What No One Tells You About Motherhood, Balance, And Asking For Help

February 3, 2017  |  

By Julia Areh

It’s 3:15 am in the morning and I’m awake and tired as hell from waking up every other hour with a teething infant  whose only desire is to use my breasts as a soothing tool. I look over at the clock, praying he falls asleep soon and stays that way until the sun comes up.

While waiting for my irritable infant to fall asleep, I start to run through my to do list for the day. At the top of my list is a 5:00 am workout I have planned, as well as many other personal and professional tasks. My head begins to hurt, my heart rate speeds, and without warning, here it comes –that familiar, overwhelming feeling of defeat before my day even starts. I immediately try to calm my anxiety and tell myself I will champion all of my daily tasks and still maintain my sanity.

It’s now 3:47 am and my son has finally fallen asleep. I place him in his crib and instead of going back to sleep, I start a practice that has now become an early morning ritual. I begin to prioritize my list and eliminate the tasks that can be delayed for another day. First item on the chopping block? Maybe that 5:00 am exercise session. I have to choose between catching up on much needed sleep or the snapback. Sleep wins; snapback loses. Honestly, it loses quite often and I feel guilty about my decision so I mentally run through my list to find an opening where I can make time to exercise without interruptions. I can’t. I feel sad, I feel like I’m letting myself down. It’s that sense of defeat and disappointment of not being able to balance it all. Why can’t I balance it all? I hear so many women bragging about how they slay each day of motherhood. What’s wrong with me? “Nothing” say that old familiar voice of reassurance. You can do this. You can do it all.

I look over at my husband who is sound asleep and think to myself, “How dare I complain about all the things on my plate when I have a mate who’s equally invested in our lives and shares all the responsibilities?” I tell myself these words often. I use these words to bring me back to reality when I feel I’m over-analyzing my situation. I also tell myself, “There are mothers doing this sh-t by themselves and not complaining, so why should I?” I say these words repeatedly in my head until I convince myself that I’m being ungrateful and I need to be thankful for everything I have. I remind myself that I’m too blessed to be stressed and that women have been doing this for years without any complaints or help. I force myself to believe this feeling is temporary and will pass. As a result of this internal pep talk, I am now in Superwoman mode and ready to champion my day. Superwoman puts on her cape and convinces herself and the world she can do it all.

When 4:15 am creeps in, I am in full Superwoman mode but still tired as hell. I snuggle up next to my husband who instinctively puts his arm around me and pulls me close for comfort and reassurance. Something tells me he, too, has developed a morning routine, and that routine is to silently assure me that things will work out and he has my back. Yet another reminder of how blessed I am. I have a constant support system in my husband and I am not in this by myself. He is here, he is present and he is willing to take on the world with me. I close my eyes and at 5:45 am the alarm begins to chime. Time to get up and start the day, time to show the world Superwoman is here to stay. I dust off my cape, but I can’t shake the old feeling. Still tired, still defeated.

“Yes, I’m woman hear me f-cking roar! I work a full-time job, bring home the bacon and fry that sh-t up in a pan, take care of the kids, make sure the house is spotless and still be my husband’s in-home porn star. Watch me work! Yes, I can do it all.”

Over the years, this is the lie I’ve forced myself and others to believe. This is why I refused to tell my family and friends I needed help and refused any they offered. This lie allowed me to convince my husband I had it all together when I was breaking into pieces. This lie resulted in me suffering in silence with post-partum depression with my first child and never uttering a word to anyone. I never sought help or spoke the truth about what I was really experiencing and how overwhelmed I was feeling. How could I speak these words to anyone? I was Superwoman. She doesn’t get sick or take mental health days off. She doesn’t complain about her situation. She gets up and does what she believes is expected of her. Her strength knows no limit. She’s every woman. Yes! You see this S on my chest that I wear proudly as she does? Look at me, don’t you see that I’m a strong Black woman who can do it all? This is what I believed for so long until one day it dawned on me that I had neglected to acknowledge superwoman isn’t a real person. I was a real person with emotions and limits. She isn’t me. I will never be her and I needed and wanted help.

It was on this day I hung up the cape and took the S off my chest. I started telling myself and my loved ones what I should have been saying all along, the truth. The truth of the matter was, I was not a superhero and I drowning and needed to be rescued. I was mentally and physically fatigued and needed a break. Once I spoke my truth, it was then that I discovered real strength and started living and speaking my truth about the balance of family, life and career.  What I discovered was, other women felt the same way but were also afraid of speaking their truth out of guilt and shame. There is no guilt or shame in being human and women should not feel the burden of perfection while learning balance. That goes for all of us, mothers or not.

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