I drove up Dwight Way, holding back the tears that were attempting to blur my vision of the road. It was 6:30 p.m., and I was driving to campus for my professor’s office hours after just getting in from a 9-hour work day in San Francisco. I could feel the adrenaline from my third shot of espresso wearing off and the exhaustion and guilt kicking in. By the time I got home, it would be almost 7:30p.m., giving me only an hour and a half to carve pumpkins with my son before bedtime. By the time I pulled up to campus, I had completely broken down. I leaned my head against the steering wheel and sobbed. I realized I couldn’t do it all.
When I had my son at the tender age of 20, I promised myself that I was still going to get into a top four-year university and forge a successful career path for myself in the real world. Fast-forward four years, and I can proudly say that I brought those goals to fruition. I completed my first degree at UC Berkeley, and I started working for a marketing/PR firm in San Francisco that consults exclusively with tech companies that are quite literally changing the world. On top of all of that, I also managed to give my family some stay-at-home mom perks, too, including doing daycare drop-offs every morning, birthday parties, trips to nearly every park in the East Bay Area and bedtime stories every night.
I have come to terms with the fact that some days, however, I have to take off the cape and breathe.
As mothers, there is an extreme amount of social pressure for us to be “super moms”: to do it all and to not complain about it. That ideal is constantly being perpetuated by the media and social forums by nonmothers and mothers themselves.
The other day, I scrolled past a picture on Instagram of model Gisele Bündchen breast-feeding her child while getting ready for a photoshoot, captioned with something along the lines “I only had 3 hours of sleep the night before!” Women flooded the post with comments about how amazing she was.
“You go girl!” one user wrote. “Women can do it all!”
They were right. She was amazing, and women can do it all, but sometimes we can’t. And that’s OK.
It is that part of motherhood — the part where we are screaming into our pillow at the end of the day, the part where we are crying from exhaustion, the part where we are still only human — that needs to be depicted, as well.
Inundated with Facebook posts about how fucked-up moms who get their kids vaccinated are and Pinterest’s “25 easy non-GMO recipes to make in under an hour” (insert guilt for serving my family DiGiorno pepperoni pizza last night), it is easy for our standards of motherhood to get skewed. It was with my tear-stained face pressed against my CRV steering wheel that I decided to realign my expectations of motherhood and of myself.
I can bring home take-out a few times a week and not feel bad about it. I can miss a deadline for my thesis and not lose sleep over it. I can call in sick from work and give myself the day to get better. I can see a picture of a mom with her kids captioned, “#blessed,” and feel the exact opposite that day. I decided that motherhood is not about perfection, but rather about failing yourself over and over again and still waking up the next day and trying again.
To the mom who is reading this who is tired, or grumpy, or disappointed, or vulnerable, or just plain over it, I promise you that you are going to be OK. Your kids are going to be OK.
You are strong, You are capable. You are human.
Mia Villanueva writes the Thursday column on her experience as a student-parent at UC Berkeley. Contact her at [email protected].