Parents today are faced with expectations so unrealistic it would take a combination of Houdini, Martha Stewart, and Gisele to meet them all. We are all juggling work, kids, marriage, pets, parents, house, etc. all while chasing our ever-illusive sanity. And throw in a global pandemic just for fun! It is physically and mentally impossible to keep up with our ever-growing load of responsibilities.
There are books, blogs, and podcasts galore that focus on tips and ideas to help you “do-it-all”. “The 20 minute workout that will help you lose 10lbs in 10 days”; “15 minute healthy dinners your family will love”; “5 minute meditations to help you feel centered”. These are all designed to make you think you can do it all and, if you can’t, you’re obviously just not trying hard enough. We constantly walk around feeling like failures – bad parents, bad employees, bad spouses. Everyone else looks like they have it all together, why can’t we figure it out?
Newsflash: no one has it all together. Anyone who tells you that they do is a liar or heavily medicated. Don’t misunderstand me, I completely appreciate the desire to make it appear like we have it all together. No one wants to reveal a chink in their armor. I get dressed in a nice outfit everyday, do my hair, put on makeup — even if all I’m doing is sitting behind my desk remotely working and shushing my kids every 5 seconds while they are on their Zoom calls.
This concept that “balance” doesn’t exist occurred to me when I was reflecting about my wonderful group of girlfriends. On paper it looks like we have everything figured out. We’re well-educated, have successful careers, great husbands, healthy kids, we live in a nice town… But, when you start peeling back even one tiny layer, that thin veneer of perceived perfection disappears pretty quickly. We are dealing with anxiety, depression, kids with emotional regulation issues, sick parents, jobs we hate, etc. Yet, we feel like we have to walk around pretending that we’re handling everything perfectly. “Pay no attention to the mental breakdown happening behind the curtain.”
Instead of wasting time beating ourselves up about our inability to “do it all”, we should be spending that time having honest conversations with the people in our lives. Raise your hand if you’re struggling. Admit that you resent your spouse because he/she doesn’t help as much with the kids’ remote learning. Admit that your oldest son got you so angry that you had to leave the house and go for a drive because you were afraid you’d tell him you hated him. Admit that you forgot to take your son to his pediatrician appointment because you got caught up on a work call. Admit that you feel like you’re on a constant simmer and if you don’t get some help you will boil over and have a mental breakdown.
There are over 40 million adults in America suffering from anxiety but only 39.6% seek treatment (National Institute of Health, 2017). That means nearly 16 million people are suffering in silence. That is not ok.
To quote the author Tarryn Fisher, “we’re all just waiting for someone to stand behind us.” That sentiment is true more than ever right now. Let people stand behind you. Allow yourself to be vulnerable and admit if you’re struggling. And be the person who can stand behind someone else to hold them up. Once these open dialogues start happening, I promise you will feel more free, lighter, and your relationships with the people in your lives will become even more enriched. Now go give your kids cereal for dinner for the 3rd night in a row and quit being silent.