Sarah Buckley Friedberg was having one of those days that bring you THIS CLOSE to losing it. Overwhelmed by the pressures of the day, the working mom of three from Massachusetts was already exhausted when her son threw an “epic tantrum” at dinnertime that truly tested her limits.
But her exhaustion wasn’t just about what happened that particular day or even what her son did at dinnertime. It was ALL OF IT. It was the day in, day out pressures of modern motherhood that have somehow intensified for women everywhere, but has also become normalized. And so, drained and depleted, she sat down to her computer and began to vent in a social media post. But what she never could have expected was to see her 1,000-word vent session become a viral battle cry for mothers everywhere — one that’s now been shared nearly 70,000 times.
“Society to working moms:” it begins, before laying out a bulleted list of 15 expectations, pressures, and judgments we lay at their feet.
First comes one we all have heard: Go back to work six to eight weeks after having the baby. (Easy-peasy, right??)
“The baby that you spent 9-10 months growing inside of your body,” Friedberg writes. “Go back to work before you have finished healing or have had time to bond with your baby. Keep your mind on work, and not your tiny helpless baby that is being watched and cared for by someone other than you. Make sure to break the glass ceiling and excel at your job — you can do anything a man can do! It is your job to show society this! Show the world that women can do it all. Rise to the top of your career.”
Yep. Yep. ALL THE YEPS.
We’re constantly given conflicting messages about what it is to be a modern woman when breaking that glass ceiling still feels damn near impossible — with our 24/7 work culture and the realities of raising a kid you actually want to see sometimes. And yet how we’re supposed to do it all still remains a mystery.
Then come the never-ending demands on our bodies and our psyches.
There’s the pressure to feed for at least a year, which many woman appreciate the benefits of, but when it comes to work schedules and commuting and meetings and life … well, it all becomes increasingly hard to do in practice.
“Take 2-3 pumping breaks a day at work,” continues Friedberg, “but don’t let it throw you off your game or let you lose your focus.”
(Ya know; NBD!)
“Also, lose that baby weight and get back in shape, as quickly and as gracefully as possible,” the post continues. “Make sure to get 8 hours of sleep a night so you can work out, work, and care for your family. But also get up at 5 a.m. to workout, unless you want to do it after your kids go to bed when you also need to clean the house and get life ready for the next day and you know, sleep.”
Other pressures include maintaining a “Pinterest-worthy” home and being the keeper of the family schedule (which is enough to make your head explode).
On your list of to-dos?
“Be Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, the birthday planner, the poop doula (seriously when will this end), the finder of lost things, the moderator of fights,” writes Friedberg. “Be fun. Be firm. Read books. Have dance parties.”
What’s that? You’re feeling a little overwhelmed? Why, whatever for??
Maybe it’s all the kids’ doctor’s appointments that keep piling up. Or the expensive vet bills. Or the fact that you keep forgetting to “date your spouse” like the Internet keeps telling you.
It could be the fact that you’ve used up all of that precious vacation time on days the kids were sick. Or that you never can sneak in any of that self-care time people speak about so highly.
See what she’s talking about? It’s all just TOO DAMN MUCH.
“I don’t know about you,” she concludes her post, “but I’m ready to lean OUT. Thanks for coming to my Ted talk.”
Friedberg admits she had absolutely no idea the response her words would have when she initially shared it, and says it’s “truly surreal.”
She also says that the comments that have stood out the most to her are the ones from strangers who say that she must be “inside their head” or the moms who tag their friends in the comments to say, “She gets it! We were just talking about this!”
She certainly does get it — and the fact that her words are resonating with so many might have something to do with more than just her honesty. According to the Pew Research Center, in nearly half of all US households with both a mother and a father, both parents are employed full time. And when it comes to women in particular, seven in 10 moms with kids younger than 18 were employed in the workforce (either full or part time). Meaning the pressures Friedberg speaks of have become pretty universal.
“I think the thing is, that so many people have days like this,” Friedberg tells CafeMom, “but not that many people talk about it. People (myself included) like to post the happy and fun moments on their social media. I think this [post] let other moms know that other people feel like they do sometimes, and they related to that.”
She says countless people — none of whom she’d met before — sent messages of support via social media after reading her post. And others left comments that made her stop and think.
“Have you ever seen a dad referred to as a ‘working dad’?” one commenter said.
“That really made me think, and it is true,” says Friedberg. “A women who works outside of the home is considered a working mom, but a dad who works outside of the home is just a dad. This really highlights the difference in perception of moms and dads in our society.”
Friedberg says her greatest hope is that other working moms read her post and realize that they’re far from alone.
She also hopes it helps others “open up and share about the tougher times as well, so we can all see that we aren’t isolated and alone in these feelings.”
In truth, sometimes being part of that “village” just means being honest and open — and supportive — about all the struggles we’re all going through, and letting others know that the hard days will happen. But so will the good.
“We all have to prioritize,” says Friedberg, “and we have to do our best not to feel pressure from society to have perfect hair and a perfect house and a perfect body.
My words were largely comical about how we cannot possibly ‘do it all’ and trying to do so is just going to so will make us miserable.”
In the end, her advice is simple: “Focus on what really matters to you and your family, ask for help when you need it, and try to enjoy the days that aren’t as tough.”
This article was originally published on cafemom.com