The Mother on the Couch

As an English grad, I read and wrote a lot of papers about the Mother on the Couch.

These were the mothers in Victorian novels who were always lying on the couch with a headache, complaining about vapors or something domestic and trivial.

Oh, we hated the mother on the couch. She was so lazy! She was so sickly! She was so selfish!

But now that I’m a mother, I have to tell you: I understand. That mother was tired.

I am tired all the time. My face looks a carousel at baggage claim, bags under my eyes and perhaps under my chin. I’m always rushing around, trying to get the kids dressed, their lunches packed, their bags ready, rushing to the bus, rushing to daycare, rushing to work, rushing to this meeting or that, trying to get everything done.

At night, when I get home from work, after dinner’s made and the dishes are done, I want to lie down so badly it’s like a body I long to embrace: The couch. The sexy, sexy couch.

But two little voices always pipe up and say, “Play with me, Mommy.”

Sometimes I play with them, choking back tears. Sometimes I lie down anyway and make a game where they get to jump on me. I know these moments are fleeting. I know they won’t want to play with me forever.

But the couch! The unattainable couch! It is so alluring, so restful and waiting.

“I need help with my homework,” my son says.

“Can you read me a story?” the little one says.

I think about those papers that I wrote in college and grad school. As a feminist. Before I had children. Believing that the “mothers on the couch” were crippled. That they were ineffectual. And pointless. Because they didn’t have a job.

But you know what, maybe they were just tired. Because they were working moms too. In charge of the house and the staff. They had jobs to do and were totally overwhelmed by it.

And I feel that way too.

Overwhelmed by this life without a second to myself.

And I think it’s important to say it.

We are working moms and we are tired!

It’s time to rise up and tell the world our story. Retell our story, reset the tropes, recast ourselves as the heroine instead of the sad, reclining woman, start over and tell you what it’s really like.

But first, I’m so tired, I’m just going to lie down here for a second and close my eyes. Just for a second…zzzzz…

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