Holding It Together

Today, I am tired of being the one who holds it all together.

Maybe that sounds whiny or accusatory. It’s not meant to be either of those things. I am unbelievably grateful for the gift of motherhood and I am appreciative of all that my husband does to keep our family afloat. He is exceptionally generous, endlessly supportive and wonderfully helpful.

But he is not me.

He is not the one with a finger perpetually in the dam, holding back the flood, while balancing a baby on one hip and preheating the oven with the other hand. He’s not particularly bothered if the upstairs carpet hasn’t been vacuumed in three weeks or if our toddler doesn’t have a clean pair of pajama pants to wear to bed. If things start to fall apart, he doesn’t see it as a personal failing. To him, it’s just life happening. His attitude is the one I want to have, the one I know is healthy. If I allowed certain things to fall away, I’d probably be happier overall.

But what would happen if the one who holds it all together just decided to let go?

This past weekend, the four of us joined Adam’s mom and siblings for our annual family ski trip. It was a four-day, three-night excursion, which meant I had my work cut out for me when it came time to pack. As is customary, my husband packed for himself: a small duffle bag with his clothes and toiletries plus his winter gear and skis. As is also customary, I took care of the rest.

Clothes and toiletries and winter gear for myself. Onesies and diapers and sleep sacks and pajamas for the baby. Sippy cups and jeans and granola bars and a teddy bear for the toddler. Backups of everything, just in case. A cooler full of newly purchased groceries. Two Pack and Plays. A Pyrex dish for Sunday morning’s French toast casserole.

Six assorted chargers.

Seven car trip distractions.

Four pairs of mittens.

Two tiny snowsuits.

And a partridge in a pear tree.

About 90 minutes into our trip, I realized I’d forgotten the spices for the beef stew I was supposed to make for dinner Saturday night. They were at home in the spice rack, having never even crossed my mind. As we passed into New Hampshire, I remembered that my snow pants were still in a box in the attic, the lone uncrossed item on my three-page list. My husband turned to me on the second day of our trip and asked, “Did you happen to pack the Bluetooth speaker?” I hadn’t.

In those moments, it didn’t matter that I’d remembered to bring approximately 8,000 other items. All I could focus on were the ones that I’d forgotten. I am the keeper, the list maker, the executor. If I drop the ball, everyone pays. Sometimes in small ways, like in the case of a forgotten speaker. Sometimes in much larger ways with much farther reaching consequences.

This struggle is nothing new to me. It’s something I wrestle with constantly, careening from one extreme to the other without warning. Some days, I am absolutely at ease with all that I’m responsible for as a mother. I feel capable. Chest-poundingly proud. I am woman, hear me roar.

And other days? I feel utterly crushed by the weight of it all.

On days like today when I’ve felt more of the latter than the former, I’ve fielded advice from others about just “letting it go” and “focusing on what’s important.” The “important” being my kids.

“The dirty floors can wait,” they tell me. “Children won’t.”

They’re right. My boys are still young, but they are growing up faster than I’d like to admit. I know it’s important that I spend the years when they still want my attention giving them just that. But here’s the thing I can’t reconcile: what happens to all the rest of it when the one who holds the pieces together decides to just stop?

Does that mean everyone in the house gives up on wearing clean clothes? Do we just cease caring that we’re out of toilet paper? Do I stop calling to schedule doctor’s appointments and let the bills go unpaid? Is dinner a free for all every night because shopping and meal planning and cooking are just too time consuming?

How do I know what to let go of and what to hold onto?

There must be mothers out there who have figured out the balance between total chaos and rigid structure. They’re the ones who don’t mind messy houses because it means their kids are happy. They’re the ones who don’t sweat it if appointments are forgotten or the week’s meal plan flies out the window by Tuesday. They’ve let some of the balls fall and managed not to interrupt the rest of the juggling act.

I have yet to join their ranks. I hope to someday, but today, I’m still a long way off.



(Top photo courtesy of Whittney Myers Photography, 2015.)

Like What You Just Read?
Subscribe via email to get more posts like these delivered to your inbox!
Follow Me

Melissa Mowry

Melissa Mowry is a stay at home mom to 3 year old Chase and the slightly younger guy, Sam. She is the main voice behind One Mother to Another, which she started in July 2014 as a way to connect with other moms who felt just as lonely as she did some days. She is married to her high school sweetheart, Adam, and they live in their home state of Rhode Island. Melissa's work has been featured on the Huffington Post, Scary Mommy, Mamalode, Coffee + Crumbs and Mamapedia, among others. Her book, One Mother to Another: This Is Just Between Us is for sale on Amazon.
Follow Me

Latest posts by Melissa Mowry (see all)

9 Responses to Holding It Together

  1. Whitney February 1, 2016 at 8:17 pm #

    This is SO me. If I don’t make sure shit is done, who will?! What if I decided to let the laundry go completely, and my husband doesn’t have clothes to wear? What if I decided grocery shopping could wait… a couple of weeks? We can’t have takeout EVERY night. Girl. You have preached to the proverbial choir (me) and we are raising our hands and saying “AMEN!”

