I’m tired because I’m doing important things. The problem with motherhood is that it doesn’t often feel this way. Whether you’re a working or a stay-at-home mom, it’s easy to feel like the million little things we do for our kids and our families don’t add up to anything big.
Motherhood is tricky. We spend our whole lives establishing who we are in our friendships, careers, and relationships, and then BAM!, the title of Mom comes along and upends it all. It’s easy to start referring to things in the past tense, as in “Before kids I used to _____.”
I was always the kid who shot for the stars. At any given point I wanted to be a Supreme Court judge, a NASA scientist, or an Olympic high jumper. While my zest for the law and astrophysics didn’t last, my ambition to do something big and important did. From a young age I was driven to collect accolades the way other kids collected stickers. National Honor Society, Cum Laude, MBA—nothing gave me more satisfaction than adding another title or set of initials next to my name. As I began my career, I was fiercely ambitious with my eyes always fixed firmly on the next rung of the ladder. Then I had a baby.
I’m proud to be a creature of habit. This has taken me a long time to come to terms with. For most of my life, I wanted to be the fun-loving, free-spirited girl known for her spontaneity. Call in sick to work and go sky diving? I’m in! Adopt a puppy on the way home from dinner? Absolutely! As much as I wanted to be that girl, though, it just wasn’t me. Looking back, this should have been clear from the diaries I kept as a kid. In them are pages of daily, minute-by-minute schedules that include activities like “Play with Barbies” and “Water fight with neighbors”. Apparently, these things can easily slip your mind when you’re seven.
Before I met my husband, I dated some amazing women. Some of them are still an important part of my life. We text on a daily basis, talk on the phone at least once a week, and every couple of months we spend a weekend together. They are strong, beautiful, and understand me in a way my husband never will. I’m grateful every day to have them in my life. What’s more, I know the only reason I do is because I’ve learned to treat my female friendships with the same care that I would a romantic relationship. So, I’ve learned to date my friends.
I have a confession to make: I am not a mess. As a mom, this is apparently unusual. Moms who are a mess dominate social media. They have a dedicated hashtag (#hotmessmom) and their meme game is strong. Interestingly, though, when I scroll through their posts, their lives don’t look that different from mine. I have dropped my son off at daycare in my pajamas without brushing my teeth. I have lost my patience and yelled at him during a tantrum. I have worn the same outfit and gone without washing my hair for days. I have counted the hours until bedtime and opened a bottle of wine at 3pm on a snow day. None of this, though, makes me a mess. It makes me human. Which has me wondering, when did we start defining imperfection as “everything’s falling apart”? When did we start billing a rough day (or week) as abject failure?