I recently had a disagreement with my parents about something that was relatively minor but at the moment felt catastrophic. It took a lot of mental energy to engage with them about it in a way that didn’t make me feel like I was being a petulant teenager.
My baby had three consecutive nights of less than stellar sleep and while this is, unfortunately, the norm instead of an exception, it felt like it had worn me right down to a bundle of exposed nerves, ready to misfire at any teeny annoyance. Then, my husband respectfully expressed frustration about the disastrous state of our laundry room.
That’s when I lost it.
I stormed off while holding the baby and hid in my closet (that’s what grown-ups do, right?) and cried hot angry tears while the baby chuckled in my arms, probably thinking we were playing an elaborate game of peekaboo.
I hastily texted a friend a series of incoherent texts that basically amounted to “I CAN’T ADULT ANYMORE.”
I have been floating for a while in this uncomfortable space that I know a lot of mothers can relate to. Where I feel dragged in so many simultaneous directions that nobody is getting a complete or competent version of me. I feel a complicated cocktail of guilt, resentment and sadness, as well as a touch of What else am I even supposed to do right now?!
I know this is a “hard season” of life. But I also know—because every well-meaning person over 40 tells me constantly—that these days go by so fast and to cherish them.
But how? How do I knuckle down and get through it and also savor each moment and be present?
There is a lot of talk about “losing yourself” in motherhood. I don’t feel like this is true. If anything, I think becoming a parent amplifies who you really are, the good and the bad.
Being a mother to a fresh, vulnerable and needy child has put all of the pieces of me into bold font and then jumbled them up into a heap that I feel like I’m constantly laying at other people’s feet and saying, “Here you go. It’s kind of a mess but maybe you pick through the wreckage and find something you can use.”
I am also struggling with my identity as a “working mom.” Because I only work (very) part-time, I feel precariously unbalanced with one foot in stay-at-home mom territory and the other in the working world.
Going into work often feels like a party that I was only invited to as an afterthought. People are glad to have me there, sure, but I am never quite in on all the jokes and I always feel woefully underdressed (both metaphorically and literally because honestly I don’t even know if I own pants that aren’t leggings at this point).
The mental load of wives and mothers is something that’s talked about a lot and it is very real. The constant running commentary in your head about what needs to get done is relentless and it is heavy.
I am so lucky to have a supportive husband who does a lot of things—laundry and dishes and school pick-ups—but there are just things that automatically default to me. Big things like remembering doctor appointments and little things like clearing off the baby’s high chair after mealtimes.
I know my husband would gladly help with more if I asked but the idea of spelling out everything that is so inherently obvious to me just feels too exhausting.
But at the end of the day, this is life, right? It is messy and hard and complicated in the exact same breath that it is rewarding and beautiful. As I type this, I have a peaceful snoring baby laying on my chest who will wake soon and gaze up at me with beautiful eyes that take up 75% of his face and a sweet knowing smile that seems to somehow say “Oh good, I knew you’d still be here.”
That’s all I can do. Keep showing up and trying my best and embracing my flaws and all the cliched reassurances we tell ourselves to make it through the day. And if baby smiles, exuberant hugs from my fourth grader and appreciative kisses on the top of my head from a hard-working husband are my daily reward, I’m doing okay.
Remembering that “okay” is a perfectly fine thing to aspire to these days is probably the kindest thing I can do for myself.