Recently, we came across the term “time poor.” It’s a phrase used to describe having too much to do and not enough time to get it done—a concept moms understand all too well. As explained to The New York Times by sociologist Leah Ruppanner, “Kids bring an intensity of demands that makes people feel time poor.” This pressure may lead moms to experience “a chronic stress that slowly deteriorates their health.”
“So much to do, so little time” runs through our minds on a loop, making us collectively feel like Alice in Wonderland’s late-for-an-important-date White Rabbit, if he also had a latte addiction, a mental load and a second shift. And of course, anything you do get done will be at the expense of something else that had to fall by the wayside. You have one hour before you pass out: Should you do dishes or laundry? Organize your kids’ after-school schedule or catch up with a neglected friend (or, come to think of it, your spouse?!)? Chip away at the project you promised the PTA or respond to lingering work emails? As the clock ticks and the obligations pile up, failure feels inevitable.
But there has been a quiet rebellion brewing, topped off with a refreshing splash of honesty. Mini essays are popping up online and on social media, wherein moms are confessing to all the things they didn’t do in order to achieve balance—however they define it. Lauren Smith Brody, author of The Fifth Trimester, shared a classic Instagram-perfect shot of homemade Halloween brownies, complete with handcrafted fondant skulls shaped by her son. “People who saw us carrying them into class gingerly through the rain this morning might think that I am the mom who does all the things,” she wrote. “I am not. So please enjoy a not-short list of things this working mom *didn’t* do.” On her list she included, “I didn’t reply to about 12 emails, and I’ll have to squeeze those in today. Or let them sit. We’ll see. I didn’t clean up breakfast. I didn’t get enough sleep. I didn’t…carve a pumpkin.” In response, hundreds of her followers commented with their own “I didn’t” lists. (Newly empowered, we wanted to reach through our screen and high-five them all.)
1. “I didn’t lean in. In fact, I hit the alarm off and leaned so far back on my bed that I fell back asleep.”
3. “I served them processed fruit bars for breakfast because that’s all the little punks will eat, and also I had neglected to make overnight oats in adorable little mason jars.”
8. “One boy has a lingering cough that probably would have benefited from a couple of minutes in the steamy bathroom, but we were already late (see #1).”
13. “[After her little boy had a pants crisis] I do not make enough money…to buy my younger son all new pants that do not make ‘zip-zop’ noises when he walks.”
21. “After dropping them off, I felt sorry about all the screaming and crying and fighting, but by the time I got home and enjoyed a cup of coffee in the blessed silence, I’d talked myself into believing that the morning built character for everyone.”
In other words, she did not wallow in guilt or beat herself up, because she is doing the best she can. That’s an “I didn’t” that should top all of our lists.