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The Worst Thing You Could Say to a Stressed Out Mom

Photograph by Twenty20

You know the kind of people I'm talking about—those do good, feel good, be honest types who encourage us all to take more time for ourselves and really evaluate our situations. They want us to reprioritize, stop making excuses, and be honest with ourselves and the world. They share memes like this one, immediately making us all guilty for not feeling the same way:

In a perfect world—which is the one I’m sure whoever keeps sharing this lives in—there's enough time for everything. In my world, there simply isn’t. Yes, my health is a priority, that’s why I spend time meal planning, food shopping, and cooking. It’s also why sometimes my kids eat chicken nuggets and carrot sticks several times a week, because at least they're getting vegetables with them. My mental health is also a priority, which means take-out happens, just like cereal for dinner happens.

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Let’s face the facts. There are 24 hours in a day. That’s it. I don’t care who you are, you aren’t going to find anymore. Are you going to magically discover some extra hours that I’m not already doing something with so that I can prioritize the way you want me to? Go ahead, try it. With three kids, one of whom still won’t sleep more than four hours at a time, even my sleep time is not my own.

There's school drop-off, pick-up, homework, and extracurricular activities. I’m already struggling to figure out a time my baby is supposed to have an afternoon nap, since pick up for my first grader is at 2:15. By 3 p.m. we’ve started the homework battle.

The desire to spend time with my children creeps in, but I still have things to do around the house. But household chores don’t rank high on my list of daily priorities. See, I can prioritize! Then we’re out the door three of the five nights each week for an activity.

I’d love to drop the kids off at whatever program they have that evening and head on over to the gym, but oh yeah, the baby. And please don’t argue that my husband can keep him or that I should hire a sitter. First of all, the sitter costs money that I don’t always have. And second, my husband is in the Army. If I really need to explain the unpredictability of that, then it’ll have to be another time.

The truth is I don’t have time to do everything I once considered a priority.

When I give myself an out by saying “I don’t have time,” it actually makes me feel better. The truth is I don’t have time to do everything I once considered a priority. One day when my children are older, I’ll look back and I won’t regret the times I let the laundry pile up, or we ate pizza twice in one week. I will regret the times I chose chores over cuddles or food shopping over a trip to the park.

You know what is a priority to me? Sleep, coffee, my work, and time with my family. So each and every time you ask me to do something and it interferes with those things I’m going to say no. Every time. And it’s not because you aren’t a priority to me, it’s because I really don’t have time. I bet if you thought about it, you don’t have time for everything that's a priority in your life either.

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So how can we help each other through this? How can we spend time building each other up and easing the burden for our friends instead of tearing each other down?

In the simplest of ways. Carpooling to activities saves so much time! You do this day I’ll do the next and we both find ourselves with a little extra time to get the laundry folded. Shoot me a text when you head to the store and see if I need anything. I promise you won’t get my full shopping list, but you may save me 30 minutes of kid wrangling just for a gallon of milk. I promise to return the favor!

I want nothing more than to sit on the couch with a cup of coffee and spend hours catching up with a friend, but since we’ve been trying to get together since before Christmas, let’s just admit we’re on this bumpy road called motherhood and go with it.

And to those who have already mastered this, instead of judging me on Facebook and posting passive aggressive images meant to dig at those of us who are trying our very best, you have two options: help us out or butt out.

We sincerely hope you chose the former.

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