As a mom, I say the phrase 'let me just…' to my kids more times a day than I can count.
Yes, I can help you log into your class, let me just send this email.
Yes, I can play with you, let me just make one more call.
Yes, I can get you a snack, let me just empty the dishwasher.
Yes, I can write that article, let me just clear my inbox.
Yes, I can clear my inbox, let me just finish this meeting.
Yes, I can attend that meeting, let me just get this project out the door.
The problem is that every 'let me just' is followed by another 'let me just'... and by the time they're all done, the day is over, and I didn't do most of the things I intended—and I feel pretty bad about myself because of it.
I wasn't present with my kids today.
I didn't meet that deadline.
I couldn't muster the energy to cook dinner.
The house is a mess. I am a mess. The world is a mess.
It's okay, I tell myself. Let me just try again tomorrow.
But tomorrow comes and tomorrow goes and the list of things I didn't get to or didn't do well bears down on my shoulders and my heart, and all I can think is, "I am failing."
And I think that maybe I'm not alone.
Every mother I talk to these days, whether she has one child or five, whether she is a working mom or a stay-at-home-mom, whether she's homeschooling or not—feels like she is failing—no mother has it easy right now (or ever has, for that matter).
For working moms, the constant struggle is feeling like we are letting everyone down: our kids, our partner, our co-workers, our boss...and ourselves? We're not even on the list of priorities.
But mama, it's not our fault.
Society is not set up to support us—it wasn't before the pandemic and it certainly isn't now. The infrastructure we live in makes it unrealistic to get through the day accomplishing all the things we set out to do. The pandemic means that the resources and support we did have—the daycare, the grandparents, the steady flow of income—are gone for many of us. To put it plainly, it is impossible to get everything done.
Let me say it again: It is impossible to get everything done.
And speaking of which, let's talk about the 'everything.' The expectations placed on mothers are ridiculous. Our society prioritizes progress and work above presence and rest, and it's infiltrated our sense of worth—we feel guilty for everything. We go to bed at night focused on all the things we didn't do, and all the ways we let people down, rather than focusing on all the good we did.
But the thing is, there is so much good. Look at us! Seriously, look at what we are accomplishing every day.
It's not pretty or graceful, but my goodness, we are getting it done—during a pandemic, in a society that doesn't show us that we are important. Without resources, without help, without the security that we are going to be okay. We. Are. Getting. It. Done. I'm not sure anything could be further away from failure.
So here is what I vow to myself (and to my children and mamas everywhere):
I am going to do the best I can. Sometimes my best is exceptionally executed work projects, and sometimes my best is telling my boss that I need to take a mental health day. Sometimes my best is a magnificent day of virtual learning and home cooked meals, and sometimes it's missed assignments and cereal for dinner. I am going to allow space for all of it.
I am going to be gentler with myself, even if just a little. When my self-judgment flares and the words "I failed again" start to run through my head, I am going to place my hand on my heart, and say, "Shh. No, mama. You didn't fail. You did the best you could under ridiculous circumstances. You are worthy. You are good."
Let me just remember how hard I work every day.
Let me just acknowledge the unprecedented challenges we are facing.
Let me just love myself.
Let me just trust that I am enough. The rest will fall into place.