All moms, especially working moms, have this habit of building and piling on our “to do” lists with great fervor and then trying to achieve the ever-expanding list with perfection every day. If we don’t complete every task, we feel unaccomplished or even (gulp) like failures. We seek to perform so much multi-tasking with such high expectations, sometimes we crack.
Yes, I said it….sometimes we crack.
Raise your hand: how many working moms do you know that seem on the edge of a nervous breakdown? Maybe that mom is you. There are countless articles about the depression and anxiety that seems chronic with trying to be a supermom. Like this one, this one, and this one. Yet, we still seem uncomfortable talking about it.
We need a break from the level we are trying to function at.
So many of us are looking for an escape, a total break from reality, just for a short period of time. And NO, a vacation with the kids isn’t exactly the stress-free break we are craving. In the video below, Katrina Alcorn mentions “hospital fantasies” in which some overworked moms had a little teeny desire for a minor accident so they could get away from the “to do” list just for a little while. It is striking to me that some of us get to a point where we feel that we have to be physically incapacitated to get a little break. Is that the point where so many moms are at? So desperate for some peace that we’d be okay with pain and a hospital bed?
I remember waiting for the arrival of my first child finding myself surrounded more by moms in my daily life. I looked at all of these professional women/veteran moms as icons, they were balancing work and kids and marriage and fashion and everything with pure grace and class. I figured I should start paying attention to what wisdom these women could impart on me. One amazing woman who was (still is) brilliant, together, attractive, successful, confident, and seemingly perfect-in-every-way was joking about her life with her 3 kids and husband. It sounded chaotic and stressful but she was rolling it all into humorous story-telling. I was in awe of her lack of stress. Halfway through lunch, she turned to me and said she had to take a detour before going back to work – she absolutely HAD to stop at the pharmacy to get her anxiety medication.
I looked at her in disbelief, “you need meds?”
She laughed, “oh honey, we (all the moms in the office) are on meds. How else can we get through this craziness? Meds, booze, therapy, you’ll need to find something that will keep you from losing your mind in this working mommy thing.”
Or another friend who was having some real doubts about her marriage, seriously overwhelmed at work and was having some allergy issues with her youngest kid. She confided in me that she was cracking and when I asked if she was talking to anyone, she just shrugged and said “all my issues are so minor, I don’t want to bother anyone. I’ll be fine.” But she wasn’t really fine and she cracked.
We – so many of us moms – go through the stress with smiles on, joking about needing that glass of wine, but still being afraid to admit that…
Sometimes we crack. We max out.
Maybe each person is different, maybe it’s anxiety, depression, addiction, etc. Some may need daily treatments, like meds or meditation or just some release to get the air or exercise. Others may bottle it for 6 days and use the 7th day for the release. But I still think we need to allow the crack, and release to happen. Then, we need to figure out real solutions. We need to acknowledge that we all can crack and how we can talk about making larger changes to thwart it
I know there are countless speakers and authors on the subject of working moms. I’m focusing on Katrina Alcorn in this post because just last night, I stumbled upon this TED Talk called “Maxed out – changing the conversation about women and work”. Katrina is the author of Maxed Out: American Moms on the Brink – which I confess I haven’t read. I know some people criticize TED Talks as “lots of sharing, little problem solving” but I strongly suggest that every working mom, actually every mom, sit and watch this:
Whether or not you 100% agree with all of it, you’ll see that Katrina Alcorn does discuss solutions. These are not overnight solutions that will happen instantly when a few employers or policy makers see this video. These are possible solutions that will take some mom uprisings to create change. And solutions are different for each mom, not everyone has a spouse at all (empathetic or not), not every mom has financial freedom to take a break and explore, not every mom has the ability to make big changes in employment.
But I am on board with recognizing that this needs to be discussed openly and honestly. I want to get this message out to every mom who is close to cracking or being “maxed out”:
You are not alone. There are solutions and compassionate helpers and game changing ideas that can help you move from maxed out to just normal enjoyment of your world. As maxed out moms, we need to recognize the cracks and heal them, be brave enough to make some changes. There is no shame in admitting you are cracking or maxed out. This is not FAILURE. It takes courage to recognize it and make some small movements out of it.