“I can’t do this anymore.”
And I meant it.
In that moment, being a mom – a mom in 2019 – had broken me.
It was all too much. And after a particularly spent day, I buried my face in my hands over a burning skillet of cauliflower rice and I gave up.
“I can’t do this anymore,” I exhaled in defeat.
In the span of less than five minutes, my two toddlers had completely terrorized every square inch of my house while I attempted to make a meal that didn’t come *straight* out of the freezer.
The contents of their lunchboxes had been emptied all over the kitchen floor – along with a dozen other random household objects – while toddler #1 and a colony of ants happily helped themselves to the leftovers.
Toddler #2 had to pee RIGHT NOW, and had somehow managed to unroll every single square of toilet paper and spill her own urine from her training potty all over the bathroom floor.
As I tended to the simultaneous tornadoes wreaking havoc on all 1,500 sq. ft. of our starter home, the already cramped walls started to feel like they were closing in around me, pushing all the madness of raising young kids closer and closer.
Then I smelled it. The cauliflower rice. Burnt to a crisp.
And that was it.
You see, it’s never about the lunchboxes or the ants or the toilet paper toga. It’s the culmination of all the things that ultimately brings moms to the brink.
It’s the sleepless nights compounded with pressures at work, mixed with forgotten birthdays and rushed dinners and temper tantrums.
It’s the 756th mess after you’ve finally gotten around to cleaning the floors, leaving you to wonder why you even try.
It’s the messages you’ve been meaning to return for weeks, but can’t find the brain space or the free time to write up a decent reply.
It’s the feeling that you’re failing at absolutely everything because you’re attempting to spread yourself thinner than is humanly possible.
It’s the snide comment from a coworker followed by the ungrateful comments from your children that reassures you it’s not just in your head – everyone does actually think you’re dropping the ball at ALL of this.
It’s the unrealistic expectation that moms should be good at everything – party planning, cooking, friendships, play dates, climbing the career ladder, hustling, running a side business, chasing their passions, respectful parenting, self-care, creating memories and happiness for their families, planning vacations, shopping organic, couponing…
And in the moment, it looks a lot like lunchboxes, ants and toilet paper togas.
I turned off the burner and pulled the cauliflower rice from the heat.
“I’ll probably still eat it,” I thought.
I grabbed a bottle of wine I had picked up on a whim from Target the day before.
“Beauty in Chaos” was written on the front of the bottle.
“Life can be a whirlwind,” it continued on the back label. “Even in the midst of life’s chaos, we can find moments of peace and clarity that make the effort worth it.”
The message in the moment wasn’t lost on me.
Life can be a whirlwind, but I don’t have to be.
Even the hardest days have moments of peace.
It doesn’t matter if the floors are dirty and the dinner is burnt, everyone is loved and that’s what counts.
I DON’T HAVE TO DO IT ALL. At least not all the time.
Friends, when a mom comes unglued, it’s not about the lunchboxes. It’s about the ever-present accumulation of weight on their shoulders, minds and spirits.
And sometimes, it’s just the lunchbox that tips the scale.
This story originally appeared on Daylight to Dark