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I rolled over and read the text message, “Carly’s behavior is so bad it makes me want to fake my own death.”
I spit my coffee out and roll on the floor. Carly is my friend’s eight-year-old daughter. I can actually hear her deadpan delivery in my head. It makes me laugh even harder.
We banter back and forth on our phones as I watch the clock strike midnight, swapping funny parenting memes that represent our lives as moms.
The meme-ing at midnight has become a necessary past time that ends my long, exhausting days in laughter.
Moms are burnt-out. In our effort to try to do it all and be it all for our children, we often find ourselves just trying to survive the next day instead of actually looking forward to it.
I’m not saying dads aren’t burnt-out too. But I don’t think dads are burnt-out like moms. Let’s admit, ladies, when the kids want anything, whether they can’t find a cleat or their favorite pair of leggings for school, when one of their siblings is getting on their nerves or rolling on the floor beating on them, when a meltdown is ensuing because you dared to buy the wrong brand of potato chip they like, or they need help with anything, from filling a water glass to wiping their own ass, they are not screaming, “Daaaaaaaaaad!!”
Nope. Hell no. The word “mom” gets screamed in my house at least 100 times a day. (It’s a 100—I counted one time.)
I see you, mommas. No matter how young or old your children are, I see you.
You lie awake at night worrying if you forgot something for the next day. You scribble to-do lists so long on a notepad, your pens are constantly running out of ink. You’re so overscheduled between work, sports, extracurricular activities, playdates, and birthday parties, you hyperventilate in the car trying to make it to everything on time. (Does anyone make it on time, by the way? Because running 5-10 minutes behind has become my norm.)
Unexpected curveballs that throw you off schedule often lead to a tirade of curse words that would make your mother weep or find you flipping off any car on the road, driving 10 miles under the speed limit. Dammit, don’t they know we have places to go and drop-offs to make?
Yet, we love it. We adore our kids at nauseam. We wouldn’t want to miss a second cheering them on at their games, meeting their new friends from school, or deny them the opportunity to sign up for yet another ballet class or play in a traveling sports league.
Even though we find ourselves screaming at the top of our lungs, wine glass in hand, “I can’t do it all!” we sure as hell will die trying.
I used to think because I was a single mom I had it worse than other moms. The truth is, I’m learning I really don’t.
I sit next to those mommas on soccer fields and neighborhood block parties. I take long walks with my high school friends with grown children now in college. I talk to divorced friends who have their kids just 50 percent of the time, step parents who have taken on being there for their partner’s children.
We are no different. All of them experience the same bone-weary tiredness and overwhelm on some days as I do. Each of them feels at times they can never do enough. Yet all of us realize how lucky we are to have the privilege of being a parent.
I Facetimed with a good friend today who shared she had a total breakdown last night. We talked about the never-ending quest to keep up, to keep track of it all, to survive without getting even 15 minutes a day to ourselves.
We talked about how our minds race and sputter and stop and then become even more tired than our bodies. And when the mind and body give out at the same time, our patience wears thin, and a breakdown is sometimes the only thing that can grab our attention and make us just…
Stop. Stop trying to do it all.
On the days it’s particularly overwhelming (and I think I want to give my two weeks notice at this job called Parenting because I feel I deserve to get fired anyway), I instead repeat these 10 mantras that bring me back to my center.
1. You are not a bad mom—you’re just having a bad day. Even when our kids have bad days, we still love them and know they aren’t little demons. (Okay, maybe we don’t always know that, but once we calm down, we can admit they aren’t demons all the time.) You’re not a horrible parent because you were late to pick up, lost your patience, or failed to get dinner on the table, again. Just as football players have an off game, you, too, can have an off day as a parent.
2. You will make mistakes and the kids will be okay. I tell my kids all the time, “I’m not perfect, and I don’t expect you to be either. We’ll both make mistakes.” When I do, I make it a practice to talk to both kids honestly about it and apologize. I know they appreciate that and are learning compassion for others by seeing that everyone makes mistakes, but that doesn’t define who they are. It also doesn’t define you.
3. This stage will not last forever. No matter what stage you’re in, whether it’s the infant sleepless nights stage, the teething phase, middle school drama, puberty and hormones, or teenage shenanigans, this, too, shall pass. As soon as you get through this phase, the next one will come to give you a reprieve so you can coast for a little while again.
4. One day I will laugh about this. When my son was born, he was colicky and threw exorcist-like temper tantrums that lasted until he was three. His dad and I didn’t sleep through the night for three and a half years. Now, my son is the funniest, most positive, and laid-back kid, and when I tell him some of the stories, we both laugh our asses off. Just know when the storm passes, that time your child pooped and then vomited all over your brand-new car will be something you’ll think was the most hysterical thing ever in 20 years.
5. Do some of the things—not all of the things. You do not have to finish three loads of laundry, meal prep for the week, make the doctor’s appointments, steam clean the carpets, and order all the things off Amazon today. Whatever the list is, cut it into half because that’s all you’ll get done anyway (if you’re lucky). When I get even 1/4 of my to-do list done, I throw a press conference in my honor.
6. I am the exact mom my child needs. Yes, you are. Their soul chose you to be their mom, so whatever your dynamic and relationship is, remember that you are exactly perfect for their spiritual growth and who they are meant to become in this world.
7. Let them be little and laugh with them. When they get silly, spread their endless supply of slime all over the dining room table (parents who give my kid slime, by the way, in party goodie bags obviously hate me), or run naked through the house screaming, “Look at my weiner!” remember that you, too, thought this was the funniest thing ever at one time. I’ve learned to not reprimand them for being little and enjoying child-like things that bring them joy.
8. There is no right or wrong way to parent; there is just what works for our family. Stop worrying about what your brother, best friend, neighbor, parenting book, or Instagram feed tells you they do in their family. You do you, boo. Whether your kid’s bedtime is at 7 p.m. or 10 p.m. or you let your kids eat in the living room instead of at the kitchen table, if it works for your family, don’t change a thing.
9. Self-care is my homegirl. If our cup is empty, we have nothing to give our kids (or anyone else in our lives). That’s when the breakdowns happen. When we can’t find 15 minutes to lay down for a power nap, half an hour to go to the gym, an hour in the month to treat ourselves to a massage or lunch with a friend, we deprive our kids of a balanced, healthy, stable mom. Do the self-care thing like your life depends on it.
10. I am enough. I am enough. I am enough. Not much more to say except you are and will always be enough. Your job is to believe it.