Motherhood is not for the faint of heart. You surrender your body for nine months awaiting a slippery, helpless, hungry human to come barreling out. Then once the new babe is on the outside, you’re involuntarily flooded with turbulent emotions that drive you to somehow keep a tiny human fed, dry and warm. Alive. Then they start to grow like crazy and you take on full responsibility for their emotional and physical well-being. You build their vocabulary. You mold their manners. You enable and celebrate their milestones. You feed their soul with praise and support, all the while keeping them safe, maintaining a clean home, putting healthy meals on the table, limiting screen time, supporting your spouse, learning a second language, encouraging empathy for other cultures, drinking eight glasses of water a day, getting ample exercise, empowering women, sending thank you cards on time, not overspending on Amazon and keeping wine intake to a healthy minimum.
But what if you are one of “the faint of heart?” Asking for a friend. It’s me. I’m the friend.
Today, I woke up with painful, itchy red patches all over my face. Naturally, I jumped on Google for a five minute deep dive to self diagnose – leading me to the conclusion that I must have Perioral Dermatitis. Who says you can’t be a doctor with an English degree?
I met with my General Practitioner this afternoon because per usual, the dermatologist couldn’t see me until August of 2072. That’s fair. I’d be dead by then and this rash wouldn’t matter.
So at 3 o’clock today, feeling pretty solid about my research, I let my doctor know what I had. I even pulled it up on my phone to show him. How insulting, right? I’m still sorry.
He threw me a curveball and instead of accepting my fool proof diagnosis, he started asking about how things were going with my kids. “You have a three year old and a one year old, right?” Yep. “Wow, I’m sure they keep you busy. Those are rough ages. Do you ever do drop off programs?” No… I quit my job to stay home with them. That would defeat the purpose right? He then asked how things were going with our families. It’s no secret that we’ve had our fair share of unresolved family drama over the last few years. But who hasn’t? After a series of personal questions about life at home, he let me know I had hives from emotional stress. He said, “emotions weep through the skin.”
I was hoping for some genetic skin condition. Or an allergy. Maybe a gluten allergy so I could have an excuse to shop exclusively at Whole Foods, drive a Subaru, only dine at farm-to-table restaurants and get a meaningful tattoo. He offered to refer me to an allergist to help ease the shock of the stress diagnosis, but then went ahead and prescribed a mood stabilizer, and an oral steroid to knock out the hives.
So here we are. I’m a 30-year old housewife with so much unresolved internal stress, I’ve broken out in effing hives. My husband came home early this afternoon to keep the kids during my appointment and when I walked in with my new bottle of chill pills, he asked what I was stressed about. I warned him. It’s a first world problems list. I’m stressed that I can’t keep my house clean (enough) because I live with tiny Pig-Pens. I’m stressed that our bathroom remodel is taking an eternity. I worry that extended family members don’t like or approve of me and my parenting style. I’m stressed that we can’t get control of the weeds situation in our overgrown yard. I worry that I’m not emotionally available enough for my husband at the end of the day. Hell, I worry I’m not physically available enough. I worry that my children aren’t getting the appropriate amount of water, fruits and veggies because they really just want corn dogs and apple juice. I worry that I’m failing on the days that I let Netflix be their mom while I fold clothes. I TRY to plan educational and/or exciting outings to U-pick farms, the zoo, the splash pad and various and sundry parks around town to ensure that they’re not taking root to the couch. I drag them on walks for fresh air and ask meaningful questions and try to hug them enough so they know they’re amazing and important. All the while, remaining frustrated because every time I hop on Instagram or Facebook, my feed is flooded with near-perfect fabulous summer vacations, well-behaved siblings in perfect matching attire, Gucci bags, impeccable style, spotless homes inspired by Joanna Gaines, hard bodies post partum, meal plans, preschool activities, a long list of extracurriculars, thriving side businesses, working moms who are killing it at the office, stay-at-home moms who are killing it at home and being super wives, super friends and super chefs and social media influencers and spiritual leaders and ALL THE THINGS.
So I’m wracked with mom guilt. I can’t keep up. Today, I laid on the couch, tried not to scratch my swollen face, and let the kids watch Secret Life of Pets on a loop and eat pop corn for lunch. Nash fell asleep in the middle of the messy room drinking Pedialyte because, surprise, he has e-coli because he eats poop because he’s one.
And you know what? They had a good day. They didn’t learn anything new. They didn’t change the world. But when I tucked Piper in bed tonight, gave her a cup of “fresh water,” turned her fan OFF, turned her owl light ON, made sure her stuffed dog “Heidi” was at the FOOT of the bed and left her door “a little cracked” – I heard her small, sweet voice say, “I love you mama.” And in that moment, I felt grace.
Some days you rock at life. And some days, you drink two cups of room temp coffee while your kids watch Little Baby Bum and you settle for keeping everyone alive. Because that has to be enough. We don’t talk enough about stress, anxiety and worry. As moms, we’re not entitled to it. There’s too much tragedy in the world to raise the white flag when you’re stressed about a bathroom remodel or your stupid old cat who peed in your daughter’s closet on her new tap shoes.
But I’m raising it. And I’m raising a glass to all the moms who are trying their best. Because this gig is hard as hell. And we need a whole bunch of grace.
On a lighter note – my new chill pills came with a four page document outlining possible side effects and warnings. My favorite side effect is: Unusually grand ideas
If that happens, I have to alert my healthcare provider to the change in behavior. So… if you see me out and I seem exceptionally filled with grandeur, call my doc.