“It was just a miserable day,” I cried as tears threatened to run down my cheeks. I stared at my husband, who was hundreds of miles away, through my cell phone as I tried to explain why I was about to cry. It came in a long stream of words, none very specific, not nearly specific enough to make him understand that my patience were gone and I was tired. To make him feel what I was feeling and visualize the ugliness of my day.
The older kids had been sick and crabby and picking on each other all afternoon. The baby howled the second I put him down and my toddler seemed to be trying to break some kind of who can dump out all the toys and games the fastest record. The whining and tantruming and crying. Not a happy sound all day. I bounced from one kid to the next trying to meet everyone’s demands like one of those bouncy balls I used to enjoy as a child.
My husband, who looked tired himself from living on the road for the past 6 weeks, listened patiently. There wasn’t much he could say or do, really. I felt defeated. Yes, the day had defeated me. Defeat is not a feeling I embrace, but tonight the tears felt hot against my cheeks and I looked away trying to hide them from him. He had to study, I had to put the baby to bed. I smiled a reassuring smile to let him know I was ok and reluctantly pressed the red circle which disconnected us.
I wasn’t ok.
I was defeated.
Dear Defeated Mom,
I have something I want you to know. Its ok to cry. Its ok to feel as if you are not enough. Its ok to be on your feet all day only to find that there is still apple juice on the floor and two loads of unfolded laundry as you drop exhausted onto your bed. Its ok to feel defeated.
There is an image I carry in my head of what I should be. I should be strong and capable. I should wipe sticky fingers and poopy bottoms with a smile on my face. I should be able to do the laundry for 7 people while preparing all of our meals from scratch and patiently teach my children how to not fight. Or perhaps handle the fighting without yelling (I am diligently working on that one). I should be able to run my wonderful offspring to piano and soccer and gymnastics while training my strong willed 2 year old to sit nicely and not tantrum each time I say “no”. I should have time to exercise in an effort to move out of these comfy yoga pants and have a house that people can walk in without getting stickers (or jelly) stuck to the bottom of their socks or tripping over race car tracks. I should, I should, I should.
It’s not real-my image. Why do I take such responsibility for the things that go wrong? Why do I take them to heart, analyze them, dwell on them? Why do I insist that I can handle everything that comes my way and refuse to show the people around me that I don’t get it right much of the time? I don’t want to be weak. I want to be strong.
I AM strong and strong doesn’t cry.
Yes, I am strong and so are you, but strong does cry. Strong cries because she’s tired. Strong cries because her little girl has been hurt and is sobbing in her lap. She cries because her baby is sick and hasn’t slept in three days. She cries because she’s scared and she cries because she’s lonely. She cries because tears are not a sign of weakness.
I have no great words of wisdom for you except this. Do not stay defeated. Do not believe the image in your head that tells you you’ve failed. Do not listen to the self doubt. Do not let the exhaustion dictate your attitude. You can do this. Take a bath, pray, eat a carton of ice cream, cry to your girlfriend, but then dry your tears, hug your kids, and do it all again because strong doesn’t stay defeated.
YOU are strong.
10 Ways to Avoid Stay at Home Mom Burnout by Lullaby Lark is an excellent post on this same subject.
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