode of Will & Grace you just love, which morphs into a conversation about the 1996 movie, The Birdcage, which somehow leaves you talking about that class pigeon you took home for a week in the second grade, and before you know it you’re discussing this country’s inability to adequately pay and support educators. 

Channeling your child — who, let’s face it, just can’t stop talking once they start — you’re no longer able to stop one train of thought from plowing straight into another. You’re not the best storyteller, but you’ve got stories for days. 

8. You’re jealous of your kids’ time outs

Look at them, sitting there able to enjoy some time alone. They actually have a chance to sit quietly and think! About one thing! At a time! No one is allowed to talk to them and they’re not allowed to do anything else and… they’re… complaining?! Someone should put me in timeout! I need a timeout! Can someone please put me in timeout for, say, a month?! 

9. Going four months without touching another human being sounds like heaven

The grass isn’t always greener. Thou shalt not covet. Bla bla bla. Everything is relative, of course, and the rational part of my brain can safely say that while sheltering in place with children is challenging, spending an untold number of months in complete isolation from other people sounds objectively worse. People are lonely, and they’re lacking physical connection with others, and even the most overwhelming day with my children sounds a little easier to navigate than complete seclusion.

Except for when my 1-year-old throws a toy at my big toe and my 5-year-old won’t stop crying because he can’t go to the park and lunch is burning and now my 1-year-old is in a cabinet and throwing tea bags everywhere and I have a Zoom meeting in five minutes and everything has gone to hell. At that moment, a month in quarantine all by my lonesome sounds like a goddamn vacation. 

10. You’re doubling up on birth control

Ha. Just kidding. Or am I?

We’re in it, moms. We’re caring for our kids, educating our kids, and trying to entertain our kids without the support of our proverbial “villages.” So many of us don’t have access to child care, can’t rely on the help of our parents, and trips to the local children’s museum or playground are just not an option. We are our children’s only source of amusement, and I, for one, have run out of tricks. 

But as the often said platitude goes, one day we’ll look back at these moments with fondness and nostalgia. I don’t have to “embrace the suck” because ”they grow up so fast” and eventually I’ll be waving goodbye as they leave my house for whatever adventure and heartbreak adulthood awaits them. There will be no “cherishing these moments” because, face it, there’s a lot to dislike about these moments. But time has smoothed over many other difficult points in my life. I have no doubt it will do the same now. And when it does, I’ll probably laugh about that one time I almost sent “Elmo loves you” to my boss.

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