Stress is fear, really. What if I can’t get it done? What if it’s not good enough? What if I make the wrong decision? What if we don’t have enough money? What if I get to the end of my life and regret this, or that, or the whole mess?
You can chase yourself into a looney-bin with that line of thinking. Really, drooling and crying on the kitchen floor.
Neither Ben, nor Jerry is going to save us when serious stress mounts, although that colorful little carton may look like an escape hatch. The things I have found that really work when I am past garden-variety-stress and into not-sleeping-stress are awareness and discipline. Awareness of everything that is right in my life, awareness of my own strength, and discipline to keep moving forward, keep taking care of myself, keep taking care of my family, even when fear is banging on my door tormenting me with what if’s.
Oh, I don’t get there alone; I almost never manage to get there alone, but I am smart enough to know I need to get there, and smart enough to call for back-up: my gorgeous and dear women friends who help me get there. And prayer helps, the Almighty Support Network.
Scientists call it “social support” and they have proven in multiple studies that the presence of social support during stressful times manifests in physical ways – lower stress hormones, better immune response. This is the real deal – and really important for anyone dealing with stress. Friends help.
“Help. Serious stress overload. Scared. Stuck. Tell me I can do this?” Via text, phone call or Facebook messages — me, reaching out for a clearer vision, a supporting hug, and word of encouragement. And the support floods in, thank God.
Support, back-up. The people who’ll remind you of how strong you are and how beautiful your life is and who’ll then tell you to take care of yourself and to keep going. People who’ll tell you they love you, and they’ll pray for you, and that they believe in you. Treasure, truly.
When you’re carrying a heavy box, it helps to have someone rush out to grab a corner of it, or open the door for you, or just guide you along, “almost there, you’ve got this.”
Call in the troops. When the stress starts to mount, call in your support system. Chances are, they’ll see the whole situation more clearly than you will, and you for sure can borrow their strength till you find you own again.
If that liar fear is pounding away at you today, call for back-up. There is so much that is right in your life. And you are so capable. You’ve got this.
Working Mommy is okay asking for help when life requires it.
Help comes in many forms – as simple as a text that makes you smile, as intense as Grandma coming for the weekend to help dig out from under the mountain of laundry, as simple as a verbal hug over the phone from another mommy who’s been there… there are occasions when this life of ours requires help from another human being.The kid gets sick, the meeting runs over, the track practice that you thought was at school five minutes away is in fact thirty minutes across town today.
The kids get locked out, and you’re in Nebraska. The plane is late, and your kid needs to be picked up from daycare by six. You forgot basketball starts today, and you need to get kiddo there by noon.
The rescue. “Oh, sister. Help.”
I’m going to post a picture of a conversation I had with a friend on one of Those Days. I was barreling through the day, just holding on by my fingernails, stuff falling apart left and right… I didn’t have time for a conversation, but shot her off a quick text asking if she could help me cover an uncovered base, and she responded with a generous yes, and then made me smile. And it helped. Oh, it helped.
It takes humility – the asking. When life is not going according to plan, it takes humility to say, “help”.
But I ask, and beautiful women help, and I am beholden to them and will be there for them in my turn.
This life of ours, this Working Mom life, is messy and unpredictable and, honestly, it is just a wreck some days. But it is also beautiful.
The connections that we form, the ties of giving and receiving, these connections are what relationships are made of. This vision of a Martha Stewart perfect life, where I perfectly plan and execute every movement of every child’s every day, where no one ever throws up, nothing ever breaks down, and life clicks along exactly according to plan… this is a fiction. And it’s not all that healthy a fiction either.
Life is messy. Know where your rescues are going to come from. And be there for others when you can. We are not running the German Rail System here, we are running a life.
When your girlfriend texts you from under the table that her meeting is running over, can you bring her kid to your house after school please? You can say yes. And you can smile knowing that you are part of the great Working Mommy dance. You catch your friend today. She catches you tomorrow. And so we go.
It didn’t start out that way. It started out as an absolutely and charmingly typical Fourth of July. After a lovely, lazy day, we were camped out on the rolling hills by our local civic center, waiting for the fireworks to start. We hunkered in lawn chairs and blankets, surrounded by several acres of families who were doing the same thing – Charming toddlers in footie pajamas being laughingly chased by smiling parents. A dad and two older kids who biked to the parade grounds and then sat on a blanket, quietly leaning on each other. Two little boys with glow in the dark light sabers, who could have powered the city, were we to find a way to bottle their energy. Countless strollers, and wagons, and families of every size, shape, color and creed. It was lovely.
The fireworks started with a bang – ooooh, aaaaah! The crowd looked up as one, and sighed.
Suddenly, three women lurched into my peripheral vision. Two young women in jean shorts flanked a third in a pretty, flowered dress, who seemed to be stumbling along.
“Oh, no, she’s drunk,” I thought.
As they got closer, I could hear the two talking to the one. The two looked fierce, determined. The one looked stricken, anguished, not entirely focused. “You are going to be alright. You are going to be fine. You are just going to keep going, and we are going to help you get through this. Just because you lost this baby, doesn’t mean you can’t have another one.”
And the reality of what was actually happening came crashing through. She had come to the fireworks with her girlfriends, hoping for a distraction, determined to rejoin “normal life.” And then the holiday tableau of happy families was just too much for her to bear.
“Oh, mom, how sad,” my daughter whispered. The kids looked, murmured. Somebody said, “Poor thing.”
I thought back to the births of my children, one of whom we almost lost during childbirth. I thought of the times in my life when I have been similarly stricken, and similarly held up. My divorce, an unexpected layoff, the death of my beloved grandmother… times when you just don’t see how you can possibly keep going, and then somehow, you do.
I thought of the girlfriends who held me up. They brought food, they called daily. They, like the friends of the woman in the field, told me I could do it. They willed strength upon me, when I didn’t think I had it or could ever possibly find it.
I reached out and took my husband’s hand. Touched my kids. Said a silent prayer of thanks for my life, a prayer for the woman in the flowered dress, and a prayer for her fierce and loving friends.
It’s a powerful thing.
So today, Play Day, be aware of your blessings. Messy and imperfect and shiningly priceless.
If you are struggling, bless you. If you are holding someone above water who doesn’t remember she has the strength to swim, bless you too. She’ll get there. With God’s help, and the love of the people around us, we swim again.
I think it’s what we’re here for.