It’s been a full year since Donald Trump became president. A full year since he stood on the National Mall and swore to “faithfully execute the office of President of the United States,” just as Barack Obama had done eight years before. Attending President Obama’s inauguration was one of the most patriotic moments of my life. Instead of attending Trump’s inauguration, I joined with half a million other women in the next day to raise our voices in protest.
Needless to say, I entered Trump’s administration ready to fight. In my Instagram photo from that day, I’m wearing my Wonder Woman shirt, my smirk and stance challenging the camera.
But despite my attitude, I was worried. In fact, I had been worried since I blearily read the results the morning after the election. I was worried for you and even moreso for the many families less privileged than ours. As we’ve seen since then, my worries about the treatment of immigrants, LGBT folks, black people, and poor families were justified. Everything has been as bad as we expected. In some cases, it’s been worse.
“I don’t want to get out of the car,” my son said.
“Why not? It’s time to get out,” I responded, my tone taking on an edge of impatience. Then I paused and raised an eyebrow. “Wait – is it because you want to hear the rest of the song on the radio?”
“Yeah,” he responded. I smiled. That song?
Piano Man, by Billy Joel.
Do you suffer from mom guilt, even when you spend as much time as possible with your kids? Try out these three tactics so you can be a less stressed, more content mom.
The last time my husband and I had a date night, my eighteen-month-old (nicknamed Little Bird) roamed his grandparents’ house, looking for us in every room. He called out “Mama. Mama” in this tiny little voice.
Thanks for the stab through the heart, kid.
Mom guilt is so real. Sometimes it’s deserved, sometimes it isn’t, and sometimes it doesn’t matter because your kids love you so much that they’re distraught if you leave for a split second, much less the entire evening. Yet we’re told to “take time for ourselves” and make sure you have “me time.” Good luck being able to minimize the mom guilt and still carry out self-care.
On top of the self-care piece, mom guilt actually hurts rather than helps our parenting. If we’re constantly paralyzed by feeling inadequate, then we can’t fully appreciate the times we are present.
As the Queen of Guilt – mom and all other types – perhaps it’s ridiculous of me to write this article. But because of my tendency to run right into Guilt City, no stops ahead, I’ve had to deal with it straight-on for the sake of my mental and emotional health. Taking these steps has helped me reduce my anxiety significantly. Hopefully, they’ll help you too.
Opening my mouth, I started to sing the lullaby I had sung to my two-year-old every night for the past year. “Christopher Robin and I walked along, through branches lit up by the moon,” I warbled off-key. Locking eyes with his big blue ones, I saw him shake his head.
I stopped singing.
“You don’t want me to sing?” My voice went up a half-octave. Another head shake and a finger pointing to his crib.
Finding space for beautiful things in our lives can feel impossible. After all, they’re so full. How can we fit in any more?
My phone has persistently reminded me of this fact over the last few months. It’s given me the “almost out of space warning” at least 30 times. I’ve deleted old videos, apps I’ve used twice, and music I haven’t listened to in years.
When a radiant sunrise caught my attention the other day, I picked up my phone to take a photo. Of course, I got that “out of space” warning. In response, I cleared out even more “stuff” so I could capture that moment. That shining, beautiful moment.
Because that’s what we do as moms – we find space, however we can.
When I close my eyes during Christmastime, I see my parents’ house, with its fresh tree with white twinkling lights, ornaments from my childhood dangling off it. My dad has classic rock on in the background, either from an ancient speaker system or the TV, depending on what memory I’m drawing from. In the kitchen, my mom is making a gingerbread house with my older son, placing marshmallows just-so.
Closing them again, I see my in-laws’ house, all singing animatronics, baskets of candy, and holiday music. I’m lounging with my husband’s family on their brown plaid couch, gazing at the multi-colored lights. It’s not quite as familiar as my own parents’ house, but is still embedded in my heart and mind.
But when I open my eyes, none of that is present. It’s not even accessible – neither my parents or my in-laws live in those houses anymore.
Yet, despite that loss, it feels like we’re finally home for Christmas. That’s because this is the first year my husband and I have celebrated Christmas with our kids in our own house.
“I talked to the teacher today,” my husband said while he was making dinner. While his statement was neutral, his strangled tone of voice revealed something was wrong. “The teacher” is our four-year-old’s preschool teacher.
After we put the kids to bed, he said, “She said he’s having trouble makingfriends.”
Ah. That’s what it was.
This singing Christmas tree is the bane of our holiday existence. But good things – even deep insights – can come from the most annoying of situations.
While some people can’t stand non-stop carols or mall parking lots during the holiday season, this tree bugs us the entire month of December. My mother-in-law bought it for my older son (nicknamed Sprout) a few years ago. Since then, he has played it as many times as we would possibly let him. First thing in the morning. Last thing before bedtime. Random times during the day until my husband finally gets sick of it and puts it away. While the song is cute the first time, it’s grating the 60th time. But I just don’t have the heart to get rid of it.
When I faced going back to work after my maternity leave, my husband and I faced a very real and common challenge – how to balance household management and the mental load between the two of us.
I’m a “doer” at heart while my husband, Chris, is much more laid-back. So taking everything over was a legitimate risk for me. The mental burden of being a mom is very real, whether you embrace the role of being a “keeper” of everything or find it smothering.
Our situation had an additional twist on it. That’s because Chris was going to be taking on a role that 29% of moms hold, but only 7% of dads do – stay-at-home parent. Because I would be working outside the home and he wouldn’t, I could not be the de facto household manager. It wouldn’t be fair or practical.
So we had to find a balance of duties, both in terms of physical chores and management. Since then, we’ve learned to reduce my emotional labor and mental load as a mom. (Unfortunately, most of these don’t apply if you’re a single parent.)
Lying in bed with my eyes closed, I wondered if I was the victim of a cosmic joke. A few days earlier, I had celebrated a few moments of silence, but four days of looking at nothing but the inside of my eyelids was starting to feel like a bit too much.
The Sunday before, our entire church was silent just before the sermon. Everyone was reading the white text on the black screen in front of us. Among other thoughts of discomfort, the text said, “It’s too quiet” and “For the love of God, this is anguish.”
After a few minutes, our pastor asked, “How did that feel to everyone? Did that feel like forever? Because it was just three minutes.”
While various murmurs reverberated through the congregation, my hand shot up. “It was nice not being asked for anything!” I volunteered. Chuckles ensued. Our fellow churchgoers are well-aware of my husband’s and my weekly Keystone Cops routine, chasing our young kids around to ensure they stay in the sanctuary.
But a few days later, I was starting to regret my enthusiasm for silence. I had a case of the flu so brutal that even visual sensory input overwhelmed me. But as awful as it was, I realized that my experience as a mom helped prepare me for it. While that sounds like a joke – the flu as a vacation! – what I’ve learned as a parent has actually made silence far more tolerable than I ever expected it to be.