I was home watching my three littles and my husband had just left to go pick up a small plastic kiddie pool. You know, through one of those local buy/sell/trade groups on Facebook. We had been hemming and hawing the decision to buy the pool the day before, and finally decided to go for it, since this was an especially hot summer and we thought the kids would love it.
As soon as my hubby left to pick it up, the questions started whizzing through my mind — Was it really worth the trouble? What if we don’t even end up using it? We don’t have any room to store it. We don’t even have a place to use it since we live in an apartment complex. We can use it at my parents’ house, but what if they get mad at me for bringing it over? It’s a lot of extra work for the hubby. This is going to make his already bad knee hurt. He’s going to be pissed. My parents will be mad at me.
I tried to stop the now whirling cyclone of negativity in my mind and calm myself down. Deep Breath. It’s too late now anyway, I thought. He’s already left to pick it up. It’ll be fine. Deep Breath. Then he text me:
This thing is massive! It won’t fit.
Bringing the slide home. Hav to take
seats out of van, then go back for pool.
A tingly sensation rushed down both arms. My heart was knocking against my rib cage. Painful twinges shot through my left shoulder and pectoral area. Was I having a heart attack? Could it be just a muscle spasm? Was it my heart? I’m by myself with the kids! How can I get to the hospital? Oh my God! I should never have shown him the pool. He is upset and it’s all my fault.
The tingly feeling that had started in my arms spread over my chest and back. Oh my God. Deep Breath. Deep Breath. Deep Brea– but I couldn’t focus on my breathing. Electricity buzzed through my entire upper body. I got up off the couch where I had been watching cartoons with the kids and began pacing. They of course, started to follow me around.
“What are you doing, mama? Where are you going? What are you getting? Mama! Mama!”
Attention. Pressure. Eyes. Questions. Anger. Blame. Beating down on me. Can’t take it. Have to escape. Have to hide.
I walked to the bedroom but the panic came with me. I kept going into the bathroom, but the swirling thoughts, the fear, and my two kids aged 3.5 and 22 months came with me.
Then my two-month-old baby started crying. She needed to eat. In fact, it was now almost noon and my older two needed to eat as well. I rummaged through the pantry, grabbing the first thing I could and handed it to my toddler — a bag of dried apricots…I was going to regret that later!
I needed help. Get help. I called my mom while I made a bottle for the baby. A couple sentences into our convo, she could tell this was no run of the mill freak out. “Come over,” she said.
When my hubs made it home (for the second time) and jammed that freaking pool and slide into our tiny garage, AND put the seats back into the van (OMG!) we loaded up the kids and booked it to my parents’ house. Thank God my husband understands me. I went straight to my mom, who gave me a much needed tough love session. Here is what she said:
“The reason that you get overwhelmed is that you don’t know how to prioritize. You have to be able to count to three. You have three priorities. Number one is you. You must take care of yourself first because everyone else depends on you. Number two is your kids. And number three is whatever you want – whatever you need at the time. But that’s it. One two three. Forget about everything else. If you have number one taken care of, then you can drop that off and add another one to the bottom — Kids, number three and number four. But as soon as you feel yourself starting to falter — WHOOOOSH! — you move back up and take care of number one. You take care of you. You have to.”
She just reached into my brain and pulled out a crippling habit that I was not even conscious of — giving every single thing on my list level one priority. I try to get it all done. Perfectly. Efficiently. On Time. Every. teensy. tiny. thing. The result is I either don’t get the important stuff done because I am focusing on the small stuff, or I am just so overwhelmed by the volume of IMPORTANT items that I just implode and don’t get anything done.
You see, I have a preschooler, a toddler and a newborn. That right there is more than enough to fill out 16 To Do lists. Add to that the reality that the older two had been sick with a cold for the past two weeks before passing it on, along with a fever, to my newborn a couple days before.
Small kids. Sick newborn. Maybe this was not the time to buy a second-hand kiddie pool.
It took many hours to decompress. For the jittering, the pounding, the shallow breathing, the looming, dooming, BOOMING thoughts to stop. Then I was just exhausted. Emotionally, mentally and physically spent.
But I learned a crucial life lesson. (Thank You, Mom!)
Count to three. And number One is always Me.