When my son was a year old my husband came out of his home office at the end of the workday and stopped. As he looked around, I looked too…
Our son was frozen a foot from the TV watching Cars — the 3rd showing that day – and our furniture was shifted to create a barricade so he couldn’t escape the designated play area. There were no less than 1500 toys covering every inch of the floor: puzzle pieces, trains, tracks, blocks, cars, dinosaurs. I was laid out on the couch taking a pause from incessantly scrolling through my phone. My son and I were both still in PJs.
My husband finished scanning the room and looked back at me with eyebrows raised and a half-crooked smile. He started to say something but at the same time I jumped up, hurtled a busy time play cube and made it to the bathroom just in time. I was two months pregnant and vomiting 3-5 times a day.
I returned to our son still frozen in front of the TV and my husband now standing and staring in the kitchen. Unlike the family room, there was nothing going on in the kitchen. Well, not nothing. There was plenty of action in the sink in the form of a slightly rinsed stack of….everything. He was staring more in the direction of the empty stove and oven.
He hadn’t even spoken but I knew what he was thinking because I was thinking it too: What had I done all day? What did I have to show for it? How did I not do…more? I felt defeated, inadequate and unaccomplished.
I walked my vomit breath over to my husband and stood in front of him in my stained shirt, lounge pants and once-in-the-last-week washed hair and with tears in my eyes from having just heaved into a toilet I said:
I can’t do it all. This is what I’m capable of right now. I know it doesn’t look like much, but I can’t do more than this. All I can do is promise:
I will get better at this every single day.
The house won’t always look like this.
I won’t always look like this.
The kids won’t always be glued to a screen.
And you won’t always have to fix dinner.
It’s going to take a while, but I will be good at this one day. I promise.
Also, you need to fix dinner.
Maybe it was having someone witness the chaos- there’s no hiding it when your husband’s home all day. Or maybe it was admitting out loud that I couldn’t do more, but in that moment, my expectations and attitude about motherhood shifted. Enough is enough. I kept our son happy, safe, loved and cared for. THAT’S what I did all day. THAT’S what motherhood is and it’s exhausting and all-consuming. And it’s enough.
The “other stuff”: a perfect house, home cooked meals, a perfect body, clothes and hair, and the constant attempts to enrich everyone’s lives, those things are nice and certainly give moms a more standard feeling of accomplishment, but often times at the cost of our happiness and sanity.
I promised myself I wasn’t going to be a frazzled, angry, irritated mess of a mom on the inside so that people would be impressed with what they saw on the outside. I would aim to get better at this every day, but I would not feel defeated, inadequate, and unaccomplished if the “other stuff” didn’t get done.
Eight years later here’s what I know:
My husband wasn’t thinking those things. Most of the pressure we feel as moms comes from within.
I got better at it; our house is cleaner (most days), I’m dressed (athleisure ware counts), the kids aren’t glued to screens (in case our ped reads this), and I fix dinner (enough nights).
Every time I race towards becoming a frazzled, angry, irritated mess I change course and do less of the “other stuff”. My kids thrive when I’m a calm and present mom.