Today, before my husband left for work, he offered to care for our 15 month-old twins while I took a shower. Of course I jumped at the opportunity, even though I hadn’t finished my requisite cup of coffee yet. “Ahhhhh…today will be a better day than yesterday”, I hoped.
By the time I was dressed, however, I faced a vomit-mess of one crying, sick toddler and the whining of the other, which completely washed away my aspirations for the day. My tears welled and my heart sank.
Upon leaving for work, my husband said to me, “you’ll be OK, it was just 15 minutes of frustration.” I muttered a tight-lipped “mm-hmm”, and cried when the door shut.
You see, it’s not just 15 minutes of frustration that got to me, it’s the accumulation of 15 months of frustration aiming at two moving targets: figuring out sleep schedules, feeding schedules, what solids to eat, changing nap schedules, illnesses and teething.
During fleeting, blissful days, when everything falls into place, I feel like a Supermom to two Superbabies. But children grow and change, forcing constant refocus to figure out their latest needs and desires. Illnesses make the guessing game even more impossible and exacerbate an already frustrating situation.
Luckily, today things quieted down before noon, giving me a spare moment to finish my coffee and connect with the rest of the world.I checked my email, Facebook, and the latest news headlines…and that’s when my tears welled and my heart sank for the second time.
A car along a main street here in Juarez had been shot up killing several victims, including a 10 year-old boy. The article mentioned that the automatic weapons used were so powerful that the boy’s head was nearly decapitated. The horror hit me like a bad nightmare.
I live in a war zone and news of these killings occur everyday. The drug war between rival cartels in Juarez has taken over 8,000 lives since 2008.
Over the past year-and-a-half that I’ve lived in Juarez, it didn’t feel like these attacks affected as many innocent, young victims as they seem to lately. The rules have changed: anything goes, anywhere, anytime. I recently heard of a carjacking at mid-day, while a mother was taking her children out of their seats in the parking lot a the city’s main park, a park where many people bring their children to visit the resident giraffe.
As I sat writing this, my heart sank once more because I realized that the one-year anniversary of a friend and her husband’s murder also is upon us. They were chased down by gunmen in their car and mercilessly killed. Their eight-month old daughter was in the back seat, thankfully unscathed but now orphaned.
Our friends’ deaths are the reality of my worst nightmares and I replay it in my mind each time I want to go out. Should I take the kids or not? Should I go out at all? I weigh the risks of leaving our home everyday, sometimes questioning if I can make a dwindling supply of milk last until my husband has time to run to the store.
At lunch time, my husband came home to talk. He was very concerned about my earlier level of frustration. In typical fashion, he wanted to find a solution, believing there must be a way for me to have some kind of outlet. He asked, “What would you like to do if you weren’t taking care of the kids?” to which I replied, “That’s just it, I don’t know because I feel like I’m under house arrest, imprisoned on one level by two one-year-olds who’s erratic nap schedules and increased neediness make it difficult to organize ‘me time,’ and on another level, I am imprisoned by the security risk of going out at all.” As I spoke, I believe my husband’s own heart sank, too, hearing me put it in those terms.
Needless to say, I live a very isolated life. My double isolation is the most difficult situation I have ever faced, and the most insurmountable.
Having lived my life with confidence that there is always a solution to everything, I have now reached an impasse. Bewildered by my inability to fix the situation with concrete (and safe) solutions, I find myself relying on something that I never fully appreciated until now: hope.
Each day I hope that the difficult phases of my children’s development pass quickly. I hope that I will emotionally conquer the span of our time left in Juarez. I hope that I can focus on the light and joy that are my children, and that I am able to find solace in the love of my husband, family and friends.
I have never known hope so intimately until now.
Have you ever felt as if you’ve reached a personal impasse as a mother? What was happening and how did you over come it?
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by our mother of twins writer, Dee Harlow in Mexico.
Photo credit attributed to Simon Brass. This photo has a creative commons attribution license.
Dee, This blog post was so powerful. You had me in tears. The border isolation can be incredibly tough. It simply amazes me how you do it with young twins. It was the best day of my life here when our youngest could finally use a regular booster instead of a 5 point carseat and be able to get on the floor of the car in the event of a shooting. I think of you often and admire your courage and dedication both to your kids and your country. You are simply amazing. I am not sure who to ask for permission but I linked to your post here: http://smallbitsfs.blogspot.com/2011/03/border-life.html
If that’s a problem for you or the World Moms folks, please let me know.
Powerful and heartbreaking. I’m joining WMB as a writer, so I am reading posts to get an idea of who is who. I’m not sure that I can sufficiently put my thoughts into words with the way your post left me feeling.
Motherhood is much like climbing a mountain, some days we stride up the mountain with ease and other days for every foot we climb up we slide back down several feet. You’re climbing the motherhood mountain with extra added weight on your shoulders compared to most.
All you can do is keep climbing and remain strong, hope keeps you going because you know that once you get over the peak that things will improve. May your family stay safe and may you remain strong on your climb. Hold your children close because they’re your hope.
I think you just defined frustration. What an intense experience you’re having, on every level. In a month or two, the twins will be down to one nap a day each, and life will begin to look easier, I’m sure. Best wishes.
Dee – You have a very powerful story. Having two little girls, one being 17 months old and the other 3 1/2, I know your twins are at a difficult age. You will turn a corner soon – between 18 months and 2, promise. I am seeing it in my little girl.
I could not imagine being trapped in my home all day. Know that your safety is in my prayers. Until you time in Juarez is over, please be safe. A
I can’t imagine what it must be like to be worried whenever you go out! I went on holiday to South Africa once and felt a bit like that as everybody was telling us to be careful all the time, but to live in a place where you not only worry about yourself, but your children must be very stressful! Thank you so much for sharing – I find it so interesting to learn about how other mums live!
