Hey, mama. I see you.
You just rushed into work, late or almost late, and collapsed in your chair. You put on your makeup while sitting in traffic. You are buzzing from too much coffee, and too little sleep. Half your brain is thinking about your kid’s math test, or the bully on the playground, or…God have mercy on you, your kids is star of the week and you have to make a poster tonight that is a mini bio of his life, AND bring cupcakes for snack time tomorrow. AND read to the class sometime this week.
You won’t get paid for that hour, no two hours with traffic, because you, my dear, used up all of your personal days by March 22nd for this kind of thing.
Mama, I see you.
You just got your oldest kid on the bus, and he was crying because you wouldn’t, couldn’t, drive him to school today. You peeled his arms off from around your neck, told him he would be fine, and watched the bus drive away. Then, you came inside and collapsed onto the sofa because the guilt is so heavy. The toddler is chasing the dog. The baby is screaming. The front of your shirt is soaked in breastmilk. You wonder if you will get a shower today. Your biggest regret is not that mullet you had in the 8th grade, but signing up to be class mom. Sometimes, when you are surrounded by screaming kids, and dirty dishes, and cleaning up poo, and saying things like, “Get your hand out of the toilet!” you think, “What did I do? I had a job. A life. I wore clothes with buttons.”
Hey, mama, I see you. You got up at 5:00 am and you are still behind. You are glad you work from home so you can “be there for your kids,” but that also means you are doing it all. Today, you will lug your computer to doctor’s appointments, and across town to your sullen 14-year-old’s lacrosse game. When, after the game, Mr. Attitude asks if you “saw his goal,” you will lie and say you did, when you actually looked up from your computer 2 seconds after the puck struck the net. Your phone dings, and when you see a group chat from the other cheer moms begin, you want to die inside because if you have to buy one more giant bow, or write one more $150.00 check, you are going to scream. Mr. Attitude, who smells like the inside of a garbage dump after his game, asks what is for dinner. You have no idea, and it is getting harder and harder to care.
Mamas, I see you, all of you and this is what I see…
You feel guilty all of the time. You buy Nexium at Costco in bulk. You are constantly irritable, and can’t seem to figure out the big picture anymore. You cry in the shower, when you get to take one without being interrupted that is. You paste on a smile for the carpool, for the neighbors, and for every never-ending after school activity your kids have planned, and then, when everyone is finally in bed, you collapse in the bathroom floor and sob.
You already ordered your tickets for Bad Moms 2, because your biggest fantasy in the world is not to be wealthy, or famous, or even go to Europe for two weeks. No, your fantasy is to walk into a PTA meeting like Amy from Bad Moms 1 and say those magic words…
“I can’t do this anymore. I quit.”
Here, mama, take this older mom’s hand, and let me tell you something…
You matter too, and not because of everything you are to your kids, your partner, your job. You matter just because you are you.
And you deserve so much more kindness than this. I know it is difficult to believe, but the reason you love that line from Bad Moms is because it is so fundamentally true. Our world has gone nuts with the belief that we have to fill our children’s lives with endless activity, and that we, as mothers, have to be everything to everyone all of the time.
From an older mom who has been there, cried there, broken under the weight there, I want to offer you a gift.
You see mama, the truth is that you can’t do it all because it is too much to do. You can’t carry it all, because it is too heavy. Your kids will be fine with less. Less stuff. Less experiences. Less success.
They don’t need multiple activities each week, or that training camp so they can be a super athlete, or an iPhone 8. They don’t have to go to every party, or festival. They will be fine with less expensive shoes, no summer camp, or travel ball.
All of those people who told you your kid had to do all of that because they needed to get “a soccer scholarship,” were…lying. There are very few of those to be had. You know what there is a lot of though? Injuries from endless play. Burnout. Kids who travel all over the country and world to play sports, only to walk away from that sport forever in high school because they are sick of it.
What kids need is pretty simple.
They need to be held responsible for their own grades, because those are their grades, not yours.
They need to be bored, so that there is room for creativity to take root. So, for crying out loud, take that screen away and let them be bored. When they complain about being bored, say “Awesome! I am so glad you are bored because I need help. Now here, fold this laundry, take out the trash, walk the dog…” They need to learn they are not the center of the universe, but a valuable contributor to the whole. They need, so desperately, to learn that their worth is not in being the best, but in using their talents and gifts to make the world a better place.
They need you to take care of yourself, so that you are healthier and less stressed. They need you to show them that self-care is not an indulgence, but part of living a balanced life. They need you to demonstrate for them how to draw appropriate boundaries, even when, especially when, everyone is pressuring you to give in.
They need you to rest in the truth that you are enough just as you are.
Because, you are enough, mama. You are.
So, say “no.” And when other moms look at you in shock, and offense because you said it, feel sad for them that they are still drinking that KoolAid, bless their hearts. Maybe, like Amy in Bad Moms, your example will help them break free from this guilt-infused pursuit of perfection that is making us crazy.
Maybe. But even if they don’t, that is their business, not yours. Just like the fact that you, you rebel, don’t need anyone’s permission to choose sanity instead…
empowered by the gift of “no.”