Moms are fed an expectation they can and need to do it all and that is impossible.
Balance in motherhood is a lie and no amount of hustling will ever make it possible.
My legs churned round and round sending me closer to my target. Patches of the black foam covering the metal handlebars had begun to fall off. The inside of my hands gripped as hard as they could through the healing blisters that I had from hours on the monkey bars. My knees kicked up, rotating back and forth, flecked with bruises and raspberry scratches. My bike stopped 2.7 miles and almost one hour from my house. I put my bike in the bike rack. I walked into the bank and opened my first checking account. I was 12-years-old.
My first taste of hustle.
Years later I would babysit, rollerblade 4.1 miles to my job as a swim instructor. I would teach lessons, perform my lifeguard shift and rollerblade home. In college, I held several jobs and a multitude of extracurricular activities. It continued in graduate school when I worked as a nanny, waitress, staff scheduler and I had a full-time internship; all while going to school.
I’ve always chalked these experiences up to pushing hard and wanting more, trying to do it all and find some sort of balance in my life.
When I became a mom, I naively thought I could do it all. I just had to hustle, I could juggle a multitude of tasks, responsibilities and jobs.
Spreading my time gravely thin, enveloping my family in a veil of denial and neglect.
The baby cards were filled with well wishes for my one-way trip to motherhood, no one spoke of the inability to find balance, no truth-telling that you can’t have it all, or that juggling too much will leave you empty in your motherhood. And no one talks about this ugly reality; instead lives are filtered through social media showing perfection and there is an unwritten expectation that you can do it all and it’s not complicated, so stop complaining.
Balance in motherhood is a lie.
The fact is, we cannot have it all and perpetuating the lie that we can have it all and find balance is detrimental to the emotional health of the modern woman. Trying to achieve this falsehood leaves mothers feeling guilty and inept. Arguing that moms can reshuffle their hours of “free time” and they will find a harmonious mosaic balance is laughable. Being a mom is complicated, unpredictable, stressful and unbalanced and to say otherwise is promoting an expectation that mothers can’t meet.
We need to see all the amazing things moms do every day. Frankly, getting your kids dressed and completing multiple drop offs deserves it’s own recognition, if not at least a coffee and breakfast sandwich. But there’s more to the story of a mom. Finding balance is not a reshuffling of free time. We are constantly trading experiences and moments and weighing what is right and necessary for our time and attention.
Our sleep is consistently interrupted by nursing babies, sick preschoolers and school-age kids who wander in our beds in the middle of the night.
We get our kids dressed and seasonally, dressed in winter gear, remember backpacks, lunches and water bottles, blankets, bottles, baby food, nuks, extra clothes, diapers and we make it to work each day, sometimes even on time.
We cry in pumping rooms because we miss our babies and didn’t get enough time with them during our maternity leave.
We sit in regret because of rushed shuffles in the morning that don’t show our true kindness and love as mothers.
We wear clothes that have breast milk, baby food, boogers and sometimes worse. And our hair could catch fire with the amount of dry shampoo we use.
We stand awkwardly at evening events in our high heels and dress clothes because we didn’t have enough time to go home and change.
Our bathrooms are dirty. Like gas station dirty, because instead of deep cleaning we play board games, color pictures and read to our kids.
Doing laundry consists of moving the laundry from the dryer (after it has been washed twice because you forgot it) to the couch and picking your family’s clothes from the pile because there just never seems to be enough time to complete the whole process.
We are one rash, fever, sore throat or explosive diaper from missing a meeting or day of work and we know it. We’ve also sent our child to daycare and school when they border on potentially being sick because we feared the repercussions from missing work.
We grocery shop and attempt to meal plan, make new recipes and defrost freezer meals even though our kids may take just one bite.
We may exercise, go to a happy hour or even take a night away, but it is never without at least one moment of feeling guilty and engaging in these activities always sets us back in some other area.
We spend our money on daycare, before and after school programs, paying off school loans that helped us get the education to get our current job, we drive used cars, we trade babysitting with friends, scan coupons on our phones, buy thrifted clothes and there still is not enough.
When we get “free time” we schedule doctor’s appointments, fill out forms, pack lunches and pay bills.
After the kids are bathed and sleeping, we take out our computers to try and catch up with friends or get ahead of work.
This is our messy balance in motherhood.
We must have confidence in knowing that we can’t give to all aspects but we are doing a good job in those moments and that is what we must find peace with. Motherhood is a messy collision: you cannot have it all and you must shift in the moment and give to those people and events.
We need to stop perpetuating the lie that mothers have been fed, that balance is simple. Continuing this lie also feeds those who surround mothers with ammunition of expectations for mothers to achieve the impossible. We need to trust and honor that mothers are giving their very best in many areas but alas, it is not perfection and that is perfectly acceptable.