Rundman's Guide to Parental Burnout (plus recovery, royalties, etc.)

I realize this might sound whiny or annoying or something, but hey, what are blogs for anyway? Right now I should be asleep since we're hosting a big Start-of-Summer carnival here at our house in nine short hours, but I enjoy blogging, I need some personal time, and I need to vent. And I hope that this post can send a message out across the internet to my stay-home-parent friends like Nate and Tera, with a shout of "You are NOT alone!"

In the ups and downs of stay-home-parenting, these past few weeks have been pretty tough. I thought that by sharing my daily schedule with you, dear reader, you might get an unrequested window into my sticky, unshaven, unshowered, and zombie-like existence as Paavo and Svea's Dad and caregiver.

If you, too, want to travel down the wild and wacky road of parental burnout, here's a schedule that I've been using that's really taken a toll:

1AM: crawl into bed after feeding a 4 oz bottle to crying baby
1AM-6:30AM: wake up numerous times with and/or without spouse to address needs of aforementioned crying baby
6:30AM: wake up for good to feed baby, eventually catch the opening headlines on the NBC Today show. I like Al Roker. Lauer and Viera are tolerable, I love Ann Curry. Natalie is okay, but distractingly and disturbingly skinny.
7AM-6PM: eleven hours of non-stop solo parenting with two beautiful but demanding children under the age of four
6-10PM: four more hours of non-stop duo parenting with spouses' assistance...bedtime rituals being my least-favorite tasks to accomplish
10PM-1AM: three hours of printing out contract forms, returning booking-relating emails, addressing envelopes, fulfilling CD orders, updating webpage tour dates, writing out set lists for band members, writing out checks to pay bills

Repeat again and again for three weeks.

Oh, and there's a few other factors to add to the mix. They are:

+ Try being sick for 20 days straight. I got sick on April 28th and it lasted 'til May 17th. Lost my voice and couldn't sing at my own CD release show. I finally saw a doctor and found out I had strep throat. Oh, and I got both kids sick, too, and gave baby Svea the croupy cough.
+ Give up all social life, personal enrichment, creative expression, quality time with spouse, the reading of books/magazines.

Some other things to give up, intentionally or unintentionally:
+ give up personal hygiene...showering can take 5 minutes, and I don't have that kind of free time. If I can bathe every three days or so, I've got something to be proud of. Can't shave, though...takes more than 5 minutes.
+ give up clean clothes...I like to wear my fake-army shorts for four days in a row. Shirts for two days straight. The mountain of clothes-to-wash downstairs on the concrete basement floor is approaching 5 feet in altitude. If anything does get washed, there's no way it's gonna get folded, and no-way-in-heck it's gonna get put away in the right place.
+ give up clean dishes, and clean kitchen environment. That's right, our dishwasher broke down a couple weeks ago, it took a week to get the technician out to the house, he checked it out, and the problem was that the electrical hard-wire to the house had burnt out, which was not in his jurisdiction. So I had to get my electrician friend Lloyd here to re-wire the appliance to the house. He came today and did it, got the machine running again, but now we're leaking out of the bottom of the dishwasher, so it's still unsafe to use. Gotta wait 'til June 2nd for the Whirlpool man to come back out. Try washing 40 nipples by hand each day, plus dishes used by grown ups and normal people. And try to find counter space to air-dry all this stuff....I'd need to build a 25 foot drying rack in the back yard.
+ give up an orderly house. All incoming mail, children's art projects, and diapering supplies can completely take over the dining room table. Dozens of shoes of all sizes shall rule the living room, but if you want to find a matching shoe to complete your pair, there shall be none found anywhere. Spouse can misplace new driver's license in a mountain of to-be-recycled junk mail in a gigantic skyscraper pile in the library.

