As a full-time college student and mom of four with a full-time job, I often hear, “Damn, I don’t know how you do it all!” or “You’re really doing awesome at all of this! I could never!” Now I’ve never been good with compliments, so naturally, I have to fight the urge to word vomit all of my shortcomings and the harsh guilt I feel in all areas of my life. But instead, I smile and nod, say thank you, and think, “If they only knew!”
You see, the people around me only see the seemingly well-adjusted kids, the happy marriage, the Dean’s List certificate, and me giving my all to my job. They don’t see the in-between moments, the ones where I feel like I’m spinning in circles grasping for any help I can get from my village. How do I do it all? Simple, I don’t. I rely on after-school care, a best friend who brings my kids home most days, a husband who changes his schedule to be home on the nights I have class, and an unhealthy amount of caffeine. If by doing it all, you mean cereal for dinner, mounds of laundry, mistakes, and missed moments with my kids, then sure. I forget to eat more often than not, and I rush home from class hoping at least one kid will still be awake when I sneak into their bedroom because it breaks my heart that I didn’t kiss them goodnight. I yell in the mornings, desperate to get everyone out the door on time so that I am not late for work where I spend eight hours giving it my heart and soul. I spend nights writing papers only to curl up next to my husband crying because I don’t feel like I’m enough — for him, for the kids, for everyone.
I’ve written about my battle with anxiety before, about how it steals the joy from life and makes me angry and yell. But it also riddles me with guilt, feeling like I SHOULD be able to do all of the things that people think I’m doing. If I just meal prepped better, maybe I could have dinner ready for my family even when I am not home. If I managed my time better, maybe I wouldn’t have to do any homework when the kids are home. If I remembered to look at my planner more, maybe I wouldn’t forget important dates. I will never forget the night I cried to my husband because I was trying to meal plan for the week, and he stopped me, reminding me that he would be home with the kids on the nights I have class and that he could handle dinner. I thanked him but assured him that I could do it, that I would make a plan so that it would be easier. He stopped me and said something that has stuck with me: “I know you can, but just because you can do something doesn’t mean you NEED to do it.” He reminded me how capable of cooking he is and that he wanted to take that off of my plate.
Ah yes, the plates that I attempt to balance full of all the sh*t that must get done. As moms, we feel like we must carry all the plates, all of the time. Unless you’ve gone to clown school and learned how to juggle, eventually plates will drop. The most liberating thing though is allowing yourself to share the plates, being open with the fact you can’t juggle, and not comparing yourself to others while they attempt to juggle. There will always be someone who looks like they have it all together, and chances are that underneath the surface, they are feeling overwhelmed, too. The only people who think we need to do it all are ourselves. So, let me start: Hi, I’m Krista. I often look like I have it all together, but I never do and that’s okay. My house is never completely clean, I struggle with work/school/life balance, and I know the healing powers of a good cry and a good laugh. Give yourself some grace. The kids will eat candy for breakfast and think it’s the best thing ever, you’ll forget an appointment and the world will keep spinning if you have to reschedule, no deadline is worth your mental health, and hug your mom friends every chance you get and let them know you see them trying their best and it’s so much more than enough. And if you feel like you have no village, you’re kicking ass, and let’s be friends!