My sister recently told me about a t-shirt she noticed a mom wearing at the soccer field. The shirt read:
I’m Fine, It’s Fine, Everything is Fine
This mom also had her hands full with water bottles, a toddler, and was pulling a wagon filled with chairs and other soccer gear. As I listened to my sister describe this woman and her t-shirt, I could not help but think of this scene as a metaphor for motherhood. How often are you carrying around a heavy load, whether it be physical or mental? Often times from the outside mothers appear to be completely FINE; however, on the inside we are feeling quite the opposite. Why is it mothers feel the need to always appear fine? Why are we hesitant to say what we really feel when asked, how are you?
To be completely honest and real, we must admit motherhood can be brutal. In fact, life in general can bring us to our knees sometimes. From the big heavy stuff like illness and death to the little mundane nuances of everyday life. As mothers, we have a running voice inside of our heads. Did I remember to pack a drink with the lunch? Were the kids supposed to wear blue socks today? I wonder if that bump on the baby’s leg could be cancer? Gosh, I am so worried about the start of the school year. Will there be enough time to pick up the groceries after work and before soccer? I have been feeling so tired; could I have COVID? Am I pregnant? And the list goes on and on and on. Our thoughts are heavy, our worries are deep, and our job as mother hen comes with high stakes. With that being said, the possibility of being “fine” all the time is non-existent.
Before diving into this blog, I decided to do a quick poll of my nearest and dearest gal pals* through a group text. The text thread consists of ten women of the same age, late thirties. In the message, I asked for any feedback regarding the load of motherhood and the façade of always appearing fine. Within one hour I had received over fifty messages from these ladies. Reading them brought tears to my eyes and also confirmed the need to open the door on this topic. Every single one of my friends had something to unload, something they were holding in, feelings of guilt, shame, exhaustion, and isolation. I felt as if I had opened Pandora’s box.
Below are just a few of the responses:
“The doubts of ‘never good enough’ steal the joy of life, our marriages, and our kids’ childhoods, and then it is magnified by the moms who all make it look so easy when really they probably feel the same. They do not talk about it for fear that they may seem weak or not good enough.”
“I just need to get away from ALL of them sometimes. When it is mentioned I get “Why do you want to leave us?!” It kills me to hear that when I literally do nothing for myself ever. I tend to swallow it and eat it for months until I get so emotional that I start crying and am angry at everything”
“The working mom guilt hits me so hard during the summer as I shuffle them from camp to camp so I can get a few hours of work in”
“I have a lot of anxiety when I get in bed at night. Did I love them enough? Did I do enough? It is a battle for me. That is why I take my tranquil sleep to calm my mind.”
“I am that mom that says everything is good and tries to pretend that everything is wonderful and perfect when it is not. I don’t open up because I don’t want to be judged or for my child to be judged, but in reality, my child is seeing a psychologist and I feel I am to blame because I am not the mother I should be.”
Wow! Can you imagine my reaction when reading this? These are my closest friends, and we rarely talk about these feelings. I cannot help but wonder what it would be like if more of us took the lead on really opening up to each other.
Let’s Get Real
As mentioned earlier, I along with my gal pals are all approaching forty. Recently I have read about and listened to several podcasts that mention an awakening that happens around this age. We become much more comfortable in our skin and less willing to put up with things that are not working for us. For me, it is living the façade of always being fine. We reach a point where burying our true selves and feelings becomes harder than being our real authentic selves. Of course, being real and vulnerable also comes with great risks.
Can you imagine if our everyday interactions with other mothers included conversations and thoughts like the ones shared by my friends? Instead of the usual response of I’m fine, we are great, just so busy. Let’s get real! I am fully aware we can not walk around sharing our deepest thoughts and worries with every single interaction. But, there is definitely space within the world of motherhood for more real conversation. I think of the mother at the soccer field pulling the wagon and wearing the I’m Fine t-shirt. We are all pulling the same wagon. Let’s help each other carry the load of motherhood by being real and vulnerable. Wouldn’t we feel a little lighter by simply unloading some of our racing thoughts and worries?
Next time you are asked ‘How are you?’ will you be brave enough to give a real answer or are you more comfortable saying I’m fine?
*Thank you to my gal pals (you know who you are) for making it okay to be REAL with each other!