To the mom who burns the grilled cheese you know your sensitive eater won’t eat anyway because you rush out of the kitchen to settle a quarrel over a stuffed animal—I see you.
To the mom who is responding furiously to work emails even though it is Saturday while your child gives you a dirty look and says, “All you do is work!”—I see you.
To the mom with greasy hair who hasn’t showered for two (okay, let’s be real, three) days, who bathes her kids daily with organic, mommy-group approved soap—I see you, too.
All of us are all of these women at one point or another—and all of us need a break at some point.
We need a break from doing two, three, five, okay, ten things at once. A break from becoming ambidextrous in our twenties and thirties and forties simply because our circumstances demand we give more to life than one strong hand will allow.
We are the women who stir the milk with one hand while soothing the baby with the other. The mothers who meal plan and grocery shop and cook with ingredients our mothers didn’t even know about, because we spend late nights basking in the glow of our iPhones while we look up healthy recipes and try to figure out which companies are actually organic and not just fake organic (you know what I’m talking about.)
Whether we are “working moms” or “stay-at-home moms,” we are all working moms.
And it’s not just our bodies that are working all the time, shuffling us around from place to place without the sleep or nutrients needed for an average person to sustain life. Our minds are working—even while we’re sleeping. Minimizing risks, strategically planning, expertly allocating.
Our minds don’t stop, and neither do our hearts. We feel the cry before we hear the cry, and we’re down a flight of stairs before our children even realize they were crying.
We are go, go, go, and then go harder (and we make sure to smile while we’re doing it) because that is what is expected of us, from the world, from ourselves. We push ourselves to the brink because we are the only ones who can do it right (am I right?) and asking for help makes us weak. Or does it?
I see you doing it all.
And from the outside, you’re really holding it together. But is that enough? Is the fiction of perfection worth it? And is being able to say you did it all absolutely perfectly, and all by yourself, something to be proud of?
To the mom who volunteered at school, planned the Pinterest-worthy birthday party, scheduled the best-of-the-best after-school activities and handmade personalized gifts for every teacher, teacher’s assistant and administrator—I see you.
To the mom who carries a full-time workload but works before 8 a.m. and after 10 p.m. to be able to take time off to shuttle the kids to and from school—I see you.
To the mom who buys all the birthday gifts—for your side of the family and your spouse’s—and remembers every holiday, milestone and fact about everyone in the family as well—I know you’re trying.
I’m here to tell you, all of you, that we’re failing at something.
And that something is ourselves. We schedule our children’s doctor appointments like clockwork a year in advance, but we haven’t been to the dentist in three years. We make sure our kids have enough physical activity and rest by scheduling in sports and adhering to bedtime routines, but we haven’t worked out regularly or gone to bed at a reasonable time in…forever. Everything is perfect—at our expense.
So here I am, witnessing you. And inviting you. To take a break with me.
And while a traditional break, like a trip to the spa or a mini vacation with your girlfriends or even an uninterrupted episode of your favorite TV show might help a little—the real break we all need and deserve is a mental and emotional one.
Let’s take a break from perfectionism. A break from self-sacrifice. A break from being everything to everyone else at all times.
Because here’s what taking a break from being the perfect mom, wife, and worker will do—it will give you, back to you. It will calm the worries about what you’re missing, what you’re doing wrong.
It will fill you with gratitude because you’ll have the opportunity to reflect, to breathe, to enjoy. It will remind you that underneath the mother you’ve become is the woman you’ve always been, a woman who has needs, and deserves to know and honor them.
You may say that you can’t take a break.
You don’t have the luxury of taking one. Your kids deserve perfection, and you’re the only one to deliver it. And so I ask you—and be honest with yourself when you answer this question: do you have the luxury of not taking one?
I initially wrote this piece for Mother.ly. If it resonates, please share it.