“I feel like I’m failing everywhere,” is what a friend at work said to me this morning. She and I have the same job and kids that are nearly the same ages and we seem to be kindred spirits in striving for the best at work and at home. Our insecurities and failures have a soft landing place with the other because we both know all too well what our careers and little ones require at any given moment.
But towards the end of our conversation, I told her what a good job she’d done overcoming something that, just a week ago, she thought was insurmountable. Her eyes welled up with tears and she admitted that she hadn’t realized that what she’d really wanted these last few weeks was to hear someone tell her that she’s doing a good job. She was embarrassed to admit that to me until I said, “I totally get it, I’ve felt that way before, too,” and then she started to cry all over again, telling me she was ending our short friendship because it makes her cry too much.
But it got me thinking about how many conversations like this I’ve had over the last few years. And so, this is an open letter to all the mamas out there who are fighting the good fight on all fronts. The moms who are sharing their hard-fought tips and tricks with other moms who are new to the game or haven’t leveled up on that particular skill just yet. The moms who find themselves crying in a conference room with a co-worker who finally gets it. The moms who open-up to near stranger other-moms at ballet class because they just need someone on which to unload. And the moms who didn’t even know that they just needed someone to see them, acknowledge them, and root them on.
You’re doing a good job, mama. I know you’re tired and that sometimes it feels like you can’t do it all. And you know what? You can’t, at least not all at the same time, most of the time. Does that help or make it worse? Probably both. But you need to realize that NOBODY is doing it all without hiccups, missteps, and help. At least nobody I’ve ever met, and that’s a big enough sample size for me to feel confident that I’m totally right and we should just move it on along.
Are your kids safe, fed, and loved? You’re doing a good job, mama. And this might be a space in time where the “fed” part is more microwave chicken nuggets and frozen corn and less homemade meat loaf and organic greens - that’s ok. Remember the 1980s? I ate hot dogs every single day for an entire summer and my digestive system still works. Are you feeding your kids only organic and home-grown and can’t stomach the thought of someone like me who knows the exact Target price of Kraft macaroni and cheese cups? I got you, you’re doing a good job.
You’re doing a good job, mama. Ask for more help and accept more help. That neighbor who has offered to pick your kids up at school with hers? Take it. The mother-in-law who shows up unannounced, but with food in-hand? Take it, scrap your plans, and sit with your family and eat it. That mother who shows up unannounced without food in hand but will play and giggle with your kids while you make dinner, uninterrupted? Take it. And if any version of that person shows up unannounced and doesn’t bring food or good times? You have my permission to change the locks.
You’re doing a good job, mama. I know you’ve been working longer hours than you’d typically like and your kids have seen more of the babysitter or their after-care teachers or your husband or your mother/mother-in-law than they have of you lately. That’s ok. As it turns out, as long as you keep coming back and showing up for them in all of those big and small ways? They’ll welcome you with squeals and hugs and, eventually and painfully, with a slight nod from the couch because they didn’t even really notice you were gone in the first place. Because they’re kids and kids aren’t all up in their heads like we are, as it turns out. Plus, they’re the worst.
You’re doing a good job, mama. It’s ok to want a little acknowledgment for remembering to pack the lunches and schedule the dentist appointments and take the time off work when the kids are sick. It’s ok to be vulnerable with your partner about what you think you’re dropping the ball on and how that feels. That’s why they’re your partner in the first place. And my guess? They don’t feel like they’re always killing it on all fronts, either. It helps to lean on that other tallish person in the house raising these kids with you and get real with them about your needs and fears. And if they don’t wanna’ go there with you? You have my permission to change the locks.
You’re doing a good job mama, especially if you’re doing this without a partner at the moment. Holy good God you have every ounce of my respect and admiration. If you’re doing this on your own by choice or by chance, you have every ounce of my awe. And if you know me personally, you also have my phone number. Use it.
You’re doing a good job, mama. You’re not failing everywhere. You may not even be failing anywhere, but I empathize with feeling that way anyway. Whether you’re a stay at home mom who hasn’t yet figured out what that elusive “me time” looks like once the kids are in bed or the working mom who hasn’t yet figured out what that elusive “me time” looks like once the kids are in bed, we’re in this together. There are enough judge-y moms out there who are too wrapped up in their own insecurities and goals to realize that they suck. Don’t be that mama. You’re not that mama. We’re in this together. Keep going.
You’re doing a good job, mama. Pass it on.