Let Us Eat Cake, and Other Thoughts That Keep Me Going


IMG_6067There is a hunk of birthday cake in the freezer.

This thought keeps me going.

I have four loads of laundry to do, healthy meals to make for the week, moldy shower curtains to take down, wash and re-hang, a birthday party for which to prepare and attend, sibling disputes to referee, beds to make, and floors to de-crumb.  You know how it goes.

My hands hurt.  My back hurts.  There is a nagging pain in my neck.

Whaaamp whaaahh.

But if I make it to the end of the day, after the kids are in bed, I can sit on the couch and eat frozen cake.

I haven’t exercised in way too long, and my kids are watching way too much TV.  We’ve eaten fast food more than I’d like to admit.  Sometimes I go days without offering them a vegetable.

I don’t get around to changing the sheets on our beds very often, and tend to forgo activities I consider “adult” like buying wrapping paper or drying my hair.  I’ve gotten lazy about sending Thank You cards, and forget to return phone calls.  Many days, I look at my clients with an engaged face, but a disengaged mind as I contemplate the list of how I am failing as a mother, wife, and social worker.

It goes on and on.

Being a working mom is hard.  Like way harder than I could have ever imagined.  I’m sick of talking about it, and bored to tears of writing about it.  It’s not a unique a story, and I actually have it a lot better than most.

And that cake is there.  It is a little slice of nice, the thought of which momentarily stops the monotonous broken record of maternal depression and exhaustion.

Maybe I’ll eat it.  Or maybe I won’t, because just knowing it’s there, just in case, satisfies.

I feel guilty I’m not on Pinterest in my spare time, looking up crafty shit to do with my kids.

I.  Just.  Can’t.

I feel really, freaking guilty I don’t spend every second admiring my children’s ethereal beauty, and that I count the hours until bedtime.  I feel even more guilty after they are in bed and I realize another day is past us and I squandered it being frustrated and mindless.

Maternal depression is tricky.  It is misunderstood by society, and seems taboo to address head on.  I don’t think of myself as “a depressed person,” but every once in a while I become so overwhelmed by the mundane, it suddenly occurs to me, “I’m depressed and that is why every minute activity or request is being interpreted as a complex demand which threatens to push me over the edge of despair.”  (I.e., spending 20 minutes unraveling the vacuum cord after Jack “helped” me clean.)

I don’t even like using the words “I’m” and “depressed” in the same sentence.  For the record, I’m also not a person who eats her feelings, but imagining that cake. . . it just helps.

Before motherhood, depression sucks, but is tolerable because there’s more access to self care.  This is not to say depression can’t be totally debilitating to non-parents, and it is certainly not a competition about who is more depressed than who.  But I’ve found self care becomes a lot more elusive for moms who work and use money formerly set aside for organic diet and massage on daycare, or who are shuttling kids around to dance and soccer and don’t have the time to work out unless they get up before the sun.

There is also a weird dichotomy that if we don’t take time for ourselves we are martyrs, but if we do we feel oddly and uncomfortably entitled.  It doesn’t help with the whole guilty/worthless/trapped/hopeless sense one has when depressed.  Stupid jerk, I find myself telling myself.  What did you think motherhood would be?

Then comes the unbalanced, lack of perspective and sense of failure.  You don’t even deserve all you have.  It takes some strength to keep the train from careening off track.  So, let us eat cake.

Other thoughts that keep me going?

My daughter wakes me up every morning, pokes my nose gently with her pudgy finger, and says, “Hug mama?”  I love her chirpy voice and cookie dough smell even more than freezer cake.

20140118-083136.jpgThe kids may not eat veggies, but they eat fruit all day long.  Their preferred beverage is water, and so is mine.  We are all getting our fiber, and are wonderfully hydrated.  So there is hope for our health.

The kids played nicely for ten whole minutes the other day, so there is hope we might make it another year without them mauling one another.

We read to the kids every day.  They love books.  So there is hope that extra half hour of TV won’t demolish their brains.

Jack goes to karate and does everything he is told, the first time, every time for a whole hour.  So there is hope maybe he won’t always be a stressy ball of tantrum.

Emily pooped on the potty twice in the past month!  Sure she also peed on the carpet and dumped out a pantload of crap on the bathroom floor, but she also pooped on the potty twice!  So there is hope I will usher yet another child into big-kid-pants.

Jack’s sunflowers offer their bright faces to the sun.20130827-093636.jpg

It’ll be okay.

It’ll be okay.

These are the hard years.  These are the years when there is never enough money, time, patience, energy, room in our bed, or sanity.  These are the years on which we will look back with longing for arms stretched up to us.  These are the years when we are growing plastic, little brains and are under the gun to do it right, do it good, do it quick.

These are the years when tending to our own mental health so often takes a back seat to the needs of our families, work, home.

But we need our oxygen so we can keep breathing for those slimy little critters, who we can’t remember when last we bathed.

Sometimes a little cake on the couch does just the trick.  Sometimes simply thinking about cake helps.

These are the years when our kids need our hugs, smiles, and random potty jokes in the middle of the day so much more than something crafty from Pinterest.

It’ll be okay.  We will get there.

What do you do to take care of yourself when you are overwhelmed or down?  Share a thought that keeps you going.  


