Let's face it, we all have a breaking point. That critical moment when the wrong words, the cup of spilled milk, the fact that you've had your underwear on inside out all day becomes the straw that breaks the camel's back. We've all been there, some of us more often than others. People have told me that I've got it "all put together" or that I'm so organized, composed, and professional. What they don't know, is that my house is a mess, we've had fast food at least three times this week, I haven't showered in three days, and I'm desperately clawing at the last tiny string at the end of my rope.
Two days ago, I took Lucas to preschool wearing dirty jeans (already worn twice!) and a sweatshirt, with no makeup, and hasn't-been-washed hair. I didn't care. I was nearing the end of my mental capacity, and I didn't care who saw me, or what they thought. I'd spent the day before "catching up" on housework, laundry, dishes, and trying to recuperate from the constant "go" our family had been experiencing for the weeks prior, and I was just waiting for the bottom to fall out. I prayed a lot, and it didn't happen. Cue Wednesday, the day where I teach a class of six bright-eyed, energetic three-year-olds, and Lucas attends a class across the hall. It's was one of those days where you could hear his voice a mile away, and I lost count of the number of times his Teacher said, "Luuuuucas, no thank you!" before he was there, at my classroom door, holding the hand of his rather discouraged-looking Teacher. It was then I realized, I'm that mom. I'm the mom that everyone thinks has it together, but I don't. I spent the majority of last night bawling myself to sleep. My wonderful husband, who could sleep through a train clambering its way through our bedroom, laid clueless as I drowned in my self-inflicted shortcomings. I felt like everything I'd done as a mom was wrong. All of the times that I thought I was doing the "right thing" now seemed quite the opposite.
Today, I lost hold of that one tiny string at the end of my rope, when my son's Tuesday/Thursday pre-school teacher said, "Good afternoon, Mrs. Bolinger, can you stay after today to discuss Lucas' behavior?" I lost it. I was ugly-crying my eyes out in front of his teacher when a friend came in. She very politely pretended she didn't see me, and went about her business of preparing for the class' halloween party. A couple of hours later, I received a text message from her that read, "I could empathize with you this afternoon, it's none of my business just thought I'd let you know that I said a prayer for you". And it changed everything. It was at that moment I realized that I'm not alone. There are probably a million moms who have ugly cried in front of their child's preschool teacher, or who have "lost it" over something silly. I'm not the first person to go through this, and for the first time in a long time, I took a big, deep breath, and stood a little taller. I resolved to not to get myself down, or compare my parenting to someone else. Lucas is only three years old. Three! He's growing, he's learning, he's going to make mistakes, and he's going to refuse to listen to adults sometimes (and his wife one day, too!). It's what I do about this situation that defines me as a mom. Do I let go of my rope and keep falling down into the depths of self-doubting deprecation, or do I reach for another tiny string, and pull myself out of this rut? Do I let a little bit of typical toddler behavior get me down, or build up my mom arsenal? Today is a chance to learn, tomorrow is a new day, and so is the one after that.
"Wow, you look REALLY tired."
A phrase I hear almost every day. And not like, "Wow, you look really tired, is there anything I can do to help?" No, just a statement. You. Look. Tired. Why yes, yes I am.
I'm not sure when I began to feel animosity towards this phrase, but I absolutely loathe it when people feel the need to point out that I look tired. In today's society, people are compelled to tell everyone every thought that crosses their mind, and believe that they have the absolute right to do so. You don't walk up to someone who has gained some weight and say, "wow, you're looking awfully fat today" or comment on how poorly someone is aging, pointing out how tired I look is getting on my nerves.
Being a mom is hard work. Gosh darn hard work. It's physically and emotionally exhausting to give a little person everything you've got. Give. Give. Give. I feel like it's all I ever do. Wake up in the morning, think about showering, but have to make breakfast instead. Give. Get the boy out of bed, get him ready for school, fed, and qualm a meltdown or two in the process. Give. Make breakfast and coffee for the husband, who has just hit snooze on his alarm clock for the fourth time. Give. Get my shoes and coat on to head out the door, only to realize that I've still not finished my own coffee, haven't had breakfast, and aren't wearing any makeup. Give. Drop the toddler off at preschool, and head to the classroom where I volunteer once a week and set up for the next day's lesson. Give. Answer two phone calls and return 15 e-mails for Robotics, and realize I'm three minutes late to pick Lucas up. Give. Load the whiney toddler into the car, and drive home to make lunch, clean the house, do the dishes, wash the laundry and pray he takes a nap. Give. No nap? Alright, off to Robotics we go. Give. Spend 40 hours a week inspiring other people's children to respect STEM education, and build robots, and before I know it, it's 9:00pm and we're headed home. Give. Put a screaming, crying, toddler in bed, read a story, and snuggle for a while. Give. Give. Give. Head myself to bed, and pray for the strength to do it all again the next day.
You. All of you. You are the reason I look tired. It's not your fault, I know you didn't "ask" me to give up on myself to provide you with something you want. Giving is something I choose to do because it is who I am. I'm a giver, I always have been. The lack of makeup, messy hair, and baggy sweatshirt are what I settle for, so I can give more of myself to someone else. I don't have to look pretty to wipe Lucas' tears, and yoga pants are perfectly appropriate attire for cooking delicious meals, washing dishes, and folding laundry. Expecting recognition from the teenagers I mentor is futile, and the fact that I have been bringing our child to Robotics meetings starting at 4 days old, and have sacrificed countless hours with him for the sake of our Team is futile because they won't grasp what's been given to them until they're 25 and heading out into the "real world" anyway. I don't do it for the thanks, I do it because it's who I am. Yes, it makes me tired. But is it worth it? You bet.
So next time you look at someone and think, "wow, that person looks really tired" think about the things they are giving up for you. Think about the time that they could have spent on themselves, and gave to you instead. Think about the love that they are sharing with others, and how being a little tired is a small price to pay for the happiness they receive in return. And instead of simply stating, "you look really tired", you could say, "thank you for all that you do." Because everyone needs a little encouragement sometimes.