Years ago I worked in a day care center in the toddler room. I would see kids come in, hair like a bird’s nest, shirts on backwards, needy before nap-time and I would make judgments like, How hard is it to just take a few minutes to brush that kid’s hair?
Of course, that was B.C. (Before Children). I had absolutely no idea what it was like to be a mom trying to do it all. I soon came to understand that there are days you are just too tired to even deal with that rat’s nest before school.
Now, not only am I a mom, I am a single-mom raising a precocious 9-year-old as I build a new life for us. I can feel those judgments that I used to hold being held, silently, against me.
Fragments of thoughts from others float in the air like a word bubble in a cartoon: When was the last time that child had a bath?; Look at that lawn! Can’t she find some time to take care of her yard?; Someone should tell her she should take her mail in and not let it pile up in the mailbox!; When was the last time she vacuumed or cleaned the fridge?
Imagined or otherwise, these thought fragments float around me and all I can do is shake my head. If you only know how much I have to get done on a daily basis. I wish there was time to do all that.
The perception that moms who stay at home have all the time in the world to do everything is the biggest lie. I had a conversation the other day about my dandelions: “Maybe this year, you can spend more time keeping on top of it and then it won’t get out of control like it is. I can get all my priorities done and still make time for gardening … why can’t you?” Yeah, that happened.
Single-moms are labeled “victims” because we state the obvious lack of time and energy. This makes us feel less than and creates a sense of hopelessness that, no matter what, we can never do enough to measure up.
With our external world being so vocal of our lack, the children soon pick up on that and focus on what isn’t getting done or what wasn’t remembered. Last year, Mina was pretty adamant about how I didn’t remember to get her this or to do that. After taking that deep breath, I asked her if she remembered what I had done for her, surprises I had gotten her, places I had taken her. She just looked at me, blink blink, remembering nothing. Yep, negative reinforcement of our lack can trump the positive.
It is frustrating to not only have to prove to ourselves that we do enough. On top of that we feel that we constantly have to have a running list of accomplishments at our fingertips to counteract the What have you done all day? comments.
Ironically, on the flip side, I am told I do too much with regards to my step-girls. The things I do for my own daughter unseen, but things I do for the other two are glaringly apparent. I am asked to pull back from such expressions. Now I have to have two lists in my head to balance everything out and the neighbors wonder why I don’t have time to weed dandelions?
As the years advance and Mina’s dad begins shifting his life to possible permanent relocation overseas, I struggle with the “enough” factor and time management. I know how it is to be 100% single parent from my short 9-month experience while he was on sabbatical overseas last year. As I become pro-active in setting down time management systems and outsourcing what I can’t handle, such as lawn mowing/house cleaning/meal preps, I fear other judgments will arise. Can’t she just do these things herself?
At the end of the day, can’t we just support each other and simply ask: How can I help you move through you day a bit easier? As moms, we all have something we are struggling to balance, but are not made to feel comfortable asking for assistance. This needs to change. We are all doing our best with the time we have. We do not have to go it alone. Reach out to someone who may look at a mess and just ask to help. Odds are, she needs it and wouldn’t come asking herself, but would greatly appreciate the offer. This reciprocation of support will help not only moms regain their footing, but can help kids learn from example and teach them life lessons.
Photo Credit: Sai De Silva