19 responses »

  1. Gosh sometimes I swear you take the thoughts out of my head and the feelings out of my heart and write it out. I can relate to so much of this: the guilt, the mild depression, the hamster on a wheel feeling that is working motherhood.

    The “cake in the freezer” is why I can’t shed this extra 15 pounds I wear. My end-of-day junk food indulging is what gets me through some of the longer/harder evenings, counting down the minute(s) to bedtime and then subsequently feeling guilty about counting down.

    • That is such a kind and wonderful thing to say to me, Lindsay. It surely is a hamster on a wheel feeling, isn’t it. At least we are not alone and our kids love our few extra “squishy” pounds (my toddler loves to tell me how my breasts are so squishy, lol!).

    • Lol, thanks! Maybe I will… although tonight, my guilty treat is chips and dip for dinner after a killer day at work, coming home late, and no energy to cook for myself after the kids are in bed (ssshhhhh, don’t tell anyone!)

  2. I walk in nature, with the wild rushing wind and the whisper of bigger things swirling through the leaves above my head. I stamp my feet on the soft earth and remind myself I’m here to try to have some fun, to try to live each day as though it were my last. I breathe deep and then throw my arms wide, letting go of all the nonsense which builds up in my head each day, each week….each year 🙂

    • Hi Seonaid. Thank you for your lovely and true words. You know, it is interesting that you write about escape and gaining perspective in nature, because I can totally feel that in your photos. The way you capture nature in your photography totally transports me to someplace bigger and lends me a different perspective. How fortunate you are to live where you do among such fairy tales and beauty. Thanks for being you. xox.

  3. Like Lindsay said, I think you take the thoughts and feelings out of me !
    Sometimes I am not even sure why I am a working mum anymore and the only acceptable answer is to pay the rent! I try to take care of myself with baths, even just for 10 minutes, a good book, and the knowledge that every phase is, well, just a phase. But i agree with you: as a long time depressed person (like my whole life?) it was so much easier to take care of myself before motherhood: I could have massages regularly, or just lying on the coach with my cat watching tv and drinking tea, beer, wine or even liquor… But I did not have the privilege to witness the joy of a human being made from scratch in my tummy when she just sees me….

    PS: this morning, despite 4 hours of sleep (last molars…) I decided to do finger painting with my daughter. I cleaned the floor, the chair, the table, her hands and mine and eventually the highlight of the morning was for her to nurse while watching Chip n’Dale on my iPhone…

    • Elea! Hello from across the sea! Thank you for stopping by and leaving your words for me. I sure do know the feeling of questioning the whole working mom thing. I know we both share one “self care” technique– Grey’s Anatomy! Sometimes a steamy and silly show is just the thing to escape in, right?! I also agree that it is such a joy and privilege to witness our little home made humans. Love to you from the USA, sister. xoxo.

      • hi Charlotte! Yessss Grey’s is one of my best therapies, but available only from end of September to May, whereas I am more a summer depressed kind of girl… Luckily there are DVD sets! Love to you from France sister xoxoxo!

  4. Beautiful. And so honest. And what you’ve said hits home for many of us. I suspect even the most “put together” moms feel this way, if only in secret. What keeps us going, whether it be proverbial or literal cake, helps us through the days. Sometimes it’s the smiles and peels of laughter of the kids, sometimes it’s a sugary pastry we’ve stowed away for a rainy day.

    Love it, mama.

    • Thank you very kindly. I always have a moment (or hours) of panic after I post something like this that people aren’t going to understand, or that it is going to be “taken wrong,” or that I will sound like a stupid, whiney, jerk… But I think a lot of moms DO feel this way, and feel bad and embarassed about it just like me… so I post it despite my reservations and anxiety, because I wonder if it might help another mom. Thank you for stopping by and resonating. It means so much.

  5. I totally feel this too as many other moms have said; its like your reading the script in my brain and putting it into words that I haven’t yet.

    When I have my down moments, which some weeks are more than others, I just try to switch it up. Sometimes it’s going outside with the kids for even just ten minutes. Others, its pulling out a game that’s been unseen for a while. Sometimes I try to do some squats or something just to change my mood. And sometimes, I have them pick out a movie and become zombies so I can either catch up on housework or be quiet myself as there is rareness in silence most days.

    I think we all have mommy guilt or the never ending lists that leaves us tuned out of the moment. I try to remember each day is a new day; a new start (which helps most of the time). And though, I wish I had some cake stored in the freezer, I do have ice cream that I hoard for myself and indulge on whenever I like, good or bad day.

    I myself am my own biggest critic, and spend a lot of time looking backward on what I need to do better at as a mom and wife, and forget to be kind; a reminder I think we all need. That, and a minute to yourself won’t hurt you or your kids, but give you a breath which you need to recharge for the beautiful chaos that motherhood brings. I’m going to try to be kinder to myself; I hope you do too!

    • Hmmm. . . doing squats is a great idea, I might try that myself! Definitely those endorphins can be very helpful when we are stressed. Thank you so much for stopping by, and for your kind and thoughtful comments. And yes, each day is a fresh start. Please do be kinder to yourself and I will try as well!

  6. Pingback: End Of The World– Getting Cozy With Dukkha | momaste

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