Joining the Over-Stressed Sorority
Parenting can be exhausting, but it offers new opportunities for community and connection.
Recently, Petula Dvorak of The Washington Post wrote two columns addressing the busy lives of parents. The author compared a mom’s work to Santa’s, with the exception that while Santa takes it easy on Dec. 26, a mom’s work continues 365 days a year.
What resonated with me most from her articles was how mothers today keep very odd hours, often with little sleep. She described sending e-mails related to PTA matters in the wee hours of the morning, only to get immediate responses from other mothers who were also online. (Been there, done that.) As she talked about gardening at 1 a.m., I thought about the time I caulked the shower at midnight and was at Home Depot by 6 a.m. to get the supplies I needed to fix the tile I broke in my delirium.
While the issue of over-stressed, overcommitted and under-rested parents seems like a pandemic in our country, there was something about these articles that left me with a sense of connection and gratitude. Something about knowing that there are so many women out there who understand the demands and the pressures—both self-imposed and those placed upon us—enhanced my sense of community and connection to other parents. It’s like a sorority, where all the members are exasperated and exhausted yet love each other not in spite of it, but for it.
Reading these articles, I also had to laugh thinking about my running group. What started as two women meeting in the early morning to fit in some exercise has turned into a running support group of moms gathering a few times a week to de-stress… at 5:30 in the morning. Here is a group of women that squeeze their social time, exercise time, and “me time” into the predawn hours as the kids are still snug in their beds and the chaos of the day has yet to begin. Many mornings, the stars shine on our reflective vests, and the only car we come across belongs to the woman who delivers the newspaper.
While this might sound like something akin to Chinese water torture, it has become a true highlight of my week. I get to connect, laugh and listen to women who are experiencing life as I know it, all while exercising. There's a kinship between us without knowing much about the specifics of each other’s lives. Further, I am amazed at the number of women who will jump at the chance to get up (or simply out, as they're probably up anyway) to fit in their exercise routine and share that sense of community.
In Dvorak's second column, she pondered whether all of this work and stress and exhaustion is worth it. Beyond the joys my children offer—the peacefulness of my daughter sleeping, the zest my son exudes at every turn, the greater sense of life purpose—there is a sense of connection with other parents. So yes, having children is worth the work. Otherwise I wouldn’t know all the amazing folks I’ve come across since having them. I’d be asleep instead of out running with my friends.