Today I did something that I’ve never had to do in my eight years so far as a parent. Something that made me feel like I had reached my lowest point as a mother and frankly, as a human being.
I hired a babysitter so that I could shower.
Do you know how pathetic that makes me feel? How ridiculous it seems to admit that? How slightly angry it makes me that showering costs me valuable and precious money?
But you know what? I did what had to be done, because this week has been one of insanity in my house, including sick kids, a husband who’s away, huge work projects, and lots of drama.
The point is, I accepted that this is my life right now and I accepted that I have become someone who requires help to shower; but it still doesn’t make it any easier. And that is frustrating as a woman who has always tried my best to believe that moms can have fulfilling careers and happy home lives and meaningful relationships. Because paying someone to help just so I can fit a shower into my day doesn’t feel normal at all.
Now bear with me for what’s about to come next, because it’s important to understanding why us mothers find it so freaking hard to do what we do, day in and day out.
This weekend, I went away for two days for work, and while I was inordinately excited to spend two whole days all by myself — being able to eat when I wanted, drink coffee when I wanted, pee when I wanted, and sleep when I wanted — I knew that my “freedom” would come with a price.
And sure enough, I returned — more exhausted than when I started and sick from traveling — to piles of school paperwork that my husband had left for me, rotting food in an otherwise empty fridge, laundry overflowing, and missed calls from my husband about where the kids needed to be.
It really got me thinking about how much I wish I could just relax more and stop fretting over how much I have to do, because thinking about it only makes me more stressed.
Of course, my husband does a lot, too — I just want to make that real clear. He may not manage the domestic front or put away the laundry or have the internal radar that goes off in my head whenever we’re running low on a household item, but he does a lot of stuff for our family that I never think about. Like mow the lawn, fix anything and everything, and cook a mean Pad Thai dinner.
But for some reason, there’s still this huge difference between us about how we see life and how we view the world. And I finally think I’ve cracked the code on why that huge, glaring difference exists. It’s because as women, everything we do seems to come only with a tradeoff.
Want a baby? Sacrifice your body. Want no baby? Sacrifice what people think of you. Want a career? Sacrifice your sanity or potentially, your family. Want time away? Sacrifice staying ahead of the laundry. Want to have sex? Sacrifice nine months or the burden of choosing contraception that doesn’t suck. Heck, even sex leaves women with literal stuff to deal with. Women don’t get the convenience of skipping over the afterthoughts of life, while men really, literally, and figuratively, can walk away without a second thought.
For women, it can feel like everything we do comes with a price.
Maybe it’s because so many of us know what it’s like to pay the ultimate price of life within our own bodies or maybe it’s because so many of have to pay a high price to even become mothers, but either way, it can feel hard to be a woman and a mother who feels like she is constantly making trade-offs just to make it through the day.
And I’m not saying these are bad things or that women need to act like men or do anything men have historically done to be equal or better. I’m just saying that it has helped me to realize that quite frankly, I am not crazy for feeling, well … crazy. My life as a women and a mother and an employee and a wife is about making trade-offs to make it all happen. Maybe it won’t always be that way and maybe we will find a better way, but until then, I will continue making the only trade-off that I know has a pretty good success rate at this point: Trading sleep for coffee. (Most of the time.)
But if Mama needs a nap, watch out, because the trade-off of too much missed sleep is not something anyone wants to see, either.