We Simply Can't Carry It All

by Sonya Spillmann
Originally Published: 
motherhood busy mom stress
PathDoc / Shutterstock

My kids and husband were already buckled in the car. We were headed to a pep rally for my kids’ swim team, but I wanted to wait till the very last minute to take the food out of the oven. I’m one of many parents who bring food to these events to feed our hungry little swimmers. I’m also the designated parent from our household responsible for bringing all the things when we go anywhere.

5:56 p.m. Go time.

Strategically, I start loading myself up with all the things.

Overstuffed, extra-large, navy-and-green-monogrammed Land’s End swim bag goes onto my left shoulder. Next: Turn off oven, open, and lay serving spoon gently onto the aluminum foil covering the huge tray of noodles. Then: Slide hands into mismatched oven mitts. Finally: Grab the warming tray and kick the oven door shut with the back of my right leg like a professional dancer.

My husband could never do this.


Gratefully, he did leave the side door cracked, and I use my right foot to coax it open. Just before walking out, a pacifier catches my eye. That precious piece of BPA-free blue plastic could make the difference between sweet-cuddly-angel or monster-screaming-hellion, depending on how late the night goes. We need that pacifier.

Okay, I can do this.


I slide my right hand under and into the middle of the tray, balancing the food just so. Shaking the oven mitt off my left hand and onto the floor, I lean for the pacifier.

I stretch. Grab.

You know what happens next.

The tray on my right tilts a bit too much. Instinctively, my un-mitted left hand goes to grab it. Just as quickly, I remember, this was in the oven! All of me focuses on balancing my right hand.

I can do this!

*Quick Roar!*

As my wrist and elbow awkwardly bend and twist to regain balance, the pan’s hot metal edge grazes my arm. Without a thought, I scream from the searing pain and drop the entire dish on the floor.

Did that just happen?

I stare for a few seconds at the spray of noodles at my feet and drop the swim bag to my side, defeated. In a flash of anger, I spike the pacifier into the noodles. And just to be dramatic, I reach down and grab the fallen serving spoon and whip it out the open door with a roar of frustration. (I might have also quietly sworn.)

Seeing noodles in the doorway and a large spoon fly across the carport, my husband gets out of the car and casually walks over. He looks at me blankly and asks, “Why were you trying to carry so much?”


After some cleanup, we finally made it to the pool. The kids ate as I chatted with a neighbor, sharing my silly noodle-drop story and showing her my burned arm. As we talked, she disclosed the heavy news of a new diagnosis: the kind that makes this week different from last week, and every week to come—from now until forever. “I have so much going on right now, I just don’t know how I’m going to do it all.” Her tears welled up in heartbroken eyes.

My husband’s question echoed in my head, “Why were you trying to carry so much?”

Friend, you need to put something down.


Ladies, I have to ask: When did our arms get so full?

How did this happen? Who told us we are supposed to carry more than we can actually hold?

I see everyone else holding so much. We’re all busy and over-scheduled. Every single one of us does it all, or wants to, or feels bad when we can’t. Through my years of motherhood, I’ve heard the deep beating drum, like a biological clock, pound out “pick me up” louder and louder.

But, could I be listening to the wrong sound? Because when I am very still and very quiet, I hear something else—something pure and clear and true.

It’s a gentle voice saying, put it down.

Right now, in this season of motherhood, I have strong arms and a sturdy frame perfect for carrying children and the myriad obligations inherent to having a young family. However, no matter how full my life is, I don’t want busyness and unnecessary responsibility to crowd out the joy I also want to carry with me. I need to carefully choose my to-do lists so I don’t accidentally drop contentment, peace or kindness before rushing out the door.

We all bear unique burdens, although we don’t always share them. And in some seasons, our arms are too full and we have no choice but to carry what we are given. But no one can do that forever.

This year, I’m making a decision. I will effectively, protectively, and responsibly carry what I must, what I need, and what I want. I refuse to be overloaded to the point where I stay awake at night with angst and wake with anxiety. Life inherently has enough of that on its own. For now, I need to focus on holding my children’s hands and carrying the keys to my husband’s heart.

So if you see me put something down, you’ll know why.

And you’re invited to join me.

Because we simply can’t carry it all.

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