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Is My Brave Face Too Brave?

Do you know the swan-like woman who glides so effortlessly through life, feathers unruffled and making life appear to be a breeze? You know the one, she seems to have life sorted: two children generally well-turned out; a social butterfly; an entrepreneur. She has all these remarkable things AND very little help to stay on top of it. How is that possible? It’s not, not really. How do I know? Because I am that ‘swan’. But I’m going to let you into a little secret: I wish I had more help with my baby and toddler.

If you don’t know who I’m referring to but this intro has got you quietly spitting feathers, the woman is probably you.

I’ve recently found myself stressed and overwhelmed to the point of burn out. It’s not my style to admit to it, but:

I’ve been struggling.

I don’t get the help I need, but I also don’t ask for it. I accept my lot because I chose this life and I have so much to be grateful for – I’m very lucky.

But keeping on top of it all (or doing a good job of appearing to) is wearing me down – and slowly wearing me out. NOTHING gets the attention it deserves; not my children, nor my husband or my business. Certainly not myself.

And I silently seethe when I don’t receive offers of help from those I know could do more and – I’d hope – would want to too.

I Wish I Had More Help With My Baby and Toddler

Sure, my children are nobody’s responsibility but mine. And my husband’s of course – but he’s out at work (I’m in at work; but that’s another story). So I don’t expect help with them, which is one of the reasons I don’t ask. But I do resent not getting it because others are put in front of me. Every. Time.

This post was prompted by my mother telling me she’d anticipated giving me more help when Elfin was born. I stared in astonishment, waiting to hear what would come next. She said ‘but you didn’t need it, did you?’ and I could have cried. Because I have absolutely needed it.

But the bottom line is that I have two children to care for – of course they will be fed and clothed and loved – that’s the minimum they deserve and it’s the minimum they will have. But there’s no time left over to take ten minutes for myself, and too little for enough playtime, or even to keep on top of the obligatory household chores. Unless, perhaps, I give up my work.

So I’m left wondering – am I my own worst enemy? Is my brave face too brave?

Do you ever feel overwhelmed or burned out by motherhood? Do you feel you could use more help and those who could offer more don't? For WAHM struggling to keep on top of life - I feel you.

Friends frequently ask me how I do it and I answer truthfully:

I don’t know. It’s hard. I muddle through because I have to. If no help is forthcoming then what alternative is there?

But please, know this: if I appear in control and on top of everything, then I do well to pull off that façade.

Of course, I want to portray myself as a capable business woman, but more often than not the truth is this…

I’m exhausted. A lot of the time I do not feel like a capable mother: my baby won’t nap and my threenager battles with me daily. I have work I’ve committed to and though I love my job and will never miss a deadline, I’m spreading myself so thinly in order to maintain my budding business that I see gaping holes in my life, even if they’re not obvious to others.

So if you think I’m impressive, think again. My washing is never up to date; my work is never quite done; I don’t know the last time I cooked a square meal – or ate one with my family without my attention being diverted to multiple other places.

I want to be that serene, organised woman.

But don’t be fooled – despite the impression I’ve apparently learned to give off, I’m paddling furiously just to keep my head above water.

Does Any WAHM Really Have Life Nailed?

So, to all my fellow swans, who people mistakenly believe are bossing life (and in some cases looking down from their ivory towers <genuinely said to me recently>) – I know it’s not true. I know that if you are juggling all the balls you appear to be, that you’re most likely at risk of burn out, as I am.

And to those who think we don’t need help because we don’t ask for it: when it’s a case of laugh or cry, sink or swim – we’ll likely drown before we lose face. Because being unable to admit to our weaknesses may just be our greatest failing (among the many we perceive, even if you don’t).

So why am I speaking up now? Because we’re not doing ourselves any favours and it’s time to follow through with the brave face and actually be brave:

We need a frank conversation – with our peers who can support us, if not with those who we would love more help from.

If there are not a huge number of parents feeling this way (blogging community, I’m looking at you), then I’ll be very surprised – and perhaps a little embarrassed. (There are more of you, right? You’re not all actually bossing life and leaving me floundering in your wake – say it ain’t so?)

I’ll be taking a bit of a break over the Christmas period to recharge. And in the new year? I doubt anything at all will change! I may be treading a very fine line between flourishing coping and flailing, but I do it so well I’m not sure there’s any other way for me.

A Stewart

Tuesday 19th of December 2017

I needed to read this. No, you’re not alone. My husband works out of the house for a company we just started and I manage office bits from home with our 3 month old. I hate asking for help because I feel it’s my role as a stay at home mom. My parents haven’t been out once to our home to help me and his live 14 hours away. Our baby has colic and wants me all the time because I’m the one home with her all the time. Asking for help makes me feel like I’m failing, so I don’t. Until I finally burnt out like you said. I prayed for her to be given a better mommy and him a better wife as I cried in a pile on the floor. I don’t want to go back to that, and he’s realizing I don’t know how to ask for help. Things will hopefully change, but as you said, I doubt I’ll ever ask for help easily. I’ll be right there paddling at full speed right beside you trying to stay afloat wearing the brave face as always. I needed to read this though. It made me think about why things have been happening and makes me feel better knowing I’m not crazy.

Kate Tunstall

Friday 29th of December 2017

I'm sorry you're struggling too. You will come through the other side, as every struggling mama does. But in the meantime it's tough. This guest post I wrote may help you:

Good luck!