The Mental Load of Motherhood is Heavier than Laundry

This one goes out to the moms.  Yes, just the moms.  I know the dads are out there too, doing their deal and I respect that.  But this? This is for the moms.

This is for the full time working moms who leave early in the morning after doing more before 7am than many do all day, then go to work and work a full day and get home only to have another shift at home that night. They don’t get home until dinner time or maybe even after and just want to be with their kids for a bit before they go to bed.  Maybe they miss bedtime. Maybe they have to do homework. Maybe they are on the verge of meltdown at the end of the day and aren’t able to have their own meltdown until the kids are allowed to have theirs and by then it’s too late. It’s just too late. So you vow to try again tomorrow. But then the same thing happens tomorrow. Your kids see you working so hard for your life and all you provide and they will one day appreciate the sacrifices you made.

This is for the mom who is home all day and loses her patience so often and so ugly some days she swears her kids will have years of therapy to get over the repercussions of her sweaty furrowed brow. They’ll need therapy anyway because everyone does so don’t sweat it so much.

This is for the mom who sometimes wants to walk out the door and not return. Then on her way back from work she listens to Hamilton – Dear Theodosia or Quiet Uptown and sprints back to these rotten terrible perfect angel babies in tears. She longs to be away from them but then when she gets to be away she misses them so much it aches.

This is for the mom who plans all the fun things to do and see and when the time comes is so stressed out from the planning and the preparation she is exhausted and tired already but she only does it to provide experiences that the kids will remember.  That you’ll all remember. She takes so many pictures and videos because she doesn’t want to forget this. Remember to get in the pictures yourself. GET IN THE PICTURES. One day a long time from now you’ll be so glad you did.

This is for the mom who keeps lists. The lists of clothing needed because with four seasons there are different coats and shoes and THEY GROW SO MUCH SO QUICKLY how in the world will we be prepared for the next season and how if she doesn’t make sure they have warm mittens and hats and boots that fit, who will? Who will make sure they have everything for school and get haircuts and doctor appointments get made and playdates happen and the right snacks are procured? Who will get all the right library books returned to the right libraries by the right date? Who will make a wish list and wait in line to get them into the park district classes each season? When the kids are old enough (it’s starting to happen already) and say thank you for making sure we have everything we need it will feel like you won the lottery. Because you did.

This is for the mom who is always worried about how they will pay for things. How they will make schedules work. How will they manage when everything changes again as they grow.

This is for the mom struggling to remember who she was, is and will be apart from these kids. She is a woman separately and alone, yet entirely attached. It’s a difficult balance to define and maintain. She is a woman. She has a body and a mind and desires all her own.

This is for the mom in recovery working as hard as she can to stay clean, to help others stay clean. Working on the underlying issues so that she doesn’t have to go back out there. This is the hardest but most rewarding mental load there is. Working on ourselves. Helping others. Passing it on. I have seen too many folks go back out there even after years and years clean. I must remain diligent every single day.

This is for the moms who aren’t clean. Who maybe want to be but aren’t yet. They may be away from their kids and it’s killing them. Keep going, keep trying. It’s possible to have a life beyond your wildest dreams. It is. I promise. The timeline isn’t promised, the promise is that if you get clean your life will eventually get better. For yourself. For your kids.

This is for the mom with any kind of mental illness.  The mom who has admitted it and gotten some kind of help and those who haven’t because they are scared. You are among friends here. A diagnosis can be a life changer. A plan. A way to move forward.

This is for the mom who is navigating mental illness and/or special needs in their child. You are the most courageous. You are walking this incredibly difficult walk and you feel like not many understand even though your child may look “normal”, there is so much more going on. You keep fighting for what they need and deserve because you know them best and understand that they require more. Something else. You are my hero. I want to be like you if and when my kids need me to be.

This is for the mom who is so tired, so spirit depleted that she ignores the kids for a while to play on her phone or watch a Hallmark Christmas movie or read a book while they destroy the basement, you need some time to yourself lady. You get that however you can, even if it’s in your own house and they are just a few feet away from you.

This is for the mom who feels as though she has nothing left to give her partner, her work, her passions, her creative endeavors, her friends, her family. People understand. Try them. Connect. We are all out here feeling these same feelings and when we share the load, it helps.  Even when we really just want to be in our beds snuggled up with bed pie, we can still text. We can still use the phone (I KNOW).

This is for the mom who went through infertility or their child being sick or hurt or even losing a child and feels as though any time she complains she is somehow ungrateful. UNTRUE.  You get to complain too.  Motherhood is hard and frustrating and tiring and rage inducing at times, no matter how grateful you are.

This is for the mom whose house is never clean, whose laundry is never altogether done or put away (clean laundry in the hamper counts, right?), whose clothes always have some tear or stain on them, whose work suffers and who is always running to the train or racing through traffic to get to the next thing, whose list is always growing, whose ever increasing to-do lists keep getting side tracked, you are in such better company than you ever thought possible. We all think we are failing at something. 

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My friend Sheila (Mary Tyler Mom) is one of my favorite moms.  She inspires me every day. We share our joys and our sorrows and our struggles and our triumphs. We share about writing and jobs and families and marriage and loss and grief and through it all, laughter.

