No One Cares About Moms
I’ve only been a mom for 18 years, but this year has been the hardest yet. I thought the sleepless baby years, a muddle of pregnancies, leaking breasts, and endless diapers would be the hardest. Then, the teenage years hit and I thought the late nights, power struggles, and disrespect would be the hardest. This past year I had a child suddenly withdraw from home life, and leave high school, and that was the hardest. And then there was this pandemic, which was also the hardest. It magnified all the parts of my life that weren’t working.
I suddenly had to oversee the remote education of kids from preschool up through high school – completely on my own. It was just expected. Most of my mom friends were in the same boat. I realized again that I had too many kids. By that, I mean I can’t care for each of them the way I’d like to. The sheer exhaustion of trying to keep track of what each child is supposed to be doing for school was overwhelming. Their mental and social needs also grew. Add to that the emptiness I am running on. I am the mom that loves to send her kids to school each fall, to have another adult who is helping love and teach them. I love teachers. They do so much for our kids. Sometimes I have idyllic images in my head of how great it would be to homeschool my own children, but I don’t think I could ever do it. I’ve rarely had a moment to myself since March, when quarantine hit. Sure, I steal some time to take a walk, to keep my sanity. But I feel a weight grow with each step back toward my house. The mantle of the never-ending demands of motherhood.
I can’t help but feel I was lied to. I believed what I was told about motherhood being the highest and holiest calling I could aspire to, that it was revered. The truth is, no one really cares about mothers. They might give lip service to you once a year and say how great it is that you are so self-sacrificing, but the truth is that you are self-sacrificing because everyone expects it of you. If you want to do something for yourself, you are selfish. If your child is willful, it is your duty to break them to society’s expectations. You might have to fight tooth and nail to get your child to bathe or comb their hair or brush their teeth. But if they go out in mismatched socks, you will still be judged. If they end up with something like depression or special needs, you will likely be blamed. The mom is supposed to be everything to every child. You must anticipate their needs and help them see and develop their gifts, and encourage them to go out and take the world by storm. Your child should play a musical instrument, a sport, have a hobby, and friend. And if you are a Mormon mom, you should have many of these accomplished, well-polished, and socially acceptable children. Here’s another truth. Your child will have ideas all their own. When they are 3 they will be sure that a bathing suit is the perfect outfit for a wintry December grocery store trip. They will think you are trying to feed them poison and you are the worst cook in the world. When they are 12 they will have several antiperspirants sitting on their dresser, but never remember to use them. They will think it is fine to wear the same shirt and underwear every day. When they are 15 they will think you don’t know anything about the world and you are the only parent who has all these rules and chores. You will step on legos in the middle of the night while cleaning up vomit. Your children will likely hate you at many times throughout a given day. They do not want to be a reflection of you and you will have to unlearn that they are supposed to be. It is hard and thankless work to raise children, even in the best of times.
When there is a pandemic, you will be reminded that all of this is your responsibility alone. At least that is the case for many women. Somehow we are expected to carry the slack when the world’s routine is interrupted. If you can’t remember the last time you slept through the night, no one cares. They will tell you to ‘take better care of yourself’. As if you weren’t doing everything you possibly can. Being stuck at home will make your children feel like caged wild beasts. They will want only to be on screens, but you know that rots their brains so you will try to get them to use their toys and imaginations, to play outside, to read books, or to use the art supplies you carefully stocked up. They will mostly complain about how unfair you are, how annoying their siblings are, and how ‘everyone else’ gets to go out and have fun.
With the return of school approaching, I have been heartsick about the schooling options. Do I choose to borrow chrome books and start up again with school at home because I value the health of my family and community? Or do I send them to in-person school amidst the teeming masses, surrounded by people who believe the pandemic is a hoax? No option feels completely safe and all seem to have heavy consequences. Social and mental health concerns are real. The unknown dangers of a new virus can be overwhelming. Will schools be shut down again? Will my asthmatic children get it? Will it be a bad case? Will any of us have heart or lung damage? Will we able to afford medical care if we need it?
This mom feels like she is dying slowly every day. Years of fighting depression do nothing when life is so overwhelming. My goal of going back to school or work feels like wisps of smoke or a fading dream. Regular workouts at the gym to cope with my anxiety have been out of the question, and I am back to just surviving day to day. Washing laundry, grocery shopping, preparing meals, cleaning, these are old hat. Now add on gathering masks for all the family members, policing hand washing, reminding children not to share drinks or blow in each other’s faces. Every small weight feels impossibly heavier this year. The pain of a loveless marriage feels suffocating when there is nowhere else to go. I have tried to schedule distanced meetups with friends in the park. A few have been successful, but it is not nearly enough for me. I still end up feeling alone. I don’t know how to respond at those few times people do reach out. I am afraid I will suck them into an endless whirlpool of need. Is there something wrong with me that I can never feel connected and a part of the world? Why do I always feel shut out and like I am treading water or buried at the bottom of an ocean? Why don’t I feel like I remember who I am?
Yes, mothering can be good. You will live for the tender moments that are few and far between. You will thrill at their small accomplishments and glow in their fleeting hugs. But you may also find yourself utterly and completely alone. You might find yourself out of your depths and not know how to get back to land. You might wonder what help anyone could possibly give if you could even manage to form words about what you need.
If we really valued motherhood, how would day to day life look different? How would we keep moms from becoming completely depleted by their parenting duties? How would we pull together in crisis times like this pandemic? What would a stimulus package to support moms look like? What other differences would we see if we valued care taking and women’s work? If you can articulate what help you need, what do you say?