As hard as it is to admit to myself, I cannot do it all. I cannot always have a clean house, clean kids, and hot dinner on the table with a smile on my face like Donna Reed. (Thank you, to Nick at Night when I was in high school for these unrealistic expectations.)
There are many days when I feel like I am a capable and responsible adult. Other days, I wonder who had the authority to give me three kids, a mom with health issues, and a chronically ill spouse without expecting me to not lose my mind. Some days I apologize to my mom or Rose (my stepmom and dear friend) for the things I did as a child that my children are doing to me now.
I did it all for a short time, but I lost part of myself in the process. These days, I am a bit more relaxed about some of the things I thought were so important so long ago. My house isn’t spotless, my kids aren’t spotless and we have food that is reheated for the second time. Harlan’s health scare in December and the very real threat of losing him in January have put my life in perspective, and I realize that I just need to step back and breathe.
My kids know I need their help. Olivia, Benjamin and Rebecca all have chores to do on a daily basis. Most of those jobs have to do with personal hygiene, the common areas of the house and the never-ending laundry. Poor Benjamin asked me one night, after walking past the overflowing clothes hamper, if I planned to do laundry soon. My stunned expression and complete loss for words made him walk quietly to his bed where he buried himself under the covers. I’ll admit, the laundry certainly needed doing, and keeping a smile on my face later, I filled Harlan in on Benjamin’s concern about it. Harlan looked at me and asked if Benjamin was still breathing. Of course, Ben was fine. Of course, Ben had lots of laundry to fold the next day. I worry less these days about making sure the laundry is done and more about giving out hugs, kisses and lots of snuggling.
If I get to shower, brush my teeth and brush my hair in the same day, I feel like a rock star. I can count the times that this happens per week on one hand. However, the kids do not keep me from being all I can be, and neither does being a wife and caretaker.
If you are a mom, dad, caregiver, loved one or human, you get busy and overwhelmed. Why can’t we all be kinder to ourselves? Why do I sometimes feel like I have to be Donna Reed? This is stress I know I am putting on myself.
My mom is such a blessing in my life. My children mean more to me than I can describe in words. My husband is the best thing that has ever happened to me. Olivia, Benjamin and Rebecca all see what I try to accomplish, what I actually accomplish and where I fall short. My daughters will take what they observe and apply this to their lives as they get older. My son will also observe and apply what he learns to his future relationships.
We can’t do it all. None of us can. I ask my mom friends how they “do it all,” and the answers I receive are honest and refreshing. They are overwhelmed, underpaid, overworked and tired. No matter what they do, it never seems like enough: The house isn’t clean enough, the dinner isn’t from scratch, laundry is piled high, and the kids don’t always get baths every night.
We are all tired. We are all struggling in some way. We are all looking for better ways to live our lives. In this, my family is about as real as it gets.
Jennifer Steuer is an Albany mom whose busy household includes her husband, Harlan, and 8-year-old triplets Olivia, Benjamin and Rebecca. Follow her on Twitter @Got_Triplets.