“Nothing’s wrong. It’s just hard.” This repetitive line from a recent Facebook post from Bunmi Laditan says what I’ve wanted to say so many times. I’ve wanted to say it on Monday evenings, after endless tantrums and diaper blow-outs when my husband walked in the door. And at my son’s baseball game, with tired eyes, as I chatted with other moms. Or when the doctor asks what my symptoms are, and why I’m not sleeping.
Nothing’s wrong, it’s just hard — this gig we call motherhood.
Laditan begins her post by setting a scene so many of us can relate to, writing: “‘This is unbearable,’” I think as I listen to my children bicker. It’s not yet dawn, but they’re awake and their belligerent voices are an assault on my still-sleeping senses. Nothing’s wrong, it’s just hard.”
Because that’s when the job starts — before dawn. And throughout the night sometimes, too.
Like most mothers, Laditan knows she’s blessed. She is grateful for her healthy children who have the energy to use those voices, and healthy bodies to be playing before the sun rises. We all are. But man, is this job tough some days, even when nothing is wrong.
Laditan also gets into another common battle we can all relate to — the struggle that is mealtime.
“My youngest, his cute chubby face hidden by a raggedy stuffed bear, shakes his head furiously at the breakfast in front of him,” she writes. “I know he’s hungry. I sigh and turn to face the stack of soiled dishes I would have done last night had I not overdrawn on my energy reserves. Nothing’s wrong, it’s just hard.”
Again, she knows she’s lucky. There’s ood on the table. A roof over her head. She’s hashtag blessed.
But that doesn’t mean it it’s easy. This daily grind of refereeing over who gets the only clean blue bowl or begging them to eat something green (knowing the pediatrician will ask if they eat vegetables) is exhausting.
Like Bunmi Laditan, I have healthy kids. There’s plenty of food to fight with them over and warm beds for us all to sleep in. No one is hungry or dying or unable to laugh and smile and play. But just like Laditan, I often have to take a deep breath and talk myself through the day, too. Because this day, like yesterday, and like tomorrow, is hard.
Her post weaves in various other typical moments of motherhood, such as the laundry battle, wondering if their lunches are healthy enough (and will they even eat them?), and wanting our kids to look somewhat put together when they head out into the world.
“I put my coat over my pajamas and give my children a once over,” Laditan writes, “making sure they look like they come from a home with a mother who cares” — and oh my gosh, can I relate to this on about 800 or more levels. My kids often run out to the bus with unbrushed hair (and did they even brush their teeth?!) and holes in the knees of their pants while I cringe from the front step. What will their teachers think? I wonder. Later, they’ll come home with half-eaten sandwiches and a container of mashed up fruit, and I’ll wonder again, Why do I even try?
And the guilt. Oh, the guilt and the fears. Is my oldest making friends? Does he feel like he fits in? Is my little guy being dragged around too much to his siblings’ activities? And then, like Laditan, I have a middle child. One I often worry about.
“My middle is lost in the angst of being the middle,” she writes. “Note to self: give her more attention (the positive kind).”
My fears often sound the same. Am I overanalyzing and worrying too much? Because nothing’s wrong. So why is it so hard?
Laditan’s followers clearly appreciated her honesty, as many of them admitted they too suffer under the often unbearable weight of motherhood.
“I am on the couch,” wrote one commenter. “Child two got to the bus on time. Child three got to the school on time. Child one doesn’t have to get up because it is regents week. There is a pile of work to be done in every room on this house and instead I am on the couch. There is something wrong, but the solution takes time and money I simply do not have, though it would restore the motivation that would increase my time and money. I can do it all, I can. But it is hard. So right now, I am on the couch, reading what you have to say, and feeling a little better about doing good enough, and close enough, and enough.”
“I love you,” wrote anmother. “I always feel like I am failing my 3 boys … I am a single mom with breast cancer and these days energy is spent so early … and I feel like I can’t have people walk in my house because it isn’t like normal people’s tidy perfect domiciles… and always next weekend I am going to clean it out … I work 2 jobs and keep them alive and hope they know I love them more than life … and it is hard … ”
Eventually, like all of us, Laditan says she gets through the day. A day not unlike other days. A day that was harder than some but that will be easier than others. And she ends with a beautiful metaphor for this job we do: “Motherhood and life, two dishes messy enough on their own but when combined form a savory, chunky stew: thick, and bubbling with potatoes, carrots, herbs, and chunks of tender meat in seasoned gravy. To be eaten at room temperature. With someone in your lap begging for bites, neck outstretched like the sweetest of baby birds.”
It feels good to have someone else say that even though “nothing is wrong”, it’s still challenging and exhausting. And that doesn’t make us bad mothers. And that doesn’t mean we won’t get up and do it again tomorrow — the laundry battles and half-eaten lunches and disheveled school outfits. Because we will. Even if it’s hard.