  2. Maggie February 2, 2016 at 9:27 am #

    Every single word of this resonates with me!! I too hope that one day I can figure out what to let go of, in hopes of not always feeling so overwhelmed. Until then, at least we know we’re not alone in this struggle…

  3. Cindy February 2, 2016 at 9:58 am #

    We are all in this together. My two boys are 28 and 24, the 28 year old is on the Autism spectrum and they both still live at home. I STILL feel this way. I often think “if I died today, what would they do???” I’m sure they would all be just fine, but it’s hard to feel that way when you do EVERYTHING for them. Their father is a great Dad and husband but I think all men think it’s our “job” to do these things…and not in a bad way…just that we “do it better”. I guess what I’m trying to say is try to get used to it, but don’t let the things we forget to do or don’t do well, drag us down (I still have trouble with this). Your sons are adorable, by the way. Enjoy them, it’s true, they will be grown before you know it!! (although I enjoy my sons more now that they are adults!…just sayin!)

  4. Jessica White February 2, 2016 at 11:23 am #

    When you find that mom….let me know. I struggle with this very thing constantly, and I have a husband who is willing to stand in the gap for me. Sometimes the responsibility of it all is just too much. I don’t have a solution or a platitude. I let go what I can, I hold onto what I can, and I trust God with the rest. Things sometimes are forgotten or go by the wayside, but it’s the best I can do.

  5. Rachel February 4, 2016 at 12:15 pm #

    Aww, I feel ya! I think a lot of times, no one realizes how much we actually do, and how hard it is just to hold it all together. To keep the chaos at bay… You said it perfectly!

  6. Jen March 16, 2016 at 1:47 pm #

    I have been through this too. And I feel you completely. I do, however, fully believe some of these things will get better once your children grow a bit older and become responsible for some of their own things. Just having them go to the bathroom on their own is a huge breather.
    But the most important part I want to share is, I also changed something about me: I kept all my feelings to myself or shared it with other moms, but I never shared it with the one person who could actually help, my husband. I said to him one day, “I can’t do this no more. Too much is on me and I need help, or I will collapse”. It didn’t take much for him to understand, and he said, “what more do you need from me?” And I was ready with my list for him. “Ok, these are going to be your responsibilities from now on”. I still oversee the small details, I can’t lie about that. I think it’s a woman thing to to do so. But I now receive the extra help I need to not get overwhelmed with family trips and our daily routine.
    We became a team, rather than individuals.

  7. Kristen March 20, 2016 at 4:39 pm #

    I hear you! I often hold on to far too much, and you know what, the more you let go, the free-er you feel. It’s easy to want to go on strike- we’ve all been there. I usually make a list for the day, the MUST DO’s, the WANTS. If I can get the must do’s done, it’s a win!

  8. Mary Bessesen October 18, 2016 at 9:34 pm #

    This reminds me of every Sunday morning ever! Well…since we as a family started attending Church regularly. My dear, sweet, wonderful , God fearing husband is not a morning person….and when I say not, I mean it would take a herd of buffalo with a marching band riding on their backs charging through my living room to wake him up…and then he would probably only stir a little to ask me or one of our 3 daughters to turn off his (many) alarms.
    I am up most mornings, Sunday included, between 4 and 530ish a.m, I go to the gym, make coffee, shower, pick Church clothes out for 3 girls and myself, wake children (who are about as pleasant as their father in the morning) feed said children, 3 completely different breakfast might I add…because let’s face it ladies, we ARE short order cooks. Brush teeth, brush hair, wrestling the stronger than average 3 year old into her clothes, attempt 3 dofferent hairstyles, because that day they all decided to be princesses and swear to all of them if they move and mess themselves up you will completely lose your crap! All the while I’m still shuffling around the house in my bra and underwear, hair still piled on top of my head because im attempting to curl it. Meanwhile it’s 730(we have to leave my 815)and sleeping beauty has JUST decided to grace us all with his presence… casually makes his way to the restroom for his morning constitutional, once back in our bedroom jeans, nice sweater, shoes exactly where he left them…because his daughters don’t care to try on and play in his shoes and then forget where they put them….sprays on some cologne and BAM! He’s a sexy beast ready to take on the world asking me if I’m ready…..makeup barely there…a sip taken from the coffee I poured myself an hour and a half ago and out the door by 815…..
    Every day all I feel like I do is hold my finger to the leaky dam…some days it’s easy peasy….other days I do it with a bedazzled wine glass filled to the brim in the other hand…

    🍷solidarity sister 🍷


  1. Don't Call Me Supermom - One Mother to Another - July 12, 2016

    […] sleep. The so-called supermoms are no different than the moms who feel like they’re barely holding it together; we each do what we can with the hours we have and wonder how the hell everyone else is making it […]

Leave a Reply