Here's the real killer for me: Just when I think I see some light at the end of the tunnel, some unexpected thing (usually very minor) happens, which takes up an unintended hour or two (or three) of my time, resulting in yet another swamping of life. Here are some surprises that can ruin a potentially-successful day:
+ potty accident(s)
+ incorrectly added deposit slips
+ misplaced clothing
+ spilled food/beverage
+ poor customer service
+ the presidency of George W Bush
+ busted dishwasher
+ salt-bridged water softener
+ "check engine" light
+ rain
+ incorrectly fulfilled cheeseburger order
+ child sleeping when they should be awake
+ child awake when they should be asleep

Stir all these factors in with the above daily schedule and you're right on track for a first-class freak-out. Move aside all nearby furniture, and prepare to cry on the floor in the fetal position.

Thankfully, I'm over my sickness finally, and we've reached the weekend (a three-day one!) when I've got Dawn's help the entire time. Plus, next week we've got a family road trip (I love that!) when we'll see my parents. And the weather is getting better, and I've got some fun personal stuff ahead. I've got to cling to the little moments of niceness wherever I can find them, and I got a little treat today. Here's a pic from earlier this evening of Svea covered in sweet potatoes...but in the foreground you will notice a ROYALTY CHECK I just got from ASCAP. A few times a year I'm thrilled to find a check in my mailbox from ASCAP, paying me due to the use of my music on radio/TV/etc. around the world. Sometimes it's for a LOT, sometimes it's for $0.06 (literally), but today was a pretty good one: $60.00 for airplay of my songs "Forgiveness Waltz" (in Britain) and "The Glasses Song" (in Sweden and Canada). When I was a kid, dreaming of being a musician, I couldn't imagine that my songs would get played on the radio anywhere. Now that I'm getting royalties from airplay around the world, it's a thrill that never never gets old. It's a wonderful thing to get paid for writing songs about theology and corrective lenses, and to know that folks all over the earth are hearing that music. So it gives me an extra boost to get through the remainder of the day.

ALSO, another key to my recent recovery from burnout: TELEVISION. For the first time in MONTHS, last night I watched over an hour of TV. I caught the reruns of "30 Rock" (pretty funny, but I'd seen it before), "The Office" (never seen that one, about the sales conference...very very funny, as always), and the first half of "Studio 60" (a show I always enjoy, but Dawn says that last night's episode was pretty lame). I missed the last half 'cause I fell asleep on the 9:30PM! Dawn woke me up just enough to help me into bed, and I slept uninterrupted for EIGHT FREAKING HOURS. Svea woke me up at 5:30AM, and I felt like a million bucks. Refreshed, energized, happy, clean, and ready to rock. So I snuggled with Svea until the arrival of Ann Curry at 7AM. Today was a good one. Chipotle for lunch, Panera for dinner, many many ounces of iced tea, REM on the stereo, and happy kids.

Let the weekend begin. I have survived.


nate said…
well said. solidarity. i'm thankful for jodi's shorter days and often home for lunchness, the flip side is that she works six days a week. oh that maternity leave were eternal.
betcha didn't know lunchness was a word.
RevDrum said…
It's stories like this that make me wonder if I ever want to be a parent (and I think God is on my side on this one) but I'm sure you'll regale us with the flip-side soon and let all of us non-parents know what we're missing.

Oh, and if two kids under 4 seems crazy, I was at my brother's house two weeks ago celebrating the baptism of their new additions ... triplets (that would be in addition to a very energetic two-year-old) ... yeah, my sister-in-law is an absolute saint.
Lisa Herlocker said…
Hey, wish I could say it gets better -- I think it only changes. I spent time last Monday and Tuesday curled in fetal position crying about my "miserable, stinking life." Maybe it was something in the air -- both in CA and MN?

Anyway, believe it or not, one day in about 10 years you'll be in Costco or somewhere and watch other stay-at-homes pushing a cart of kids and wistfully think back and miss these hectic times with Paavo and Svea. It only happens once in awhile and is even a little shocking when it does, but it does. HANG IN THERE! YOU ARE DOING A GREAT THING!

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