A mother’s work is never done.
This old cliché is as tired as you are, mama, but I’m guessing you feel its truth to the very marrow of your weary bones. Whether you’re a new mom deep in the sleep-deprived trenches of late-night feedings and poopy blowouts or an experienced pro with a pair of teenagers hopping between activities and outings with friends, you know the relentless exhaustion of motherhood. I mean, how many of us haven’t dozed off for at least a half a second while taking a pee?
Studies have shown that moms work the equivalent of two and a half full-time jobs—98 hours per week. No freaking wonder we’re so tired. Still, though it’s shocking to hear that number, when we think about it, it’s not really that surprising. How many times have you lamented to your mom BFF that you need about eight more hours in the day? How many times have you made it the end of an unbelievably busy day, looked around at your trashed house, and wondered how the fuck it looks like absolutely nothing got done?
And it doesn’t matter if you’re a stay-at-home mom, work-from-home mom, or working fulltime outside of the home—you feel the heaviness of this load. You know this fatigue. I’ve had the good fortune of having been able to experience the exhaustion of motherhood in various incarnations: Staying home with my firstborn to be a fulltime mom, I was so exhausted I was on the verge of hallucinating, literally weeping and praying to God for just a few minutes of sleep. That was the time period when me and coffee became intimate lovers.
A year later, I went back to work full time and put my wild 2-year-old in daycare, thinking the break from the monotony of 24-hour-per-day caregiving would somehow make me feel more rested (LOL forever and ever). Any mama who’s gone back to work knows you’re only trading one brand of tired for another.
Now that I work from home and my kids are older, there are other tradeoffs. Having a flexible schedule means I work weird and sometimes unhealthy hours (copyediting articles at 2 AM is par for the course). Bigger kids mean bigger problems. I no longer have to wake up to breastfeed or make a bottle, but I often lie awake worrying about my 12-year-old son, his grades, his social life, his self-esteem, his future… Especially since at this age, I know I am supposed to let him fail and learn on his own—letting go of control is excruciating, an entirely new type of exhaustion, one that crushes my heart on the regular. I can only imagine how the teen and college years will magnify this feeling.
One thing I’ve never been is a single mama, but can we all just take a moment to appreciate this level of heroism? Okay, now that we’ve had a moment of appreciation, let’s all throw back a shot of espresso and step up to help these mamas. Bring them into your village. Swap childcare. Offer to carpool. We know how hard motherhood is even with a partner—let’s help those who are going it alone. Be the village.
The invisible workload of motherhood is overwhelming and doesn’t get acknowledged often enough. Whether Mom works in the home or out of it, all the administrative tasks usually rest on her shoulders. In a stereotypical heterosexual parenting dynamic, the woman is nearly always tasked with remembering doctor/dentist/orthodontist/eye appointments, immunizations, open houses, teacher conferences, prescriptions for the entire family, permission slips, lunches, homework checks, grocery shopping and meal planning, birthday parties including when, where, and what to buy, birthdays and important dates of all extended family members including her husband’s, etc… I could go on and on. My husband pitches in a lot, but if I were a gambling person, I could win a shit-ton of money betting on him not knowing our pediatrician’s name, number, or even where his office is located.
And, too often, dads who are willing and eager to help do so in a way that simply piles more emotional labor to Mom’s plate: Honey, listen, there’s no need to be so stressed—just tell me what to do, and I’ll do it. No. No, buddy, that’s not how this works. Don’t make us ask you to help out. It’s just like at your job, which you seem to do so well: Assess the situation, determine what needs to be done next, and do it. You’re every bit as capable as we are of seeing what needs to be done and reacting accordingly. Don’t demean yourself by acting like you don’t know how things work around the house. We all know you’re better than that.
This dynamic where wives do so much of the thinking, worrying, and planning and have to oversee their husbands isn’t okay. We can pump our fists in the air about what superheroes moms are, and the validation is great, but we shouldn’t have to be superheroes.
Moms shouldn’t have to shoulder so much on their own. Not when we’re already working 98 frickin’ hours per week.