Lonely Motherhood

I’m sitting on the couch leaning on a pillow
with my crossed feet up taking up as much couch as I can
because I can
only during this sliver of time after bedtime
before I succumb to complete exhaustion

I already fell asleep at 6:30
leaned back against the couch and nodded off
trying in vain to read ScienceNews twelve hours into the day
with the kids bouncing chasing laughing right there
I hit my wall
That was three and a half hours ago

Hubby clocked out sometime during teeth brushing and stories
leaned back against the couch and nodded off
leaving me the evening shift
I urged him to bed selfishly
to protect my sleep later
lest he make his way upstairs at three a.m.
as he’s wont to do

Teeth brushing and stories was followed by dish washing
and putting food away, wiping down counters, picking up
Pouring myself a glass of wine
getting a soft chocolate cookie down from the high cupboard
centering it on my favorite small round black dessert plate
Laptop pillow crossed feet, sigh
try to breathe

I’m not making this next part up:
Footsteps on the stairs
Can’t sleep someone turned the hall light off scared
Resigned I get up silently
reach out my hand and we head slowly back up for another tuck in
and I try to start over

I don’t even want the wine
or the cookie
My body isn’t asking for them and they won’t satisfy what I do need
but they are symbolic
of taking a break of treating myself, of choreographing a moment
If I’m not careful
I’ll end up fat and diabetic (but still unfulfilled) from years of overdoing it on the symbols

I need sleep
But I also desperately crave being alone
Motherhood has cruelly pitted these two needs against each other

To make it worse
I also desperately crave connection
but there are only so many hours in the day, so you have to let something go
(plus Hubby already clocked out)

I sat there and googled “lonely motherhood”
and was not surprised to find pages of hits
Dozens of blog posts, of course, but also newspaper features and even a scientific article
Plenty to assure me that I’m not alone, ha ha

Reading some of it felt better than the cookie, which I ate anyway
crumbs and all
and every last drop of the wine
because they were something

Then I googled “lonely fatherhood” and basically it’s not even a thing
not surprised

Apparently though, there are millions of lonely mothers
all trapped by their sleeping children
late at night in their houses
craving connection and alone time and sleep
forced into compromising on all three
in the final minutes of the day