Moms can do it all! (Right?)

Mothers. We take on everything. We take care of our kids, cook dinners, pack lunches, clean our houses, bandage booboos, schedule appointments, and organize play dates and parties. We help with homework, fill out school forms, bathe our children, go food shopping, and buy new clothing and shoes when our kids grow out of them after what seems like a few weeks. We figure out how life is going to look for our families. And that doesn’t include the invisible load that no one sees. All of the issues going on behind closed doors that require immediate and special attention. It could be the behind scenes scheduling of your child’s educational plan or dealing with your preteen’s major emotional meltdowns. All this while trying to make time for yourself, make time for your partner, and to just make enough time in the day to get it all done. Mothers are expected to do it all, but can we?

We are expected to work full time, but to be home for our children. We are expected to have healthy babies and then be on our way back into our old jeans before that baby passes his or her ninth month mark. We are expected to take time for ourselves, but not too much because it’s selfish. What are the expectations doing to us? They are setting us up for failure. Society is telling us how strong and capable we are and how we can handle everything that comes at us, but not really preparing us for what really comes along with motherhood. You can really never be prepared for taking care of a newborn on an hour’s sleep, especially when you have two older kids at home that still need your attention. They still need to get ready for school, to be fed, to be loved. And no one tells you how hard it can be to nurse a baby, care for yourself and your other kids while recovering from a c-section, or realizing you have postpartum anxiety or depression.

What women really need is that village that everyone promises. It takes a village they say. Well, where is that village? And just because the generation before us didn’t have as much help or went through motherhood in a different way, doesn’t mean we can’t ask for help now. Our grandmothers were burnt out and stressed. They just didn’t say it then. They didn’t joke about mama needing a glass of wine midday. Or maybe they did but no one was listening. They were missing parts of their old identities and they could have been lonely or unfulfilled. You could be surrounded by friends and family all day, but on the inside could be feeling very unseen. We need to support each other. When someone is in need of help, don’t ask them what you can do, just do it. Leave a tray of lasagna at their door or offer to take their child into the carpool. Step in. Your gesture could be that mom’s chance to stop and breathe for a moment.

Let’s talk about the partners, the dads, whoever they may be. They’re trying, they’re also doing the best they can. Maybe they are asking to help, maybe they are pulling their weight, maybe they’re awesome and they have been a great support. But it doesn’t change the fact that it’s always on the mothers. We have to worry about it all, all that life has to give us.

I remember working as a teacher in East Harlem. I taught there for eight out of my eleven years as a teacher. It was a long commute and an even longer day. I was out of the house by 6 am everyday with little Reagan in tow. I thanked God every morning about how easy she was. She was my little buddy. I would drop her off at daycare by 7 and race for my trains to be at work by 8. I was there until 4 and then would race back to the trains to make sure I could pick her up before the daycare closed at 6 pm. I did all of this alone everyday. My husband worked nights and weekends. And when he decided to take on another academy, he was gone Monday through Friday. He would leave Sunday afternoons so we really only had Saturdays.

One day Reagan woke up not feeling well. It was already almost 6 am and I didn’t have many options at that point. I remember the panicky feeling in my stomach. I was out of sick days and it was either I call out or bring her to work. It was Field Day and I couldn’t not be there for my kids. She was sniffly, but no fever so I called my boss and she told me I could bring her. I brought her with me on two trains and we walked six blocks to school. I couldn’t bring her stroller because it was rush hour. When we got to school, we immediately gathered the students for another 6 block walk to the park. My little girl was holding her own. She was smiling. I was exhausted. About half way into the day, she felt warm. She started to lose steam. I will never forget that hot day in June where I led 25 first graders and carried my 35 pound daughter all the way back to school. One of my coworkers said to me, “Nicki, you’re a super mom. You got this.” I’ll never forget that. I then dismissed my students and carried her back to the subway and all the way back to Brooklyn. It. Was. All. On. Me. And that’s just how it was. My husband never had to worry about it. All he had to worry about was work and I had to worry about everything else. I kept up that life for so long, long enough for my body to send me messages that I was doing too much, that I couldn’t keep going this way. After four miscarriages in a row, I knew I needed to stop and listen. I couldn’t do it all.

It’s okay to not be able to do everything. It really is. Everyday I make a list of what needs to get done. Somedays I start to panic when I see that I’m behind schedule, if I didn’t get the laundry done, if dinner was forgotten until 5 pm with no good options. I have to tell the type a person inside of me to relax and that there’s always tomorrow. So what if I order pizza for the second time this week? My kids are fed, my kids are happy, and they are loved. Remember mamas, you are doing enough, you are enough, and you don’t have to do it all (unless you want to!) Now, go treat yourself to some Nutella mixed with peanut butter. You’re welcome.

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