OH. MY. GOLLIES.
I’m swamped. In over my head. Barely keeping my lips to the surface of the water for those precious gulps of air… which, for the sake of this post, that elusive air would be those rare moments when life feels like it’s flowing smoothly.
Okay, so to be fair, I don’t know a woman alive who doesn’t feel this way pretty much all the time. It’s a running joke: the second you complete one task there are twenty new tasks that need attention. The moment you think the laundry is finished the hamper is full again (or, if you’re me, you realize there’s still a load in the dryer waiting to be ironed, folded, and put away). The instant you wash the last dish in the sink or put the last glass from the dishwasher away, your daughter comes into the kitchen with the fifty-two cups of water she’s been hoarding in her room. You paint your nails only to break one immediately. You get home after spending three hours and nine hundred dollars at Target just to remember you’ve forgotten the $2.00 item you went for in the first place. You finish the Christmas shopping early and then it dawns on you that you still need to sort, wrap, ribbon, bow, tag, box, ship, and deliver them. Every task that you check off your list seems to result in a few more added alongside it.
YOU ARE NEVER FINISHED.
Now, this was always the case for me just as it is for every other woman out there. But I’ll be honest, when I was a stay-at-home mom I had a pretty good grip on things. I had created a system that worked for me. The housework was done on a schedule, errands were run while the girls were in school, my nails were painted Monday nights (by me, I’m too cheap to pay someone to do something I can do myself), and I even had enough free time to organize closets, volunteer at my daughters’ school, and relax in the evenings and on weekends. There were never piles of laundry (Unless it was laundry day), the beds were made, the fridge was full, the kitchen was clean. I did the yard work – the weeding, mowing, trimming, raking, etc – painted every room inside our home, and even went for a 3-mile run everyday. My list of to-dos was long, but I was on it.
Fast forward to now, and let me tell you, being a single working mom is NO JOKE. When we lived in Florida my ex-husband traveled so much that I did all these things on my own then, too… but the biggest difference was that I wasn’t working. And while I am so incredibly thankful to my boss for taking the chance on an about-to-be-divorced mom of two who hadn’t taught in years, it sure has added a whole new element to the upkeep of life.
I’m just not as on top of things as I used to be. There are, on occasion, hampers full of laundry… piles of waiting to be folded… a dryer AND a washer full of forgotten garments. My nails usually look like a hamster’s been chewing on them, and the beds are rarely made. My fridge is frequently in need of cheese or butter or some other staple, and my yard – my poor, poor yard is in desperate need of attention. Errands get run every other weekend when the girls are with their father, and closets are in dire need of being cleaned out. Everywhere I look something is screaming for me to take care of it – and none of it even has a mouth with which to scream at me. But I hear them screaming just the same.
And these are just the needs around the house… I’m not even addressing my job-related tasks that need to be done each week! Of course, I’m well aware that the world will not literally fall apart if I need to iron, and I know that my children won’t think less of me if I forget to bring home more milk. But it’s difficult to live like this remembering how “with it” I used to be.
Take, for instance, my poor Julia’s hands. She came back from a long weekend at her dad’s, and I noticed they were severely dried out. I didn’t even know hands could look that bad (chalk it up to being a Florida girl). This is not to rag on her dad – clearly her skin had been drying out for weeks and I’d never noticed – but by that time her knuckles were cracking and bleeding. I went to put lotion on her hands, and they turned beet red and she started screaming because they hurt so bad. I was brokenhearted – how had I missed this? How had I let it get so bad? I hold her hand all the time, and I hadn’t even noticed. It was painful to know that she was hurting because of my list of distractions and responsibilities that could no longer be accomplished while she was in school, thereby allowing me to focus more on her when we were together. Thankfully by the next evening she was much better and the lotion was not causing her to cry, but it was a huge eye-opener that I’m not the mom I was.
And why should I be?
Life looks very different – nothing like it did just a short year ago – but I am still me. And I am still me doing the absolute best that I can. It’s just that that absolute best looks different than it used to. My absolute best as a married stay-at-home-mom resulted in an always clean, organized, filled-fridge home. My absolute best as a single, working mom is an almost always clean, mostly organized home with a partially-filled fridge. Sure, my nails look like crap and most nights I fall into bed and realize the second my legs hit the sheets that I haven’t shaved in a week (thank goodness for winter!), but my girls’ homework is always done, their lunches are always made, and they have never run out of clean underwear. We make time for fun. My girls are learning to share the load, and I’m thankful they understand that they are part of a family that works together.
So yes, I still feel like I’m swimming in a huge ocean of things that “need” to be done, and yes, it’s a lot harder to keep moving now that my time is more limited and my workload has increased. But every now and then I get enough accomplished that there’s some open water… I move more freely… and I realize how truly blessed I am to have so many things to attend to.
And – perhaps most importantly, I realize I’m still an incredible mother.
PS – I’m not trying to ignore that men probably face this too, but in my experience it doesn’t result in the same stress levels that it seems to for women. Or the same feelings of failure.