Friends, it’s been a hot minute since I’ve been in the deep trenches of motherhood. You know, the explosive poop diapers, projectile formula blasts, chasing around two-year-olds who could give two shits when you tell them not to go near X or touch Y or play with Z - those trenches. With one kid rounding out elementary school next year and the other about to enter middle school, I daresay I’ve almost forgotten how absolutely dizzying those early years of mom mode can be.
Two weeks ago, I found myself immersed in what felt like the capital of Babyville, U.S.A. There were enough five-and-unders to field an entire Pop Warner football team. In a very rare outing, I was completely alone. My kiddos were at their dad’s, the boyfriend was working, his two hadn’t come down for the weekend yet, and my own parents were sitting this one out. It was odd - to feel so empty-handed. For a while now, I’ve grown used to chasing Thing 1 and Thing 2 around, getting them food, curtailing bad behavior, or ensuring they’re playing nicely in the sandbox, so to speak. But on this day, there was no one to account for but myself.
For the few hours I was there, I offered to hold babies, entertain toddlers with my Disney+ account on my phone, and hovered close by to keep curious little ones away from the in-ground pool. Even though I was kid-free, my Mom Instincts were as strong as Spidey Sense and couldn’t simply be turned off.
Toward the end of the party, one of the moms was attempting to pack up her two under two. Flashbacks of the days when my two, who are 16 months apart, required such care and a very watchful eye had me sweating instinctively on her behalf. The diaper bag, the stroller, one mobile non-listener and one who required being held in order to move anywhere - ugh, it was exhausting. But then she said something to me briefly in passing, and I haven’t been able to shake it since:
“I just don’t want to look like the frazzled mom, you know?”
For two weeks this thought has stuck to me like a melted candy in the side of my car door.
A frazzled mom.
Who among us isn’t a frazzled mom?
Those early years (and by early, I mean pregnancy to age 10) are TIRING, TRYING, and overall SUCK at times. Yes, there is so much to love about having littles (and every once in a while, I get a slight hint of baby fever and feel the need to sniff a bald baby head). BUT… there is so much that is HARD.
Between the exhaustion, your body no longer belonging to only you, the constant need to serve someone, the To Do list that could rival a CVS receipt, and trying to actually parent in a way where you raise good humans, you are mentally and physically drained on an almost daily basis.
So my question then is this: why wouldn’t we appear frazzled? Show me a human who can handle all the demands of parenting young kids and potentially a career and maintain a marriage and friendships and run a household and still look like she has all her shit together.
This gig is hard enough. Isn’t it time we lean into the messiness that is being a mama? So what if you look stressed - you are! Who cares if your new wardrobe consists of sweats and a messy bun (and possibly some form of poop/puke-stained attire)? This is the reality that is your life right now.
And that’s OK. No one expects you to be perfect. I’m not going to judge you for wearing Nikes and not Manolos. No makeup? Rock that au natural. Your diaper bag consists of half-eaten granola bars, a can of puffs that exploded and you still haven’t cleaned out yet? Cool, let me help you carry it to the car.
The world we live in is ruthless in its expectations of mothers. From tabloid magazines praising celebrities who bounce back to their pre-baby bodies three weeks after giving birth to employers who expec
t you to work through your maternity leave to outdated societal and cultural norms that place household upkeep on an overwhelmed new mom.
Ladies, I see you. I see you juggling a thousand sharp objects, hoping not a single one of them falls, and plastering a smile and some hot pink lipstick on while doing it. But Mama, it’s OK to put something down. It’s alright to ask for help. It’s normal to appear frazzled. How can any one person, aside from Wonder Woman herself, ever expect to live up to such an unattainable image?
I’m not saying we won’t try. We’re moms. Of course we will. Many of us fight the constant battle of proving we can “have it all.” We are career women who refuse to lose that part of our identity because we decided to add being a mom to it. We are women who stay home, doing our best to manage a household, organize all the activities, pay the bills, run all the errands, all while making sure tiny little humans have every last need met.
But in case no one’s told you yet, it’s perfectly acceptable to be the frazzled mom. I know I’ve been rocking that look/title for the last 11 years. Most days, the kitchen sink is littered with dirty dishes. I just took a vacuum to my house for the first time in 14 days. I rewashed the same load of laundry for the third time this week today. My kids eat takeout and pizza way more than I’d like to admit during the school week. And in the summer, a dip in the pool totally counts as a shower. Most days I’m up at 5 and even then, I’m still doing my mascara while resting at stop lights on my morning commute. I rarely blow-dry my hair because A) I literally don’t have the energy to do it, B) I never seem to have the time in the a.m. and C) I just can’t seem to give a damn.
And honestly, the mom friends who have become the closest allies in my village, are sitting next to me in the same damn boat. They are the ones I call to come over, without vacuuming first. The girl gaggle I hang with on a Friday night, braless and free. The ladies who laugh with me when I lose my shit, not judge me for it. The women whose plates are equally overflowing with responsibilities, commitments, and stressors.
But life with them is real. There is no veil and we see each other.
So mamas, can we for a second, put down the pretenses? Can we agree to just settle into this part of our life? To accept that it’s not easy? To agree that we may occasionally appear a bit haggard, tired, and overwhelmed? Can we please stand beside and stand up for the mamas in our lives? Let’s not be so afraid to be our real, authentic selves, even if it does look like we’ve been through 12 rounds in the ring. I know I, for one, don’t need any added pressure of perfection or the judgment of others. Leave a comment below and let me be there for you, Mama.