There’s a lot of pressure on moms to get everything done and unlike the “Leave It To Beaver” motherhood era of our grandmothers, this generation of mothers is at least allowed several mistakes along the way. Even though we get leeway to learn to become great parents, we’re still experiencing the continuous twirling plates challenge of motherhood- an insane expectation of balance and happiness. My own journey through this madness has become a burn to learn type of experience that until one particular day had left me unscathed.
That Saturday morning I woke up overjoyed that the day did not begin until a 10am soccer game… a very unusual start time as I’m used to having activities begin earlier. The weather was grim and fortunately one soccer game was cancelled. However I still had another game, a really awesome fundraiser party and a mom’s only dinner with some friends. Everything was jammed between 2pm and 7pm; three events all scheduled on the same day and within a four or five hour window. It seemed like a challenge on a reality tv show. Can she do it? Will she do it? Will she be on time for everything? Will she balance the amount of time at each event? What will she do? What did I decide to do? I decided to be a rockstar and cut myself into three pieces so that I wouldn’t let anyone down. Was that detrimental? Definitely. Here’s why…
I was on my way to drop the kids at their grandmother's so I could head out to dinner. At that point I had done it. I’d made it. I figured out how to get to soccer, have a blast at the fall fundraiser and was going to be on time to my moms only dinner to see my own friends. Feeling the phone vibrate and looking down in horror, I knew imminent doom lurked on the other side of this unfortunate experience.
M ex-husband was asking me to drop him off at work. He was running a little late and needed a lift. On any other day I would not have hesitated but this day I was so close to victory that adding another request, event or activity was a dangerous obstacle to me achieving the insane goal of my “3 events 5 hours reality tv challenge”. I had a decision to make: take him to a train station in the opposite direction or keep going to victory. And because of who I am, I decided to rush him to the train station. The saddest part of it all was that his request nestled itself right at the point of me going to hang out with friends I had not seen in a very long time (without our kids). It was a treat to myself and for some reason I did not say “I can’t” or “no”.
It had been raining all day and as I rushed up his stairs, I tripped and fell… hard. I watched my metaphorical twirling plates come crashing down around me in slow motion. The excruciating pain shot through my hipbone and up my neck. I thought I broke my hip. I failed. I was not winning this reality tv show challenge today. I lay there with the intensity of my mixed emotions. The fall; the idea of sacrificing my day to help my ex-husband; the adrenaline of the challenge; the adrenaline of almost winning; the obvious failure in front of my ex-husband; the disappointment… all of these feelings brought tears. Swallowing my pride (and those tears) I jumped up, laughed at myself and went on to finish the insane day. The rest of the week was a bit painful but I was thankful that it was only my pride that suffered.
I can’t stop reliving that moment because there are several lessons I’ve extracted from this experience. The first lesson- if you’ve got an insane plan, stay focused; stick through with it until the end and accomplish what you’ve set out to do. The second lesson- don’t come up with an insane plan. Admit defeat before defeat because it’s ok to say “I can’t”. I mean, I could have broken my hip. While lying on the ground I realized that in moments like this, mothers (actually women) should look at themselves and say, “What am I doing? Is this right for me? Am I fulfilling my joy and my destiny?”. We aren’t conditioned to say no, we’re conditioned to please. So we sacrifice our health, our future dreams and goals, our sanity and sometimes our dignity and respect to keep those plates spinning. The worst part, those spinning plates, those obligations, many of those things don’t matter. Yes, there’s guilt in putting your needs first and goals first but overcoming that guilt starts with re-defining balance. Balance isn't keeping everything up and running, it's figuring out what stays and what goes. Creating balance is hard. Seizing opportunities to put your objectives and goals first once-in-a-while is a lot more rewarding than the illusion of keeping those plates twirling.
I'm a former teacher and former college athlete, currently working to make life more equitable for all people. My mission is to get parents to partner with their child's teacher.