As A Mom, I Can't Achieve Balance Unless I Admit This One Embarrassing Thing

by Dina Leygerman

I got in bed last night, and every cell in my body ached. My eyes were heavy, my neck was stiff, my chest was tight, and my arms felt unbelievably weak. My back was throbbing, my legs were fatigued, and my feet were completely numb. And all I could think was: how? How did I get here? When did adulting become a thing? More importantly, when did I grow up?

As a mom, I have these moments from time to time. You know, the "who are these people and why do they call me mom?" type of moments. And I guess I can proudly say that I am adult enough to admit I hate adulting, too, but it's also embarrassing. Shouldn't I have a handle on this by now? Shouldn't I feel totally secure in my role as the "big kid" of the house? And sure, there are some benefits to being a so-called "grown up" that aren't lost on me. I can buy alcohol and no one asks for my ID anymore. I can eat ice cream for breakfast and no one is going to yell at me. I have the freedom to make my own decisions, although many of them are determined by the needs and wants of my children. It's not all bad, this adulting thing. I know that I am lucky, which is why admitting that sometimes being an adult is so overwhelming I don't want to function can be, well, mortifying.

But, if I'm being honest, there are days when I want a hassle-free refund from adult life. At the very least, I would be interested in a chance to exchange this version for one that doesn't require quite this much adulting. Is there an "Adulting Lite" option available anywhere? Fewer calories, but still a great taste? I'm willing to pay, mind you, or maybe we can work out some sort of deal.

I guess the most shocking aspect of adulthood is the perpetual exhaustion. When was the last time you, as an adult, felt refreshed? When was the last time you got the "recommended" eight hours of sleep? And when you do, does it ever feel like enough? When was the last time you used the bathroom uninterrupted? Or had spontaneous sex in the kitchen? When was the last time you stayed out all night and didn't have to wake up to the sounds of Disney's Cars blasting through the house? I can't answer those questions, my friends, and that's not the best revelation.

Honestly, I feel more like a tantrum-throwing toddler than a mom, so clearly this adulting thing is getting to me.

Right now, my son is screaming at me for a glass of water — one he is capable of obtaining himself — and I just can't. I'm in bed and I cannot move. Maybe he'll just fall asleep. Maybe he'll just know his mother is exhausted and wants to cry at the thought of getting out of bed. Maybe he will get up and grab a class of water by himself. But maybe is a pipe dream, and I know that in a few minutes I'll be I throwing the covers off me, stomping into his room, and doing my best to push my anger down to the pit of my stomach as I hand him a cup of water. Honestly, I feel more like a tantrum-throwing toddler than a mom, so clearly this adulting thing is getting to me.

When I was a kid and hellbent on growing up as soon as possible, no one told me I'd have to wake up unfathomably early every single day, go to work, come home, cook dinner, clean up, do laundry, take care of the children, tend to the needs of everyone in the house, and then, when I'm in bed, get up and give my children water that is literally 10 inches from their beds. No one warned me that I'd be doing so much emotional labor that is often overlooked, and so much actual labor that's considered "women's work" so, of course, it's undervalued. Of course, no one told me how miraculous motherhood would be, or how much I would find value in my career. No one told me how incredible adult relationships can be, and how fulfilling it can be to pave your own way and live your own life.

But acknowledging all the good doesn't make the low days any less lower, and plastering a perpetual smile on my face and pretending like I don't want to, sometimes, run away and take a break only makes it worse. I want to admit that I don't want to adult without feeling guilty. I want to say that I'm overwhelmed without feeling like a failure.

As a working mom who is overwhelmed more often than not, I don't think it does me, or anyone else, any good to pretend like the whole adulting thing is 100 percent amazing.

Some days, all I want is to come home from work, plop down on the couch with a pizza (yes, an entire pizza), turn on some Netflix, and watch an entire season of something filled of sex, violence, and profanity. Instead, I have to listen to my children argue about which YouTube show they should watch, while listening to Paw Patrol on full blast. I want to eat dinner... by myself. I want to drink coffee while it's still hot. I want to let the laundry pile up until I am out of underwear. I want to stay up until 3:00 a.m. and wake up around noon. I want someone to cook me dinner, put me down for a nap, and give me a foot rub. I want a break. A real, actual break... because I'm exhausted.

You can't take a break when you're adulting, though. There's no pause button, no "please hold," and no out of office reply. There's no "wait a minute," "be right there," and "just a second." There is only "now," "today," and "mom, I need some water immediately or I will perish in this dungeon you call a bedroom." There are sleepless nights and overwhelming days. There is attending meetings that could have been emails, sorting through bills and homework, managing calendars and schedules, and juggling work and life. Adulting is having to be responsible when all you want is to be irresponsible and rash. It's doing the right thing when the wrong thing is incredibly tempting.

I know I should be thankful, grateful, and proud of my life — and I am. I know how that I sound privileged, entitled, and indolent, and I'm sure I am in many ways. But in order to find the balance in my life that so many people talk about, I think it's necessary for me to vent and be honest and, you know, real. As a working mom who is overwhelmed more often than not, I don't think it does me, or anyone else, any good to pretend like the whole adulting thing is 100 percent amazing. Sometimes it's not. Sometimes it's, well, the worst.

So if you're feeling the same, please know that you're not alone. Sometimes, adulting and parenting and being the "big kid" is, well, a lot. It's OK to admit it, just like it's OK to hold out for the days when it's better than "a lot." The days when it's everything.