When you can’t do it all

I’m carrying grocery bags from the car to the kitchen when I hear our second grader yelling.

“Mom! Mom! Can you roll this baseball to me?”

Before I can respond, he turns and looks at me.

“Oh, forget it,” he says. “Your hands are full.”

Then he runs to the door and holds it open.

I am astounded—and not that he’s helping. I’m just surprised that he noticed I couldn’t take on one more thing for him. Because mothers seem to be all-powerful. In our children’s eyes—and maybe a little bit in ours—we can do it all and then some.

It’s not that I don’t try to teach our boys patience. For years I have told them to wait while I am cooking or scrubbing pans in the sink.

I have explained countless times that I cannot take time out to find a stuffed animal while making dinner, that I am unable to look up the evolved form of a certain Pokémon while I am packing school lunches, that yes, I can sign your reading log, but I’m in the basement looking for a can of soup because a minute ago you said you were starving.

I may have wondered when our children would start noticing that I don’t have eight arms and the ability to bi-locate and 36 hours in a day. But I haven’t wondered all that much because it seemed so unlikely to happen. And I’m too busy saying, “Just a minute,” or “Hang on,” rather than telling them I just can’t do it.

Then it turns out that maybe Mother’s Day came early this year. And here we are.

Somehow, at last, maybe my children are realizing that I’m only human.

They’re recognizing that even a mother has her limits.

So, maybe now I can start to figure that out myself. And there’s nothing like this season of end-of-year celebrations and activities in my personal and professional lives, along with a First Communion party I haven’t planned at all for this weekend to make me realize that my hands are pretty full. May is the craziest and most exciting time of the year in all corners of my life.

And maybe it’s time for me to find ways to say no—even if you really need help working on fielding grounders in my backyard.

Joining #WorthRevisit Wednesday hosted by Reconciled to You and Theology Is a Verb.

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Rita Buettner

Rita Buettner

Rita Buettner is a wife, working mother and author of the Catholic Review's Open Window blog. She and her husband adopted their two sons from China, and Rita often writes about topics concerning adoption, family and faith.

Rita also writes The Domestic Church, a featured column in the Catholic Review. Her writing has been honored by the Catholic Press Association, the Maryland-Delaware-D.C. Press Association and the Associated Church Press.