Eleven unread messages. That little red bubble glares at me, reminding me of all the texts I haven’t responded to, or even looked at for fear of being faced with reality. Messenger calls me out next: five more unread messages sitting, waiting. The guilt I feel increases, and my resolve to catch up crumbles. Instead, I begin to compose a message in my head: Dear Friend, I’m still here.
I’m sorry I haven’t gotten back to you about that recipe. Or about rescheduling that get-together that’s already been rescheduled twice. It seems like someone is always sick, whether it’s the kids or myself. Since my oldest started school in August, our house has become a breeding ground for all manner of disgusting germs. And now it’s flu season, yay. When the planets and stars align and we happen to be healthy simultaneously, the thought of going out solo with three children under five terrifies me enough to keep the car in the driveway. How do you do it?
I’m sorry that I can’t even bring myself to answer your question about how I’ve been feeling. Dear friend, you don’t really want to know the answer, do you? I’m constantly anxious and guilt-ridden over all the yelling I direct at my kids. Between attempting to juggle life as a working mom, spending time with my family, cleaning (ha!) and trying to have half a conversation with my husband, I have literally no mental capacity left to patiently parent my children, let alone compose a simple message. When I do eventually have a second to respond, the cursor blinks at me until I sigh and type a deflective “I’m okay, how are you?” instead.
I’m sorry that I let your message sit unread and unanswered for over a week. Scared that you would see that little “read” icon and assume I just didn’t want to respond, I instead chose to not even open it. Is that somehow better? As I watch the number of unread messages mount throughout the day, my anxiety increases until it all becomes too much and I give up on responding altogether. More time goes by, and I sheepishly apologize when we run into each other in person, claiming forgetfulness.
I’m sorry it seems like I’m pushing you away. Dear friend, I promise I’m not. It’s so hard to make mom friends — I’m unbelievably lucky to have you. Even though you may not hear from me in a month, you still invite me to the park. Despite turning you down over and over again, you remember to check in with me for a catch-up over coffee. I appreciate that more than you could possibly imagine. Because despite how hard I am on myself, I know that you are seeing something I often don’t: a struggling mom, just trying to do her best.
Dear friend, I’m still here. Thank you for being there.