I had a chance to be all by myself at the grocery store today, which might I add was amazing. As I walked down the aisle gingerly, I found myself smiling and humming a Jack Johnson song. Suddenly, there I was standing in front of myself. I saw a young mother with a screaming 2-year-old and a desperate little 4-year-old hanging on her leg.
She looked really tired.
I knew that look all too well. I wore the same look yesterday at the grocery store when some mother-hating executive had the bright idea to put all the Elsa candy on the bottom shelf at the checkout counter. I smiled at her knowingly and picked up the sock her son had just thrown on the ground. As I handed it to her I said, “You look pretty.”
She sighed and smiled a thank-you.
Sometimes it is the housework, sometimes the finances, sometimes the entitlement you wish wasn’t there in your children, and sometimes it’s just the lack of sleep. But sooner or later, motherhood will make you burn out.
That’s the thing about being a mom though, you don’t get a breather, a personal day, a personal assistant. This is not a regular job. These aren’t regular hours. We show up day after day and do our spectacular, impossible, exhausting job.
It is what it is. We love what we do, but we’d so love a little help.
Here’s what I’ve decided every burned-out mom really wants but is afraid to ask for:
1. Tell us we’re doing an OK job.
We are doing an OK job, right? Tell us. Because pretty much all we’ve heard from our kids today is how mean we are, which is fine and mostly true, but at some point in every day we need to hear that we’re a decent person doing something positive with our kids.
2. Hold every door open for us.
Chivalry knows no gender. If you happen to be in front of us and have zero little people clinging to odd parts of your body, it is your duty as a decent human being to hold the door open. We may make it look easy, but I assure you, it is not.
3. Raise nice big kids.
There is nothing in the world a mother appreciates more than a nice, friendly big kid. They have the energy to play and the street cred to actually say something positive and have our kids believe it. They make our kids feel included and that makes us so happy.
4. Invite us to play.
Just because we are surrounded by people all day (and much of the night) doesn’t mean we don’t get lonely. We need friends like a teenager needs a cell phone. We just forget sometimes.
5. Forgive us our weirdness.
We legitimately can’t help it. Being a mother involves going to the same few kid-friendly places with the bright wallpaper and cowbell music and the singing of the same nursery rhymes and the having to explain how to properly wipe one’s butt. Sometimes, we do a weird thing—we can’t help if our brain is a little off. Believe it or not, we used to be just like you.
6. Help us get personal time.
My favorite part of the day is when all the kids are asleep and the husband is asleep (he goes to bed at 7 p.m. due to a huge commute) and everything is quiet. Most mothers don’t have the luxury of two hours to themselves every night. Mothers are people too. People need to be by themselves sometimes if only to sit without speaking or being spoken to.
7. Pick up everything we drop.
Chances are, we have our hands full of children or groceries or industrial-sized boxed diapers. Please help us pick up that sock our child just took off and threw across the store. While it may seem like a simple act, bending over and reaching out your hand and grabbing it, it isn’t for us all the time. We appreciate the moment of help more than you’ll ever know.
Let us know that it is OK to burn out sometimes. That it’s OK that we sometimes cry in the shower. That it’s OK that we sometimes feel like we are doing it wrong.
This burnout thing—it’s a sign of serious effort. Motherhood is no easy feat, and we’re really just tired from doing the best we can. Any help we can get along the way is worth more than you could ever know.