What if mothers just said no?
What if we decided not to be the ones to carry the heavy burden of the mental load for our families and society at large? What if we set down these invisible responsibilities that weigh us down?
Before the weight of it all crushes us.
What if we weren’t the ones who kept the schedules and social calendars running? Who oversaw education and kept track of doctors’ and dentists’ appointments? Who made sure the birthday parties were planned and the presents were bought for anyone and everyone and the memories were magical? What if we decided not to assure that the kids had seasonally appropriate clothes that fit, and clean underwear, and we didn’t spend our precious time sorting through the piles of clothes they’ve outgrown? If we didn’t manage carpools and childcare arrangements and endless activities? What if we didn’t make sure the house was stocked with everyone’s favorite snacks and that our meals consisted of nutritious, locally sourced, budget-friendly, organic food that took into account each family member’s individual dietary needs and taste preferences? What if our time and our minds were not overrun with all these tiny tasks that look like nothing, but add up to everything?
What if we laid it all down and said we were done? If we asserted that we wouldn’t, we couldn’t, stand for the world’s expectations of all that we must take on? What if we admitted how tired we were from carrying it all? What if we just sat down and rested?
Would society pick up the slack? Would they finally see how infinitely valuable mothers are? Would we finally feel how incredibly powerful and necessary we are in a world that likes to pretend we don’t matter more than one day a year? Please accept this bouquet as a token of gratitude for everything you do to hold the world together and ensure the future success of our nation.
Would they approve paid parental leave? Would they take into account maternal mental health? Would birth become affordable, safe, and open to choice? Would they supplement childcare costs to guarantee that those in care roles are appropriately compensated and those relying on care have the support they need? Would they provide quality and equitable education opportunities? Would they address gun violence and public health so that every we move we make isn’t laced with fear for our children’s lives? Would they stop legislating our bodies and focus instead on implementing support systems? Would they create flexible and understanding work environments that better accounted for the needs of employees and the requirements of running a family? Would they create sustainable solutions for substantial part-time work and affordable part-time childcare so that we didn’t feel like we had to choose between our mind and our soul, our wants and our needs? Would they open doors and break down walls and remove the invisible barriers that keep us from roles with meaningful impact? Would they remember that their very existence is thanks to us?
Mothers carry an inherent strength and tenacity. We are resilient and adaptable and far more capable than anyone, especially ourselves, gives us credit for. But just because we seemingly can do it all, doesn’t mean we should.
It feels like we should. It feels like it’s the only way. But what if we didn’t?
What if the most revolutionary thing we could do as mothers was to rest and stop pretending we could carry it all? What if we unloaded rocks from our packs to free up some much needed space? Would we stand a little taller, breathe a little freer?
What if the most powerful way to rise up is actually to sit down? Not just for one day of the year, but every day. What if we refused to buy into the myth that our worth is based on how well we can keep up with everything, how much we can do? And then we slowly shed the unequal burdens that are placed upon us.
Maybe I let go of one unrealistic expectation of myself. Maybe you release one unwanted task from your ever-present mental ticker. Maybe we let the work pile up and it all feels a bit messy and impossible for a while. But maybe sitting in the mess, letting others slog through all the crap we carry, is where we’ll find a path towards meaningful change.
And maybe it’s where we’ll find the space to be a part of that change. Where we find our passions, our voice, our impact, our community, our worthiness, our joy, ourselves. And maybe, in all the losing and finding, we’ll pave the way for a better future for our children.
Photo by Liz Hough Photography