I used to be a stay-at-home-mom. For over thirteen years, this was my life and it was all I wanted to do.
When I got pregnant and walked out of my job on my last day of work before having my oldest as I clutched a bunch of balloons, flowers, and a bag of the best molasses donuts I’d ever had (my pregnancy craving), I was so relieved. I never thought I’d ever have the desire to go back to work again.
Fast forward thirteen years and my role as a mother wasn’t enough. I volunteered at school; it still didn’t fill my void. I began running; I still wanted more for myself. I talked to my then-husband about what I was feeling and going through. I was trying to figure it out because I knew I had this place in our family — one that was in charge of all things kids, social life, cooking, cleaning, appointments, and pets.
I’d taken over those things while I stayed at home with our kids because he was so busy running his own business there was no way he’d be able to do any of it.
I kept going back to the thought, I should just stay where I’m at. I’m lucky to be able to stay at home and not work. Besides, who would do all that I do if I had a job?
I am now a mother who works full-time from home.
I still haven’t shed the guilt about shifting from a mother who was more available, to a mother who has a set work schedule and deadlines.
I’ve worked hard to re-enter the working world, and there have been times I’ve said yes to something I didn’t have the capacity to do — I was already maxed out. For a really long time, I set the same expectation for my working self that I had in my stay-at-home-mother role. I’ve tried to keep up with it all, and I realized I was drowning. This is rarely talked about, especially by the moms who make it look easy.
This way of living doesn’t work out well for me, and it really doesn’t work out well for my kids. Especially when I’m snapping at them because I’ve taken on too much.
I recently read an article in Elle featuring Audie Cornish, co-host of NPR’s renowned news program All Things Considered, talking about motherhood — and she said some things that I really needed to hear.
Cornish had kids later in life after her career was established, and she says that people basically told her she wasn’t going to want to keep up with the traveling and the grind which came with her job. She talks about how she didn’t want to lose any ground in her career after she became a mother.
“The truth is I still wanted to do those things, even when I couldn’t. It caused an identity crisis in a way, because I wasn’t ready to be stripped of those things. I didn’t want to resent my child, but when you’re dealing with postpartum and having all kinds of depressive thoughts, that’s the kind of thing that weighs on you,” she said.
Cornish said while she saw some of her co-workers moving ahead in their careers while she was home with her kids, she decided she had to adjust the high standard she’d set for herself and focus on the things she could bring to her job. She goes on to say she didn’t have it in her to try and keep up with it all by plugging into all the social media channels that could boost her career. “At the end of my work day, I need a glass of wine and my children to be very quiet. I don’t need to get on Clubhouse and talk to some third congressman from the right. That seems very depressing to me,” she says.
After becoming a mother, so many of us want to show others, and ourselves, that we have superpowers and can do it all. This is where the phrase “Supermom” came from — mothers trying to keep up and take on more to show everyone motherhood can’t, and won’t, slow them down.
Why are we doing this?
Cornish says she learned that wasn’t the way she wanted to live her life. After taking on more work after having kids she says, “My hair was falling out, and I was so stressed. I realized I was trying to prove to everyone, and myself, that ‘I still got it.’ I want to warn people: Don’t do that.”
This is what happens to so many of us– in trying to keep up with everything, we lose ourselves.
Cornish goes on to say if you act like you can do it all, no one will offer to help you. They will keep expecting more out of you.
It’s up to us as moms to do what’s right for our family, and what’s right for us, regardless of what it looks like to other people.
Cornish advises, “No one is going to ask you if you need help. No one’s going to ask you if it’s time to stop. When you’re really ambitious, the only thing that’s going to stop anything is you.”
When you are out there covering all the bases on your own, people (especially your bosses and co-workers) assume you don’t need any help and no one will stop and say, “Hey, you are taking on too much, let me do that for you.” They assume you can handle it. They want you to handle it. Then, they next thing you know, you are losing your hair and about to punch anyone that asks you for another damn thing.
That is the best piece of advice I’ve ever heard about being a mom and trying to do it all. We need to stop this way of thinking simply to prove to others motherhood hasn’t slowed us down. The truth is, motherhood will change your priorities and there’s nothing wrong with that, nor do we need to apologize for it.
If you are a mom and have found yourself caught up in this because you don’t want to lose ground in your career, it’s okay to say no and focus more on yourself. Nothing is worth sacrificing your mental health for — because when Mom isn’t happy, nobody is.