I Found My Childhood Drawing About 'What Mommies Do'––It Was A Wake-Up Call

by Cyndi Harvell Lee
Originally Published: 
Courtesy of Cyndi Harvell Lee

On my parents’ last visit to our house, they brought the good news that they were clearing out their storage spaces and — surprise! — dumped in my living room three gigantic containers of my childhood memories that I didn’t even know were still in existence.

I had absolutely no time for it. But within minutes, I was on the floor rummaging through kindergarten report cards, high school journals, and elementary school drawings.

A manila folder labeled “Mother’s Day” caught my eye. It was filled with cards, drawings, and poems I had made for my own mother growing up. In it, I found a drawing I made about motherhood that was all at once accurate, disappointing, and enlightening.

Courtesy of Cyndi Harvell Lee

I’m sure the seven-year-old me meant it as a tribute to my mom, idolizing her as a superhero, but it reminded me of all the expectations put on mothers. It showed a cartoon mommy cleaning, cooking, and doing laundry. And nowhere in my drawing did it indicate that mommies write novels, heal patients, design buildings, make art, or invent things.

A full-fledged flood of emotions crashed onto me. I couldn’t explain it.

Moms keep their family’s universe functioning. We manage the orbits, deflect the meteors, and maintain good standing with other solar systems. Like it or not.

It’s a heavy job — nearly invisible, like many things in the universe. In fact, I’d liken the mom’s responsibilities to that of gravity. We don’t notice it until it’s not there.

We want happiness for the people in our lives so badly that we bear the weight often silently. We keep our universes alive and glowing while we internally combust. Resentment builds little by little, as we lose our own sense of identity.

Opening that box from my past had me asking questions of the future: Is there a better option?

Gravity is powerful and essential to the way we live. But one person shouldn’t have to bear the weight of all that responsibility. So instead of wondering if we can live without gravity, it becomes more a conversation of how to make the universe more of a team effort.

As I’m learning to lighten more of my universal load, I’ve come across a few truths and revelations on how we could evolve the future of motherhood.

Revelation #1: Men don’t absorb emotional information in the same way as women.

Yes, I’m generalizing. And yes, I also find it to be true more often than not.

What does this mean? It means that communicating our galactic struggle (and how it makes us feel) is hard. It means that maybe they will never truly understand, and your approach may have to change from getting them to understand to just getting them to agree to help take things off your plate.

The feeling of universal overwhelm can be daily experience — its effects ever-present and intertwined through your very existence. It’s impossible to sum it up in a one-time message. Even to a loving and receptive partner.

So I’ve learned to remind him often. Change often starts with simple awareness.

Revelation #2: Sharing my hobbies and pursuits with my kids lets them see that I do more than cook and clean.

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It’s healthy for our kids to know they are not the CENTER of this universe, but yet a functioning part. One element of many. And no family member should be the sun while everyone else is a planet. Everyone’s needs are important. This is a message that I think our kids need to hear as they grow up.

I’ve started to learn how to paint, and I often show them what I’m working on so they see that moms are multidimensionally whole people. In this way, I am rebelling against that picture that the seven-year-old me drew. Because cooking and cleaning aren’t the only things to expect from a mommy.

Revelation #3: The best leaders have teams. Gravity needs a team.

You ARE the leader. And you’re an amazing one. And guess what leaders do? They delegate.

It’s hard to ask a four-year-old to clear his plate off the table, knowing that he will drop his water bottle, spill the sauce off the edge of his plate, and leave a trail of crumbs from the table to the sink. But we all start somewhere.

My husband needs a delegating nudge, too, and he admits it. The hope is (and I’m still working on this one myself) that by proactively sharing expectations, everyone in our little universe eventually knows what to do without asking. They know they are part of a team. Thus creating a healthier environment for the family as a whole.


Holding up the universe should make you feel empowered; not deflated. Let’s change the perspective, change the narrative, change the future. Imagine a world where all the exhausted yet amazingly rockstar women had the space in the universe to contribute the awesomeness she has inside. To be a glittering, beautiful, extraordinarily fantastic nebula glowing in the solar system sky.

When my sons are seven and they draw a picture of what mommy does, I don’t mind if it says “Mommy cooks.” But I also want it to say that mommy paints, sings, runs her own business, and shares adventures with her kids.

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