I don’t have my ‘ish together. I’m a hot-mess mom and I’m OK with that...sort of.
“You should talk to someone, if you are having trouble coping.”
I had just had lunch with a friend, I was there to support her, through her own trauma, and had innocently mentioned how I needed a break. From everything. How little things that I could normally laugh off were enraging me. How I was feeling completely overwhelmed.
And then she said it...the words that smacked me in the face like a wet sock and turned the conversation on its head, reflecting a mirror right back at me.
“...having trouble coping.” Her words floored me, I couldn’t respond. I couldn’t say anything, and there, in the front seat of my car, sitting beside someone going through her own real struggles, I burst into tears.
Was I really having trouble coping? What does that even mean? How could I be having trouble coping. Yes, I’m a mom, yes I have a full time job, but I’ve only got two kids and I have a husband. It’s not like I have three or four kids or like I am a single mom. I at least have support.
I love my kids, I want to be present and active in their lives. I attend my son’s parent council, I take him to ball hockey, my daughter is doing gymnastics right now, both kids do piano and Kumon. I’m there. I drop them off, I pick them up, I go to work, I make my sons lunch, I remember when he needs to bring a shoebox to school for art, whether it’s pizza day, if he needs money for a bake-sale. I am not special. My life is not difficult. We are financially stable, we both have good jobs, and we have family support. How can I not be coping? Of course I am coping. Doesn’t everyone feel overwhelmed sometimes?
But as I drove away, I thought about our conversation, about my life. The dishes in the sink, the dishes in the dishwasher, the bundles of dirty laundry, the clean laundry pilled in the corner of each bedroom waiting to be sorted, my office desk, piled high with all sorts of papers, school papers, bills, random kids drawings, all things that need to be sorted through, filed, saved as keepsakes. I thought about the nights I wake up at 3 a.m., unable to get back to sleep unless my earphones are in my ear, the sounds of re-runs of Veep or Scandal, the only options able to quiet my mind. The knot in my chest each morning I wake up, knowing I have to go to work and face another day with a long to-do-list that I won’t get through.
And yes, my husband helps. He does what he can, he’s the one who will silently pick the clothes off the floor and hang them up, he’ll clean the bathrooms, vacuum the house, he’s does his part. But he also works long shifts, meaning often it’s just me, ferrying the kids, waking them up in the morning, while they cry because it is too early, picking them up and everything in between. He’s also not the one panicking about childcare for the next school year. He’s not calling daycare’s, and after-school programs. He’s not trying to organize summer camp and swimming lessons and trying to figure out how we can fit swim lessons into an already over-scheduled summer and wondering if the kids will grow up without that very necessary skill. All that mental ‘worry energy’ is left to me.
And I know I am lucky. I know there are moms who are on their own, who have it worse. I am lucky…I have help. There’s a daycare worker who picks my son up off the school bus, my daughter is in daycare all day, my parents help out when they can. And still, even with my village, I am sometimes immobilized with anxiety.
I can’t be the only mother feeling like this? I feel like I’ve been duped. I feel like someone should have told me this wouldn’t be easy. I grew up in the 80s/90s. I was raised to have a career. The challenges that came with being a mom never occurred to me.
In my social circle, there are many highly educated, accomplished women, choosing to leave the workforce. They are becoming stay at home moms and picking up businesses on the side. They are working as at home travel agents or selling make-up, or handbags, to pick up extra cash. And although I don’t think I could make that choice, I really get it.
I want to work, I like my job, but I also want to be present for my kids. I don’t want to be stretched so thin. If you don’t have access to flexible working, I completely understand why many women make the choice they do to drop out of the work force completely.
My parents both worked full-time. I went to daycare and later I was a latch-key kid. I wasn’t harmed by that experience, but I can’t help but want something a little different for my kids. I want to be able to be there to drop them off, or pick them up at the end of their school day. I want to hear about their little worries on the way home and the little wins they’ve experienced. I want that, but I also want my job. And still I want something just for me. I have interest outside of work and kids that I would like to pursue, that take time to purse.
Maybe I ‘want’ too much? Maybe that is my problem. Maybe my issue is that I’ve realized that I can’t have everything I want. My children can’t have all of me…all of my attention the way I would like them to, and neither can my work, or my husband…or me for that matter.
What I realized on that car ride home, is that I am not that mom that can work full time and complete a master’s degree in under two years, while being a mommy to three kids under 6- and that is ok. I am not that mom who can train for a 5k race, while running her own business and raising two teenagers. I champion these women, I support these women, I admire these women, but these women are not me. I am not together, I am a hot panicky mess.
I am the mom who doesn’t return emails. I am the mom you text and get a reply a week later if at all. I am the mom, who collapses in front of the TV exhausted at the end of the day. I am the mom, done with being a mom by 8 p.m. I am the mom with the messy house, and the self-doubt, and the half started ‘projects’ and the flaky schedule. I am the mom who occasionally cries in the front seat of her car, because sometimes it gets to be all too much. Am I having trouble coping? Maybe, but who isn’t? Should I speak to someone about it? Probably. But when? Where will I fit the time in for mental self-care when my days are packed to the brim already?
The bottom line is, this hot mess mom is trying. I am trying to be the best I can be for my family, for my job and for me. I’m taking it one day at a time. And that’s all I can do for now.