It’s 8:00 p.m. and for the first time all day, I have the uninhibited ability to relax. I’m giving myself 30 minutes to sit still and melt into a haphazard Netflix selection before I start writing an article that’s at least two weeks past due. I let out a sigh; an exhausted breath my lungs feel like they've been holding in for the past eight hours. It's been yet another frustrating day, and I’m shamelessly thankful for the silence of my sleeping toddler... until I hear my son start to whine from the other room. I give myself over to my son completely, day after day, even when I have nothing in the bank to give, all the while knowing that motherhood is not enough. Not for me.
I hear his cries and instantly, I’m annoyed. I slowly edge myself off my couch, pained to leave its side, tears forming against my darkened eyeliner as I make my way to his bedroom. I’m exhausted, and I can feel myself breaking under the weight of the seemingly endless amount of responsibilities I both love and resent. Turns out that the greatest job in the world isn't really that great.
I step on a rogue slice of banana as I walk towards the bedroom door and a surge of frustration flies through me. I took the time to make my son breakfast, lunch, and dinner today; most of which he threw on our hardwood floor after eating. I can’t articulate the money he’s wasting, the food that we’re forced to throw away, and the time it took to make multiple meals while simultaneously working. I burned my hand while browning breakfast sausages, an occupational hazard that happens all too regularly when I try to make a conference call and cook simultaneously. The tears push past my eyeliner and force their way down my cheeks. I love my son, but motherhood is not enough.
I love my job and I’m so thankful I can work from home, but I constantly feel like I’m failing. Like I’m one mistake, one fatigued mishap, one exhausted procrastination away from letting everyone down.
I see a marker on the edge of my work desk and think about the tantrum my son threw when I took it away from him after he turned his arms and legs a bluish-green yellow. He hurled toys in my direction, upset and frustrated, and I know it’s because he lacks the ability to articulate his feelings with anything other than physical action. That was the first of many times I cried today; internally screaming until it felt like my veins were vibrating with the power of my rage. I held my withering patience together with one self-affirming, silently-soothing mantra at a time. This too shall pass. This too shall pass. This too shall pass, I repeated until I believed it.
I think about the email my boss sent me as I slowly open the bedroom door, my eyes adjusting to the lack of light as I mentally re-hash his disappointing rhetoric. I’m behind on deadlines and reports and not answering emails quickly enough, and he’s unsure if he can count on me anymore. I've been told time and time again, from birth until now, that nothing is more important than doing what you say you’re going to do, when you say you're going to, and I wonder if my son feels the same way. I love my job and I’m so thankful I can work from home, but I constantly feel like I’m failing. Like I’m one mistake, one fatigued mishap, one exhausted procrastination away from letting everyone down: my employers and my coworkers and my partner and my son and, honestly, myself.
I do my best to keep it together. Most days, I live just right above sea level; the foam of potential failure creeping ever so slightly towards my nostrils, but stifled by time, space, my partner, or the pre-arranged schedules that account for nap times and eating times and “thank god my son is busy playing” times.
But today isn’t most days. Today, I’m breaking. Today I want to grab my keys and hop in my vehicle and drive in the opposite direction. Not forever. Probably not even for very long. Just until I feel like myself again, and not the hamster in a wheel I assume all working mothers and stay-at-home mothers and single mothers and exhausted mothers know and intimately understand. I can’t be the only one who feels this way, right? I know that when women say their child is being “spirited,” they really mean he's being an assh*le, and when they feel “busy and accomplished,” they really feel tired and overwhelmed, and when they're kid is being "lively," they're really throwing a tantrum. I know this because I've said it too.
I want to talk about days like these: days that make me feel like I’m breaking; days that leave me crying more than smiling; days that make me question whether or not I can be an employee, a mother, a partner, a friend, and all the things I want and need and desire to be.
There have been moments in my own mothering where I'm so terrified of appearing incapable — of someone thinking or assuming I'm failing my kid — so I've done what feels safest: smoothed out the ugly edges and glossed over the very real, very valid feelings of worthlessness, anxiety, frustration, and exhaustion, all in an effort to force a smile and pretend I got exactly what I bargained for out of this deal; that I can comfortably have and do it all; that this job is enough.
I lay next to my son and pull him close, still annoyed and still running over the list of things I still need to accomplish before my day is finished. It’s in this moment that he buries his head in my chest, grabs my hand, and brings it to his face. He does this repeatedly until I realize that my son is asking me to stroke his hair; something I’ve done since the day he was born. From the moment he was placed in my arms, to all the moments I breastfed him, to moments just like this one — when sleep is creeping up behind him and he wants his mother's comfort — I've placed my fingers through his hair and traced the side of his baby cheeks with my fingertips, whispering that I love him until his eyes close.
My anger and frustration and exhaustion are replaced with overwhelming gratitude. In this moment, I have everything I need, everything I want, and everything that can make an exhausting day vanish into the darkness of my family’s shared bedroom.
I don't want to hide behind the facade anymore, so I won't.
Motherhood isn’t enough for me. I wouldn’t feel completely accomplished if I didn’t also contribute to my family financially via a career I am utterly infatuated with. And because it isn’t enough, days like these are increasingly common in my home. I love my job and even though it can be frustrating and exhausting and fills me with an inhuman amount of anxiety, I love working from home. And because I love it, I want to talk about days like these: days that make me feel like I’m breaking; days that leave me crying more than smiling; days that make me question whether or not I can be an employee, a mother, a partner, a friend, and all the things I want and need and desire to be.
Motherhood isn't enough for me, but I've found that the more I talk about it, the more I realize that life with a tiny person who throws every last plan into the wind is surprising in all the ways I never knew it could be. And the more I talk about the ways motherhood falls short, the stronger I feel in this role. I don't want to hide behind the facade anymore, so I won't. My son is the lifeblood that flows through me, but motherhood isn't enough. I am more.