Looking for Shangri-La when you’re stuck in Toddler Land

It occurred to me lately that I’m trying to find Nirvana and it just doesn’t exist.

Every morning I wake up and rush around, trying to find it. Here is how my crazy-anxiety-brain works: If the house is perfectly clean and the children are fed and the laundry is put away and the dishwasher is emptied and nobody is crying or fighting, then my anxiety will go away. My heart will stop pounding. My skin will stop crawling. My head will stop buzzing. That’s the idea anyway. I have no idea where this idea came from because this has literally never happened. Shangri-La doesn’t exist. I mean, that’s the point, right? Once you find it, it means your journey is over. And the journey with two toddlers is never, never, never over. There is always more to clean. There is always someone whining, screaming, or peeing on the floor. And yet I keep cleaning.

My anxiety lately has been through the roof. I don’t know why. Maybe my hippie best friend is right and I need to cut out the gluten. Maybe I need to increase my zoloft. Maybe I have OCD? Maybe I have a progesterone problem. But I think searching for Shangri-La is a symptom, not a cause.

Anxiety is such a heavy cross when you’ve got two small children. As much as I love them, they make it exponentially worse. Their tiny, squeaky voices (which I adore) are just relentless. June never stops talking. Everything she says I find impossibly cute and nerve-destroying all at once. Her two thousand constant questions. Her acting out. I’ll be frantically trying to vacuum (because if I just get all the crumbs off the floor, then maybe I won’t feel like running out the door. No crumbs will mean that all order has been restored and my anxiety will magically dissipate. Right?) and June will dump a bucket full of glue and glitter right in front of my vacuum ON PURPOSE and oh my gosh, the restraint it takes for me not to scream and pitch everything out the window (including the toddler) and light myself on fire and run down the street screaming is just heroic. Instead I just scream at her and fight back the urge to cry.

Parenting: I nailed it!

I’ve had anxiety before, but I’ve never had this weird, panicky-anger, which is throwing me for a loop and making life with two small children almost unbearable. Part of me hates writing posts like this because it makes me sound like Complainey McWhiner and I definitely love my life. But I definitely do not love this anxiety that creeps up on me like a rising tide and overpowers me before I even realize that it’s there. I don’t even realize how stressed I am until mornings like this, when my heart is pounding and I’ve literally vacuumed and mopped the entire downstairs before 7 am, and I’m yelling at Henry to just STOP SHRIEKING, for the love of God, because I don’t know why he’s upset and seemingly nothing I’m doing is helping. Maybe hand-washing and rearranging all the dishes in the cupboards will help?

(Spoiler: it doesn’t.)

What’s frustrating is that I know it’s futile. It’s impossible to have a perfectly clean house AND two well-behaved, expertly-groomed toddlers. But I still keep trying. And it just rachets up my anxiety even further. Just as soon as I load all the dishes in the dishwasher, Henry will empty all of the tupperware out of the tupperware drawer, giving me something else to put away. The more I clean, the more mess they’ll make. And the less attention I give them, the more they act out. But for whatever reason, I just can’t get out of this weird OCD cleaning loop. I have to clean, and I get panicked when I don’t.

What do you do with all this weird stress-anger? How can you keep from snapping angrily at your baby when he’s upended an entire sippy cup of milk on your freshly-mopped floor? Why is a clean house even important to me right now?

Aaaand June just shit her pants. For the third time this morning. That’s three times before 8 am.


Calgon, get me the hell outta here.



6 thoughts on “Looking for Shangri-La when you’re stuck in Toddler Land

  1. Anxiety-it’s a bitch. The “good” part is that you KNOW that cleaning isn’t going to make you feel any better. The tricky part is allowing yourself to STOP doing what you’re doing (because it isn’t working), and try something else. I don’t know what your “thing” is, but we all have something that actually DOES make us feel better. Mine varies according to the seasons, but I know what my mind needs to stay out of the “crazy” zone as much as possible. I will say this: acknowledging that my kids are NOT the most important focus of my life is huge for me. I think it might have helped greatly back when I was just starting out and they were little, like yours are now.

    You’re not just a mom; you’re someone’s daughter. I know I want my own kids to follow their hearts into what makes them happiest when they are adults. I also know that they won’t find happiness in a shiny kitchen floor.

  2. 1) I hate that you’re feeling this way. I do get the want to run/want to scream feelings, but I think if you’re feeling that way all the time, it might be worth a talk to the doc. 2) My definition of clean has shifted in a big way. My priorities are, in order: keep us all alive, keep us all dressed in clean clothes/diapers and stay on top of laundry, keep us all fed/stocked on groceries/dirty dishes washed and put away/countertops clean/sweep floors when things are sticking to my bare feet, and put away all toys at the end of the day. Other than that, literal cleaning in the sense of scrubbing bathrooms or mopping floors or dusting only happens once a month when we have company over or if we get some wild cleaning hare on a day when we’re all home. Because really, I only get time to cook or clean if they’re watching TV and they can only watch so much tv. Usually long enough for me to load/unload the dishwasher and prep one meal. I can stuff diapers while they play around me/”help,” but all laundry/folding is done while they’re asleep. That leaves zero time for the other stuff.

  3. That basketball meme was hilarious!!! I’m so sorry that you’re dealing with it but I just want you to know that I think you’re amazing.

  4. I am near tears as I read this. I’m having a rough day (every single day) with my toddler. He screamed for 32 minutes straight for an unknown reason. Finally he sat down by his puzzles and pointed at them. He wanted me to play puzzles with him. Oy. He knows how to say “play” “mama” and “puzzle” but I guess today he felt screaming was the appropriate form of communication. And God forbid I don’t put the puzzle together exactly how he wants it. Tantrum. Meal time sucks the largest monkey’s ass there is. I yell at him when he screams because his milk isn’t warm enough. Why doesn’t he just tell me things!! He knows how to talk! Why the screaming. My blood is on the verge of boiling all day long. I get mad at him and give him the silent treatment like I’m a teenager. And I can relate to all the cleaning. So much cleaning. Toddler land is a never ending feeling like you just can’t ever get ahead. And a lot of times feeling like the worst parent on the planet. *sigh* I feel you mama.

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