Today was an exhausting, self-doubting, overextended, just-want-to-crawl-into-bed kind of day.
Between this awful cold I’ve been dealing with, the maddening election bullshit, and all of the ping-pong balls bouncing around in my mind, I felt like my head was going to explode all day long. All I wanted to do was crawl back into bed, pull the covers over my head, and have someone take care of me.
Well, we all know what the chances of that happening are. The world doesn’t stop because mom gets sick and needs a little TLC. The world keeps right on moving, the work keeps piling up, the shitstorm keeps swirling.
So given the day I had, tonight had all the makings of a typical mom-loses-her-shit kind of night. I felt crappy, my husband had to work late, and the sitter canceled (she’s also sick) so I had to take my kids to a church meeting. We had nothing to eat for dinner, and no time to make anything even if we did. Everything seemed harder than it should be, and I was pretty sure that I was failing at this whole adulting thing.
Usually when I’m stressed or sick or emotional, I pretend that I’m none of those things. I soldier on — chin up and all that. Except soldiering on usually just leads to me losing my shit in the middle of the kitchen while I’m making dinner, or nagging my kids to finish their homework, or telling them for the 100th time to brush their teeth and go the fuck to sleep.
Tonight I went a different route.
Instead of soldiering on, I said to the kids, “Look, I need your help. I feel like crap. I know you don’t want to go to this meeting with me, and believe me, I don’t want you to go either, but that’s the only option. And I feel like crap. I just want to go to bed and I have so much to do, and all I need is some help from you two which basically just means doing your homework and not fighting. And please don’t embarrass me at this meeting. Just be nice to each other. I need your help because, holy cow, I feel like crap, and I’m barely hanging on here.”
Well, I’m not sure if it was the fact that I let them play on their tablets for two hours straight at the meeting or that I took them to get McDonald’s shakes afterwards or the sheer desperation they heard in my voice, but I’ll be damned, they helped. Not only did they not fight (well, not that much anyway) or embarrass me (except for Teddy pointing out the butt/poop/diarrhea picture he drew on his arm with red pen), but when we got home, they also helped some more.
They ushered me to bed and brought me drinks (water, two cups of coffee, juice, and lemonade) and books. They folded the laundry and put it away. From my bed, I could hear my oldest son saying, “Dad, where do mom’s bras go?” and “Note to self, the bras go in the second drawer” while he talked on the phone to my husband. Then they made me a sweet card and brushed their teeth and — sweet baby Jesus in a basket — they went to sleep!
I asked for help. And they helped. Who knew?!
Moral of the story: We don’t need to be martyrs — not when it comes to parenting or adulting or whatnot. We can ask for help and let people take care of us. We can take a break and the whole world won’t fall apart. We can let people see our weakness without actually being seen as weak.
So moms and dads, maybe we don’t need to soldier on. It’s okay to let our kids see our vulnerabilities and help us when we struggle. It’s okay to say enough and nope and can’t do it. It’s okay to bring our kids to meetings once in a while instead of pretending that family things and work things and volunteer things don’t get mixed up together every once in a while. It’s okay to crawl into bed at an obnoxiously early hour. It’s okay to let the dishes sit in the sink and the laundry get put away in the wrong drawers. It’s okay to say, “I have no idea what I’m doing, but I’m pretty sure I’m fucking it up somehow.” It’s okay to let ourselves be human and strong and vulnerable all at the same time.
It’s okay to say I feel like crap. It’s okay to ask for help. It’s okay.
It will all be okay.