The Mother Load
After school today, the kids and I drove a few miles over to a local nature park and spent some time hiking the trails. And also playing Pokemon Go. Don’t judge us, we’re hooked.
Anyway, this particular park has great trails, but they are all loops that start by going downhill and end by taking you back uphill. Toward the end of our walk, we were all tired. It had been a long day, a long walk, we were out of Pokeballs, and we were ready to be heading home for a snack and a drink and a comfy couch. My three-year-old had been a trooper but was just D-O-N-E, and so, worn out as I was, I hoisted her up on my back and slogged up the hill, carrying her weight as well as my own.
As I trudged up the hill about 35 lbs heavier than I have recently been, her little hands pawing my face as she negotiated finding a grip that worked for both of us, I actually cackled out loud as it struck me what an absolutely perfect analogy the end of this hike was for the past few weeks of our life as a family. This ten minute stretch of hiking, lugging the tired three-year-old on my already exhausted frame and practically dragging the five-year-old along beside us, was just this perfect little microcosm of my life as a mom in this season.
Three and a half weeks earlier (but who’s counting), our entire life as a family had changed. All we did was start school and activities for the year, but this was THE FIRST TIME for all of us and it has felt like jumping into the ice cold deep end of the pool of life and having to doggy paddle our brains out. Mister Cameron started full-day Kindergarten, Miss Kendall started three-year-old preschool, he started soccer, she started dance, and our whole world was instantly drastically different than it had ever been in any other season.
I am a stay-at-home mom, so the transition to days apart from one another and schedules we can’t just adjust on a moment’s notice if we are having a tough day has been hard on all of us. And the fatigue- oh, my goodness. Not only was he all of a sudden in school for six hours every single day, but I have to wake her up both in the morning and from nap in order to get him to and from school. We are not at our best in the rest department. While soccer and dance could have added to the stress for the kids, they have actually been a blessing because both kids really, REALLY enjoy their respective activities and they have proven to be good releases and stabilizers for them. But on my end, it has me planning meals around 5 o’clock practices and worrying about keeping one kid entertained while the other kid does his or her thing, and of course it does add to the fatigue, albeit in a mostly constructive way.
I would say we have weathered the season about as well as could be expected, but it has still been HARD. The kids’ fuses have been so short. Their emotions have been so close to the surface. And Cam has at times responded to his stress and fatigue by venting to Jeff and me about things at school that have made him unhappy, so we have been left determining whether or not it’s actually as bad as he has made it out to be in his tired times. (Turns out it’s not. His teacher paints a much different picture of how he does at school and so does he when he’s fed and rested. But I did spend a few days checking out the local private schools while we got it all sorted. And there were tears when he wasn’t looking. It was hard, man. Glad that’s behind us.
So, clearly there’s been a lot going on over here. I knew going into this transition that I was going to have my work cut out for me managing schedules, routines, mornings (oh, mornings! Lord, have mercy), meal planning, getting kids to and from #allthethings, etc. That part I saw coming like a freight train and did my best to prepare myself and the kids for it. But what I didn’t anticipate was the enormity of THE LOAD that would be on me as The Mom throughout this transition for our family. The Mother Load.
I should have anticipated it, I could have anticipated it, because this is nothing new. Every time something happens in our family that presents a disruption, challenge or strain- from the sicknesses of cold and flu season to trips and vacations to a death in the family- the load the falls on me while walking my family through the season, is always enormous.
I am The Mommy, I am the one EVERYONE looks to for comfort, consistency, to be snuggled and soothed, and at times to be the dumping ground for all of the bad feels that need to be dumped. I am the one who is trying (key word:TRYING, not always succeeding) to keep the day to day running, to maintain the framework and rhythm that we are used to as a family, to keep some consistency while also letting things slide in just the right places to make room for the extra stuff that’s on board right now- all despite my own stress and fatigue.
I’m also a teacher in this season. My job as The Mommy is not just to make a way through these challenges for my kids but to also to help them start learning how to process it all themselves. Someday way too soon, they will be on their own and away from me (PERISH THE THOUGHT! I can’t even with that image right now), having to walk their very own selves and one day even their own kids through times of stress and this is my chance to help them learn about their own stress triggers, responses, and what they need to cope, and also to model how a healthy family unit rolls in times like these.
It’s a lot, right? And I know I’m not the only one. I hear stories like this, similar tales from other moms all the times. For many of us, part of being The Mommy is carrying The Mother Load, hoisting our families onto our backs in tough seasons and carrying all of us through.
Now, to be sure, not all families are the same. If you don’t identify with what I’m saying here in this post, there’s nothing wrong with you or with me. Neither of us are bad moms who should be doing things differently. Our families are different, our motherhood journeys are different, and that’s as it should be.
But if you, like me, find yourself carrying a heavy Mother Load during seasons that are already heavy, let me offer you a fist-bump of solidarity and some words of encouragement:
You’re a great mom, the very best mom those kids could have by their side in this season. If you weren’t, the good Lord would have given them to someone else. God doesn’t mis-cast roles, you are exactly the Leading Lady He intended.
Acknowledge how difficult this season is, speak it out loud to yourself and to those in a position to help, support, and understand (friends, partners, mentors, etc.). It’s not complaining, Sister, it’s SPEAKING YOUR GOSH-DARNED TRUTH AND YOU DESERVE IT!
Make room for self-care whenever you can, recharge your own battery in whatever ways you can manage. A pumpkin-spice latte, a half-hour spent reading or watching Friends rather than doing laundry, a run or a workout, a shower all by yourself before bed, lunch with a friend, a walk with Pokémon Go (who me?)- whatever you can squeeze in.
Release anything that you can. You don’t have to be perfect in this season and #doallofthethings. Also, there are some things our loved ones are better served by carrying for themselves, even though our instinct is do it all for them. Be honest with yourself and let go of anything you can.
I’m cheering you on, Mama. Down in the trenches with you, handing you a hot cup of coffee as you hand me a hot cup of tea. You are not alone and you’re doing a GREAT job.