This is for the mom who wants to get her act together and send out holiday cards but then really, just doesn’t want to. I see you. I am you. It’s ok.

This is for the moms who have no time for drama or gossip or comparisons.  I am an old mom. I have no time for any of that ish. We have enough on our plate without all that. I only want to encourage the goodness in you and comfort the vulnerabilities you share. I have them all too. I want to laugh about how ridiculous this all is at times.

This is for the mom whose internal voice is Billy Eichner shouting all the ways you are failing and then your real voice shouting back, ENOUGH. I AM ENOUGH. COOL IT ALREADY.

This is for the mom who at bedtime is told secrets and wishes and hopes and is absolutely delighted and honored to hold that sacred space with these precious little humans. They trust you more than anybody.

We moms get the worst of our kids sometimes. Now that my two are in full day school they keep their act together all day long – and the day IS LONG – so when they come home they let loose. JUST LIKE I DO.  We are their people. Their comfort zone. So the fact that they can be the worst versions of themselves (meaning maybe take their aggression and feelings out at home that they don’t at school) is actually a good thing. It doesn’t always feel like it when you’re on the receiving end, but that’s what we do. My husband and I do it with each other as well, because we are each other’s safe spaces. Because we know we have this time at home and then we have to suit up and show up again the next day on our best behavior.

This is for the mom who struggles to find hope each and every day but keeps struggling because that hope is what keeps us going. We find that hope through little acts of kindness and we share that with people who need it. Who maybe don’t deserve it, but that’s how we change the world. One little act at a time. One day at a time. Through people. Through each other. This is what your kids see you doing every day. When they ask why you are sending gifts to people you don’t know or why we support animal rescues or why we run to open the door for someone who needs it, you tell them because it’s a kind thing to do.

These kids love you. These kids need you. These kids want you. Just you. You do all you can and you let what you can’t do go at the end of the day until you wake up with a start at 5am the next morning.  This is what we signed up for, but it’s not at all what we thought it would be.  It’s so much more. Ask the kids what they remember, what they love best about you and you won’t hear anything about what you aren’t doing perfectly. You will hear something like, “I like the way your boobies are so soft and big when we hug”.

You get to be there when your girl asks, “why do some grown ups think I’m a boy?” and you can respond with, “because when people see short hair they think boy. But you have short hair and I have short hair and…” And then you get to hear your almost 5 year old daughter bust in with the biggest smile to say, “AND YOU ARE A PRETTY LADY” as though you are the shiniest brightest most beautiful star she has ever seen.

You get to be the mom who emails their teacher at night because your boy told you she said he should stop and take a breath rather than flap flap flap and he was feeling self conscious and needed reassurance that his joy is perfect and he can keep right on expressing it exactly as he wants to and then that teacher responds with kindness and understanding and reassurance that we are all on the same page and you take a deep breath yourself.  Maybe even do a little flap.

You get to be the mama bear when they tell you so and so said something unkind or pushed someone that day. Then you get to let them feel their (and your) big feelings and talk through how we will handle it. I am so honored I get to be this person. But it is a lot.

The mental load of motherhood is heavier than laundry. There’s always more laundry and there’s always more to worry about. But there’s always the surprise of something too big for your heart to handle each day if you’re open to it. Feeling all these feelings is a heavy load, one that needs to be recognized and shared and applauded and hell, celebrated. Sure moms have been doing this deal since the beginning of time but we know what this mental load can do to moms now. We know how heavy it can be. We need each other. We moms are pretty incredible with all we do and carry each day and that is a hell of a lot more than just twin car seats with babies strapped into them. I told a friend that she was remarkable the other day and she said, “why, I’m just a mom”. Motherhood entails everything in the world except the word “just”. I know the load now. I am learning it more and more each day and I’ll tell you moms deserve all the respect in the world.

I am all these moms and I’ll bet you are too.  I am doing the best I can. I am messy, I am imperfect, I am tired, I am a superhero, I am in love, I am their mom. And I am the absolute best person to be their mom. I am exactly where I need to be right in this moment. You are their mom. You are all these things and you are enough.

Remember that not every moment needs to be magical. You can opt out of whatever you feel is too much. You can. Think back to when you were a kid and what are your fondest memories? Not every moment is magical. Release that shit. Are you raising kind, thoughtful, compassionate social citizens of the world? Not every moment is magical. Truly, not that many are. But there are some. And we get to experience that magic through these kids sometimes when we least expect it. Those moments are rarely orchestrated and they are often my favorite.

Go easy on yourself, moms. You are courageous and though you may not feel like it because of the constant nagging (ahem,  I mean reminders to do what we need to get done because nobody else will do it if we don’t), you are fun. YOU ARE FUN! And when your kids get to have fun with you, they remember. That laughter and look in their eyes when they see you having fun?  You know what I’m talking about – THAT is the look I want.

This is for the moms. You are doing the most important and life giving work there is to do. Be encouraged that these children you are raising up are going to change the world thanks to you. We are damn good at what we do however we do it. It works for us. I am holding space for you wherever you may be today. I am proud and honored to walk along with you as we trudge this happy road.

Related:

Things I want my daughter to know as we smash the patriarchy

I am the sober mom

Dear new mom of twins

Dear Mom – I get it now

Letter to a new mom

Before I was your mom

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