I’m exhausted most days.
In fact, exhaustion has been part of my life since I became a mother sixteen years ago.
As a working mom with four daughters, I’m in constant motion doing something for someone most minutes of the day.
The other night as I crawled into bed, feeling more tired than usual, I reflected on the unexpected work of parenting I had done:
* Helped my 7-year-old find her misplaced favorite lovie “kitty” for a half hour because she can’t sleep without it.
* Coached my 10-year-old on how to manage a girl at school who is bullying her at recess.
* Gave my twin teenagers support on how to cope with anxiety and worry after social media threats of gun violence at their high school.
* And the discovery of a black cotton thong — that was not mine — in the laundry
It was an exhausting day.
And that wasn’t all I had done — I worked, cleaned the kitchen three times, prepared snacks and dinner for six, ran through a few loads of laundry, led a Girl Scout meeting, and kept everyone on track with homework and after-school activities.
If there’s one thing I have learned in sixteen years of mothering four daughters — expect the unexpected and embrace exhaustion — it’s not going anywhere for a while.
I find comfort that I am not alone — if you are a mother, you get it. Your life is some variation of mine with different players and scenarios, but we’re all living through exhaustion, stress and trying to keep our kids healthy and safe as they grow up in a world that often feels upside down and overwhelming.
After my long day, I wondered: Has parenting gotten harder?
Emphatically: YES, IT HAS!
And you know what makes parenting hard?
It’s the range of what we have to do, what we have to know, what we have to be on top off, and aware of as we raise our children.
Case in point — talking about contraband thongs in my teenager’s laundry and how to stay safe should there be a school shooting in the span of an hour is not what I could have imagined years ago when I became a mother.
Don’t get me wrong. I am not complaining. I signed up for this job.
I guess I’m shocked with mothering at times because the range of issues and concerns in parenting has become more complex and intense.
Parenting in the modern era is humbling and exhausting.
You never know what you’ll have to deal with on top of the things you somewhat expect to do raising a family.
As parents, we have an incredible range of topics, issues, and concerns to be mindful of more than any other parenting generation.
Just consider for a moment, we as a generation of parents are coping with social media and screen time, cyberbullying and school violence, threats of violence in our communities including malls, movies, restaurants, concerts, and anywhere in public. And it seems more than ever we have disappointing adults, leaders, and politicians who can no longer keep secret their behaviors of violating and harming others.
As a psychologist with two decades of experience working with teens and families, I’m comfortable talking about tough subjects: substance dependence, domestic abuse, sexual assault, suicide, and trauma.
But what I am less comfortable with is how short childhood is becoming with all of these grown-up issues and concerns seeping into the innocence of growing up.
No longer, as mothers, is our focus on helping our children grow and develop and keep them relatively safe into adulthood.
We are in tactical defensive parenting — expecting the unexpected, mothering through uncertain times, and helping our children learn the skills to cope with very big issues, that even as adults we find difficult to comprehend.
What gives me peace in the rollercoaster of mothering is finding the humor in it.
Finding a thong within the hour of talking about a potential shooting at my teenage daughters’ school is an excellent form of stress relief and gives me perspective.
Thongs keep it humble — snapping me back into the reality of the micro-issues happening in my home.
When I delicately brought up the thong to one my 15-year-old daughters — wanting to play it cool and not embarrass her — I chose the curious versus losing my mind route:
“Oh, I meant to ask you…I was doing your laundry and saw a black thong. I was wondering where you got that?”
Innocently, without missing a beat, as if I was asking her how was her lunch, she responded, “Oh, Sadie gave it to me. It didn’t fit her, and it takes away panty lines when I run track and for ballet.”
And there you have it. It’s as simple as that for her.
For me, just another exhausting day of mothering.
I’ll take thongs any day over having to reassure my girl’s what to do should there be gun violence at school.
As I finish folding the laundry, I pause, and think: I’m a long way from character undies with images of ponies and princesses.
Is it time for bed yet?