My heart goes out to you and mothers everywhere in such a situation.
My struggle was only with loneliness and fatigue. I wrote about it and what I learned on my site called “The Night I Almost Killed My Motherhood”. http://ultimateoutcasts.com/?p=775
But you may find a connection to it because…
A few things happened to me that night. I felt a huge wave of compassion come into me and I began to study why this aspect of humanity is not more present in society — everywhere. It seems like religions and governments disregard and nullify the role of mothers and this amazingly effecient and important network of purpose and compassion that we can bring to the world.
So these thoughts have motivated me to change it. Being a mother has made me feel like an expert at making the world a better place. I don’t care what others say. I know it.
I would suggest that you study what you are learning, find it’s value and build some ideas on how to make things better for mothers to come. Imagine what our world would look like if mothers embraced the strenghth it takes to live as you do and turn that power on the world!
It would look different. A mother’s love is perfect. You know this and are suffering not of love for your children, but this imperfect world
Thanks for sharing your story. My thoughts are with you and your family…
What a great topic to bring up — security and raising children. Whether you’re in Juarez, certain parts of cities in the US with high crime rates or a war torn country — not everywhere in the world is safe. Your reaction is natural. Think of a mama bear trying to protect her cubs. Once you become a mother, I feel that how you perceive the world changes.
For example, from your prior Peace Corps experiences you’ve found yourself in many corners of the world, each with it’s own challenges, and you’ve been really BRAVE. But, you’ve only had to look out for you then. Now, you are looking out for you and your two little ones wherever you go, so the stress adds on. I’ve found that I’ve become a little less daring in general now that I am a mom.
It is great that you have twins, so you don’t have to feel guilty that they’re not around other children if you don’t leave the house as often because they have each other. Maybe you can look into ways to have things come to you, instead of you having to go to them. For example, will someone deliver your milk regularly?
Your post was really insightful. I often overlook the sacrifices that foreign service officials and their families are making to help make the world a better place. It was so interesting to read how you are feeling. And, remember…if it all gets too difficult or you are really unsure, maybe you can find a way to leave early.
I hope you find the World Moms Blog community supportive. We’re here for you!
Keep us posted! And, stay safe!
Veronica Samuels 🙂
Great post Dee! My wife left her mother and daughter in Juarez in 2008 and is
going thru something similar to you on a daily basis. I showed her this and hope she will write to you. My suggestion… as little help as it might be is to read my
latest post. Thanks for sharing your experience! Dan
I cannot leave without share with you. I am a mexican woman that was born in Chihuahua State and lived in Juarez by 11 years. Now I am living in The States since two years ago and for sure I know how you feel. I do believe that there are no coincidences, mostly is God’s will, and for some reason just last night I found a sermon from the church I was a member there in Juarez. The pastor is saying that they want to find people that they can help or serve in these dificult time. And now my husband just came few minutes ago to tell me: Sweetie, I just found someone that can be your friend! and showed me this post. As I was reading was thinking how to help you, and of course all the insights and good wishes are priceless, however there are times when we need something else.
If you think that you’d feel good, you can call (625 89 29) to the church and ask for the Pastors (they speak English) Abelardo Muñoz or Carlos Contreras. They are very kind people and can relate you with their spouses or other women from church.
You can take a look to the website, they are related to Sovereign Grace Ministries.
Hoping you and your family be good and safe, receive a great hug.
Cristina Davenport (Cristina Coello is my maiden name)
Wow Dee – my heart goes out to you. Although I am not juggling life with twins, when I reach a high level of frustration it makes life easier to grab my two girls and take them to the playground around the corner to get fresh air..or just leave them with dad and take a walk around the block by myself. I am so sorry that you don’t have those outlets. Life in Juarez sounds pretty scary and I give you and your husband credit for being so brave and sticking it out. When things seem so overwhelmingly burdensome, I just break it down into smaller time increments…and although cliché…one day at a time. Keeping you in my thoughts!
You have given me so much to think about, Dee. Your post really made me stop and reflect on all that I take for granted in my safe, suburban world. I thank you for that and for sharing your story. Your hope is inspiring (as is your life adventure), and I hope you this outlet of World Moms Blog helps. Hang in there!
That was a very touching story Dee. I pray that you find the courage and comfort to get through your days there.
I am so glad you shared this. Living in constant worry about whether or not you will be safe to go outside with your children is horrible. I can see how you would feel that you are on house arrest. I just shared this with my husband and we are both deeply feeling for you and the other families in your situation. Is it possible for you to move? I wish there was something we could do for you. Please know that our thoughts and prayers are with you.
Thank you for your thoughts and support. I really appreciate them. I wish I had the time to reply individually to each one of your heartwarming responses, but alas, you know my excuses ;D
We just returned from a vacation to our Denver home. It was a much needed week away from here. The first few days back are always the most difficult but we are all adjusting slowly back into our routine. I plan on adding a few more home activities like a little splash pool in the back yard now that the weather is warmer, and allow them to watch children’s television programming (thanks for all your suggestions in the Friday question!).
Yesterday, I posted my story on Facebook and received even more supportive and loving words. All this positive energy will definitely keep me going! I also started working on my next post today and am already feeling the healing powers of writing. So a big thank you to WMB for being inspiring and giving me an outlet for all that I’m feeling.
Lastly, I would like to ask that everyone keep in mind that others from the consulate here in Juarez, including those w/ children, seem to do OK. Everyone has different levels of risk aversion. Mine just happens to be pretty low since becoming a parent (you were spot on w/ that Veronica).
Sending you warm thoughts and gratitude for all your kindness!