By Dana Gornall
I remember hearing a story when I was in kindergarten, about how the spider got its waist.
Since I have become an adult, I have searched and searched for this story over the internet and have not found it, but it is something that has stuck in my mind still today.
A mama spider had a bunch of baby spiders. Being a new mama, she was concerned about keeping track of all her baby spiders, so she spun a web to each one in order to know where they were and to keep them out of danger. This worked out wonderfully for awhile. Each time a baby needed her or went running amuck, a simple tug on her webbed string would signal that one needed her attention.
But soon the babies began to grow and with the growth came more running amuck and more needs until she was getting tugged in every direction. She didn’t know which one to attend to first and couldn’t take care of one long enough before another demanded her care.
The mama spider was getting pulled so hard and so much that her waist grew smaller and smaller until she had just a thin little middle that separated her top from her bottom.
I don’t remember how the story ended or if she ever got smart enough to cut part of the webbed string, but what I can say for sure is that lately I feel like that mama spider.
As a working, single mom I am constantly running and attending to someone or something.
I have a never ending basket of laundry that needs washed or folded. I have a perpetual sink full of dishes that need cleaned or dried or put away. I have children that need talked to and listened to and told to go to bed. I have a job I need to go to and a few side jobs that I love but also hold quite a bit of my attention.
I have practices that kids need to be taken to, fundraisers that need tickets sold for and bills that always need paying. I have a dog that needs walked and fed and taken to the vet, and most importantly just needs a good petting and brushing and a ball thrown for once in awhile.
But most often overlooked I have a me that needs attending to—books that I want to read, time to just sit and think and meditate, yoga that I would like to practice and friends that I would like to have conversation with.
All of these needs take a sliver of my time in one facet or another and so often at the end of the day (or sometimes even in the beginning) I am pulled so hard and so much that I don’t know which task to attend to first and am unable to take care of any one long enough before another demands my care.
Washing up the dishes last night from the quickie dinner I put together in between work and grocery shopping, editing a blog and taking my daughter to dance (and picking her back up), I found myself exhausted. Not just tired, but emotionally and mentally drained.
At what point do I cut the string? And if so, which ones do I cut?
In the film I Don’t Know How She Does It, the main character—a mother, wife and career woman—stated that the secret to juggling was not in the catching but in the throwing, and so like juggling, she just kept throwing and throwing and throwing in order to keep everything she had going in the air.
This seems to be the path many of us take. When faced with the seemingly insurmountable list of things to do, we just take them as they come and keep throwing them back up into the air.
At what point, do we let something drop? At what point is it okay to say I can’t keep catching things? In a 2011 survey of working parents where both parents work, 80% say they catch up on work on nights and weekends. 88% claim they suffer from one stress-related health problem since they became a working parent and 59% deal with anxiety.
These numbers are no surprise. Who wouldn’t be feeling stress and anxiety when constantly running and feeling as though your head is never quite above water? Who wouldn’t feel squeezed as if you were being pulled in all directions, just like the Mama spider?
The sad fact is that I don’t have an answer. I could say that my goal is to cut some ties, to carve out more time for solitude, to relish in the pauses of the day—and I do, at times. But I also know that just as the tide comes in and flows out, so will the heaviness of my insurmountable load.
A study was conducted in the Spring of 2006, surveying a group of single mothers with a variety of backgrounds and situations (some had family help nearby others did not) that took their children to a small daycare/preschool. After questioning their routines, their work schedules, their habits and their parental techniques (rewards and discipline) they came up with a set of “findings.”
“Within the stated purpose and findings of this study, the following conclusions appear warranted:
Single mothers are stressed.
Single mothers are perceived to be stressed.
Single mothers’ stress does not appear to affect their provision of quality child care as often as it is perceived.”
The Master’s College
So I guess we keep throwing, ladies (and gentlemen) and try your best not to get squeezed too tightly.