I think it’s safe to say we’ve all had a lot on our minds lately, with Covid-19 continuing to spiral out of control and the real fear that comes from wondering what the insurrection at the Capitol means for us as we move forward as a country. With each daily news cycle, it seems our collective mental load just grows, getting darker and becoming stranger than fiction.
We are all living in a constant state of trauma that has no end in sight.
And mothers are being crushed by the weight of it all.
It should be no surprise to any of us that mamas have been the ones to rise up and balance work, family and remote learning, with many mothers being forced to leave their jobs to stay home with their children or have lost their job due to Covid. But we also need to talk about the mental gymnastics we have been required to do just to navigate our daily lives and that of our families all while the world falls apart.
Mothers are already the keepers of worry and concern, feelings that ride on our shoulders, whispering anything but sweet nothings in our ears. I am constantly being told that I worry too much about everything, especially my boys and especially, especially my mothering. My rational brain knows I worry too much, it even tells me so, reminding me that I cannot control everything, that I cannot solve everything, that my boys are okay, that I’m a good mom, that I need to breathe and let go.
Worry, concern and fear can be stronger and louder than my rational brain though and they are much like my boys in that they don’t often listen to big mama. They just run wild and rampant, screaming “you can’t catch me!” And just as I’ve learned to roll with it when my boys are being boys, I’ve learned to roll with it when my mind is paralyzed by worry and fear. I go into autopilot mode and keep on mothering on.
Because while the world around us crashes and burns, dinner ain’t gonna make itself.
Boo boo’s aren’t going to kiss themselves. Tears won't dry on their own.
My son’s Chromebook isn’t going to charge itself and his remote learning worksheets aren’t going to modify themselves by adding the cues and boxes where he needs to write.
My two year old is still going to pretend he’s flying off the couch like Buzz Lightyear, requiring swift intervention and an airplane ride from mom to redirect him.
And I am still going to try my best to shield my boys from what’s happening in the world and how it impacts me as a citizen, as a woman, as their mother.
Mamas, we live in a constant state of trauma, on top of all the other thoughts and feelings we have that are unrelated to the world outside our doors, yet we still microwave chicken nuggets as if nothing is happening.
I watched what was happening at the Capitol building with the rest of the country from the comfort of my living room floor, sitting cross legged across from my two and a half year old. Toy Story figures were spread around us- Buzz coming in peace, Woody walking with Forky, Bo Peep rescuing them all from evil Dr. Porkchop. I watched and I played. I listened and I played. I was filled with fear, confusion, disgust and I played.
And then I went into the kitchen and made dinner.
My mother in law had brought my oldest to his PT appointment that afternoon and I was beyond tempted to call the Schwartz Center and ask them to end the appointment so my son could come home. In my anxieties about the potential ripple effect of the insurrection, I said to my husband that it seemed as though we needed to shelter in place, that a state of emergency needed to be declared and that we were all staying home for the rest of the night, to which he replied, “well, the irony is that’s what we’re supposed to be doing anyway,” a reminder that Covid is never far from our minds.
I walked back into the kitchen, picked up my little guy so he could slam dunk his ball into the basketball net that hangs from our pantry door and set the table – one ear on the news, one ear on my son.
Since then, I can’t help but think about how we as mothers are forced to hold the tension between the mundane and the incomprehensible. What a true feat of strength it is to carry both loads while continuing to make sure life looks normal, feels normal, is normal, for the rest of our families.
Dear mamas, I wish there was something I could say that would make this better for us. I wish there was something I could say that would allow us to make meaning of this but I think that the lesson, which may be different for everyone, is yet to be revealed. Perhaps right now, just recognizing that we are doing this, recognizing that there have been mothers, such as mothers of color, who have always had to do this, is enough. Perhaps right now, just the knowledge that another sees your experience of motherhood in this moment, that another sees the difficulties and the challenges and the necessary resilience can be enough.
Perhaps right now, mamas, remembering that brave cannot exist without fear, that calm cannot exist without worry, that light cannot exist without darkness, that your little loves cannot exist without you, can be enough.