I’m not sure what I thought a break would look like once I became a mother, but I was under the impression that the opportunity for one—a real, restful, mind-body-and-soul break—would be an option even if a rare one.
In the early days of motherhood, people would say things like . . . Sleep when the baby sleeps. Schedule date nights. Take time for yourself.
As if it’s that simple.
I remember scrolling through photos of friends who were a step ahead of me in this mothering gig. They appeared to be enjoying breaks involving date nights, girls’ trips, or mom’s night out events. Even a solo trip to Target with a hot coffee in hand appeared life-giving. Restful.
And the moms with school age kids? I was convinced they were enjoying the ultimate break! They must finally be taking care of themselves, getting caught up on all the things, enjoying the time and space needed to actually think.
But I’m learning in motherhood, the appearance of a break is really just an illusion.
Because I’m never not mothering.
Even when I’m taking a so-called break.
Even when my body is still.
Even when I’m not physically with my kids.
Even when I’m in bed and the kids are asleep, I’m still mothering.
My mind is still buzzing, flitting from responsibility to responsibility and asking all the questions.
She needs new shoes. Don’t forget to email his teacher. Did I sign her up for band? I need to sign the field trip form. Where IS the field trip form? We’re out of milk. What’s with his attitude? What’s with MY attitude? Why is she so moody? Why has he been crying so much? What am I going to make for dinner? RSVP to that birthday party. Schedule a playdate. Drop her off at school early on Thursday. Pick him up early tomorrow. When was their last dental appointment? Wash her uniform. Am I being too hard on him? Not hard enough on her? We need bread. Am I teaching them enough? When should they start doing their own laundry? Oh, crap, I forgot to put that load in the dryer.
And on and on it goes.
The thing is, sometimes I do go to Target by myself. Sometimes I lay in bed with my eyes closed for 20 minutes while the kids watch TV. Sometimes I sit in my closet alone. Sometimes my kids are at school. I’ve even spent a full 48 hours away from them.
And it feels GOOD.
But even then, my brain is preparing and scheduling and managing all the things I need to do when I come out of my room in 19 minutes or return to the house in 47 hours or walk through the door after a quick reprieve at Target. Text messages are still rolling in from the school, from their friends’ parents, from my husband. The schedules and plans and to-dos pummel my brain. I don’t think I’m ever really at rest.
At night, my husband lays his head on the pillow and begins snoring. Immediately.
I won’t manage to fall asleep for at least another hour—worrying and praying and planning all at once.
Dear God, what if she doesn’t make friends? Will he ever learn to read? What am I missing? I think they’ve become entitled. We’re going on a spending freeze. Maybe a sugar freeze too. Where am I lacking? How do I prepare them for the world? THIS world? God, be with them. God, be with ME.
I’m always carrying their struggles, plans, and responsibilities. I’m always shouldering at least some of the weight they’re carrying. I’m always mothering.
And I’m tired.
Some days (and nights) the exhaustion makes it feel like I can’t breathe, like I’ve been reduced to a pile of ash.
Because I’m never not mothering.
I’m burned out.
And yet, I’m hopeful.
Because mothers rise from the ashes. It’s what we do.
But I’m also hopeful because real rest is on the horizon, albeit a distant one.
My kids are getting older and (slightly) more independent. One of these days, I’ll move from the front seat to the back seat of their lives. And when that happens, I hope they’ll realize I’m always mothering.
And that I always will be because I always have been.
Yes, I’m hopeful for a real break someday. Perhaps a little more freedom. I’m hopeful for the day when the pressures of motherhood ease up a bit. When I can sleep in the backseat while my kids take the wheel.
But I’m also hopeful they’ll know I’m always here, always mothering even when they’re not supposed to need me to.
Right now, I’m waiting for a break. And one day when I get it, I’ll be waiting for my kids to call, ready to mother them should they realize they still need me to do so.
Because I’m never not mothering. And maybe that’s exactly how it’s supposed to be.