When the Balancing Act is Just an Act: Redefining Motherhood

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“I lost it last week,” she said.

A ICU nurse and I sat in the dance studio waiting for our daughters to finish their class. I had my computer on my lap, trying to redeem a sermon, she had a box of little bows and bags of bird seed. Her son played quietly on his privileged one hour a week time on his iPhone.

“Really?” I said. “What happened?”

“I just don’t think I can keep this up… Working nights, my husband travels, I’m a Girl Scout Leader, we have basketball and ballet and hours of homework. I told my friend at lunch, I just don’t think I can keep up this balancing act.” Her children were 5 and 8.

Suddenly I am the mom with older children.

“Yes,” I said. “I understand.”

What exactly are we, and by “we” I mean the mother I met on the plane who gets up at 5:15 and makes a full, hot breakfast for her boys every morning, and the mother who forgoes friends for her children’s play dates, and the mother who is told every day that she looks tired (Um, that last one would be me), and any other mother who says to herself, “I am losing it!” trying to accomplish?

Something is wrong here.

I’m not sure how to fix it, but I am telling you that this generation of mothers are exhausted, over functioning and feel an enormous amount of pressure to make sure their kids have everything they need to succeed, that they are successful in their careers and give the outward appearance that everything is fine. Inside they feel alone, stressed, tired and responsible.

This is not a pity party or to cast blame or even a lament.

It’s to simply say that the conversations I am having with every mother, friend or stranger, are too similar to not hear a common theme: that there are a bunch of women out there in minivans filled with winter gear, sticky notes, calendars, sports gear and Starbucks, who are smart, strong and capable and trying like hell to keep it all together.

So, fellow mothers here is something I want to tell you:

We need to give ourselves a time out and redefine motherhood for our generation and generations to come.

You are not alone and you are not crazy. We are with you in your craziness.

You don’t have to do it all. I know you feel like you need to, but you don’t.

The worry you have for your child today will be a faint memory is six months. This too shall pass. Keep your perspective. Remember that you do not have to take fourth grade math. You already passed fourth grade math. It is not your math assignment. Let him fail. Let him succeed.

You only have one body. Take care of it.

What do you want your story of motherhood to be? How do you want to answer about your experience as a mother when your adult children ask you “how you did it?”

The balancing act is just an act we are all pretending to perform. The truth is we are all getting up, finding the missing sock, hoping there is milk, looking for clothes that haven’t been worn a hundred times this winter, trying to hide the wrinkles, remembering the backpack, getting out the door, and saying “I love you.”

“I love you.” Friends, if you remember to tell children that you love them, you have been a great mom today. You are a wonderful mom. You are doing a terrific job. Be kind to yourself.

Remember that the One who created you and calls you “child” loves you too.

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