I’m writing this from my couch, Glee on the TV, drinking my 120th ounce of water today, and eating some chocolate gummy bears. Because: balance. In a no-wire bra. Because: fuck whoever invented the underwire, am I right?! The laundry pile is huge, the dishes from the weekend are in the sink, and my toddler is napping. He’s got his first cold since starting daycare last week. Which likely means that sleep will be little-to-non-existent in the next few days.
Oh, and I’ve cried three times today.
Let me start this by saying that IN NO WAY, is this a piece that will bash dads. I refuse to do that. I especially refuse to insinuate that my partner is anything less than exceptional.
But this needs to be said.
In fact, I think it’s been said many times. Not sorry for saying it again.
When we got up this morning, Mitch and I were in completely different modes. He was up and ready to go, having a list of things ready to go in his head of what he wanted to do today. I just wanted a morning of doing nothing. Absolutely nothing. We didn’t talk about it, and when we ended up at the grocery store, and a little bit chippy with each other, I realized that I had been hoping he’d read my mind.
If he could have read my mind this morning, this is what he would have learned: I can’t be responsible for anything today. I’ve spent the last 6 mornings getting up, and getting two humans ready to get out the door. For the first time ever. I’ve spent the last full week being worried about putting Anthony in daycare for the first time. I’ve spent the last week being a kickass teacher and what feels like a crappy mom and wife. I’ve spent the last week feeling like the only place that is getting the best version of me that I can muster is my job – and the guilt about that feels immense.
Let me say, completely honestly, that this comes from a place of privilege. I’ve had the gift of being home part time with my kiddo for the last 2.5 years. I have a partner that contributes in so many ways (he does waaaaaaaay more laundry than I ever do). Those things alone put me in the position that many Mamas are not, and that’s not lost on me.
But working full time has brought to light the constant battle of the mom: Who gets the best of me?
The follow up question to that for me is: How do Mamas get the break they need?
You know, the kind of break where they can turn it all off for a few moments (or hours, or a weekend maybe?), and focus solely on them.
Here’s what I’m learning: There’s no break from it. Once you become a mama, that little human runs your heart. The mental load never lessens when it comes to your kid. For some reason, I thought the worrying would stop after he came out of the super vulnerable infant stage. The truth is that the worries just change over time – because the love is so intense.
I thought that going back to work full time would help me feel more… balanced? No, that’s not the word. Maybe less crazed? I guess more like I was doing something for ME, and not just seen as Mama all day long. Honestly, I feel just as crazed. But the craze is spread out to different things in this situation – which works for now.
(And it’s still new, so the adjustment period is still in full swing)
Moms’ mental load is something that I’ve seen talked about a lot. But I think the heavy load comes mostly from the stuff we do and think that is invisible. Stuff like knowing EXACTLY where every pair of our kids’ shoes are in the house. Or when their next vaccinations should be. Or the fact that one of them hasn’t pooped in three days. Or how many kisses they need before bed. Or the tone of voice that makes them sad. Or how much they daycare bill is, or the electricity bill that’s past due. Or the fact that the toothpaste is almost out or that we STILL haven’t gotten to the dentist. It’s the stuff that fills our mind as a result of wanting to be the best caretaker we can be for those little mini versions of our heart walking around. It’s the stuff that fills our mind as a result of the extreme mom shaming that happens. It’s the stuff that fills our mind as a result of Pinterest, and the media and companies telling us we’re not doing enough. It’s the stuff that fills our mind as a result of feeling like we need to be in 9284892 places at the same time – whether it’s for our kids, or our job or our partners.
The solution? Not sure on that yet. I think it’s somewhere inside of clear and upfront communication with your tribe, having something that is for you that fills your cup, really great meals that include dessert sometimes, moving your body, drinking a lot of water and giving yourself a lot of grace.
The solution requires a lot of support. The solution requires people in our lives to be understanding and communicative – because sometimes we don’t have the ability to say out loud what we need because we’re busy taking care of everyone else’s needs. The solution requires taking care of the least privileged among us – they carry the heaviest burdens as Mamas. The solution requires us Mamas to be clear on what we need, and the willingness to say it and then act on it. The solution requires that we talk about it more so that we can share the load with people around us – our partners, our friends, our families.
So here I am, talking about it, in hopes that you can see a little bit of yourself in someone else. In hopes of you feeling less alone in your crazed, braless, tear-filled, chocolate eating, Netflix-watching nap time.
You’re gonna be okay, Mama. Everyone will get what they need, even if you take a moment off.