I’ve hit the breaking point. It took me almost a year and I saw it coming from a mile away, but the final straw hit me as I received yet another call from the attendance line at my kid’s school that he missed school today. (He did not miss school today; I can attest that he’s been online.)
I’m so stressed out.
Like, I don’t even know how to adequately start this blog post or how to construct my thoughts into coherent paragraphs instead of random rants about just how stressed I am.
Please tell me if you are a working mom you are feeling this, too.
I’m going to go ahead and pretend that you just nodded your head. You’re feeling me. You’re all, “YAAAS, girlfriend. You and me both!”
Good. (I mean, not good—I don’t want you to be stressed, too, but good … I’m not alone).
And it can feel so lonely, right?
I mean, how many hats can we wear until they all fall off?
Wearing the many proverbial “hats” is not new; especially to women—working outside of the home or not. But this pandemic has brought our hat collections to a whole new level. I mean, if hat collecting were still a thing (is it?), I feel like we’d all be winners with contenders like:
- Calendar coordinator
- Insurance manager
- Project manager
In my family’s case, I also wore the hat of investigator. With a husband who was laid off, four kids to take care of, and a business that saw a 75% decline in revenue, I had to get creative. It was hours on the phone talking through insurance options, it was looking into free food programs and discounts offered for kids’ activities. It was figuring out (not very well) how to mask those stress levels and fears I was having as an adult so that my kids never felt unsafe or worried about what was going to happen next.
We have no space to recover
We’ve never been able to just turn off the Mom button. Throw in a pandemic and scarcity of resources, and our roles as mothers become heightened to the next level. We maneuver like robots through morning routines and breakfast, Zoom calls and school GoogleMeets, yelling at our kids to be quiet so we can take a conference call, drying the tears of our middle schoolers who are frustrated with distance learning, listening to our high schoolers tell us about the anxieties they’re having, working an 8-hour day in 4.5 hours because the rest of the time is spent on helping with school work, paying the bills, online grocery shopping or hey, there’s a husband in there somewhere, too—bet he wants to spend time together.
If you’re in this boat with me, you get it. I don’t have to tell you about the lack of recovery time we have. Dekeda Brown said it best in her interview as part of The Primal Scream project with The New York Times, “I feel like a ticking time bomb that is constantly being pushed to the breaking point, but then I am able to defuse myself. Goodness, this is taxing.”
Taxing is one word for it. I can think of a handful of other choice words I’d also use.
We worry. All. The. Time.
I’m worried that the stress from the pandemic and all that I’m dealing with is affecting my mental and physical health (OK, duh, it most definitely is). I’m also worried about the lasting impacts all this has on my kids’ mental health.
My kids are between the ages of 10 and 16 and holy man, I give them kudos for hanging in as well as they have during all of this. That is not to say that it has been all roses over here at our house (it mostly definitely has not). But can you imagine growing up, navigating your teenage years during a pandemic?
Where’s the support?
To me, I feel like the emotional parts—the worrying, the comforting, the parenting—those things aren’t even accounted for in the lack of support we’re receiving as mothers right now. The world tends to see things in the tangibles over the intangibles. Well, those too, have put working mothers in a bind. As one could likely easily deduce, the pandemic has intensified gender disparities in domestic work. And, the amount of women left in the workforce is back to numbers we saw in the 1980s (many needing to leave due to childcare needs) just when we were finally starting to see more women than men in the workforce.
And many of us who remain lucky enough to continue working are putting in a full day of professional work, a full day of childrearing and a full day of managing pandemic-induced school needs, activities or insert-your-third-major-management-project-here.
We’re working 3 full-time jobs (or more!) in a 24-hour period.
I don’t care about Instagram influencers, the come-back of middle parts and wide-legged jeans or which Kardashian is getting a divorce. I want to be able to divvy my load equally so that maybe I’m just working 1.5 full-time jobs a day instead of three.
Is that too much to ask?
So, what do we do?
We do what we do best. We tuck it all in, we buck up and we keep on keeping on.
Is it working?
Not in the least.
Something has to give. I need people to vent to and who get exactly where I’m coming from. I need a network of other working moms with middle school and high school kids who are juggling activities, work and a partner all vying for my time.
And my guess is, if you’ve come this far in the post, you need that, too.
Look. I get it. I’ve seen plenty of eye-rolls when I drone on about my four kids (I chose to have four kids, right?) Sure. I did. And if you want to be technical about it, I actually wanted five, but my body had other plans.
But I didn’t sign up for this. None of us did.
Maybe I just needed the space to rant. Maybe you needed to read the words of someone going through something you’re going through. Maybe we all need a little bit more “I see you” attitude. Or, maybe we all need to be reassured that just because this pandemic keeps going and isn’t “new” anymore that we’re still valid in our feelings (because our stressors are also not going away right now).
Hey, momma: I see you. I am you. And I’m not going to sugar-coat it and say, “You’ve got this!” or “Hang in there!” but I am going to tell you that whatever you are doing right now, keep doing it. If it’s crying in your car, do it. If it’s having that second glass of wine on a Wednesday night, go for it. If it’s closing down your teenager’s computer and forgetting for just one day that there are a host of missing assignment you could be helping with, do that, too.
I say that to you as much as I need to say it to myself. It’s OK not to be OK. We’re climbing uphill with 50 extra pounds in our packs and a rainstorm coming down hard on us. At the end of this climb, I’ve got to believe there’s going to be one gorgeous rainbow on the other side.
About the Author:
Melissa is CEO and founder of Allee Creative, a content marketing agency in Minnesota. A mother of four (2 tweens and 2 teenagers!) she is also a dance mom, a soccer mom, a hockey mom (and team manager), a band mom and a dog mom. Melissa is also a fitness instructor and a wife. During the 25th hour of her day, she volunteers her time as part of the Longest Day Committee for the Alzheimer’s Association. She loves walking and reading and makes sure that, no matter what, she fits both into her routine each day. Follow along on her crazy ride by connecting on LinkedIn, Twitter or Instagram.
Wow Melissa! I think you just spoke on behalf of millions of moms. Thank you!
Getting it off our chests, out of our brains, onto paper, out in the atmosphere … I think it helps moms to just be honest and talk about it. We’re not super-human. We have 24 hours in the day just like everyone else does. Many of us are so head down that we need to be reminded that we’re not alone, even when it feels like we are.
Well said, Melissa. Hopefully, when we ask for help, our friends and family members will hear us – not just assume we’ll take care of everything, because we always have. Reaching the breaking point is a serious matter, and things must change. When it happened to me (husband heart attack, bankruptcy, lost house), my first change was to cut my hair, because “something had to change” and that was in my control. Then I kept changing other things – one after another: quit teaching, because it didn’t pay enough, let small clients go because they didn’t pay enough, etc.
Ultimately, we survived, but it wasn’t easy, and I regret having to cut out some of the most rewarding parts of my life. I wrote “Getting Your Life into Balance” during this period, because I couldn’t keep up my usual frenetic pace. And I always write when I’m in trouble.
I’ve always admired your smarts and can-do attitude, Melissa. Please let me know if you need any help from me.
Thanks, Lynn. I appreciate it. And your candor helps, too. Putting it out there and knowing that others have similar instances and situations helps, too.