What Mama Really Needs

A version of this story was published November ’22 by Hannah White.

As a mama, I put my needs on the back burner. Eighty days ago, for some necessary health reasons, I stopped eating gluten, dairy, and added sugars. I started actually limiting my alcohol consumption to the “1-2 drinks a week” I had been telling my doctor since I was 21. And after the hundredth grocery trip of complaining about the cost of apples and ground beef, I started budgeting.

In those eighty days, my son started a new school, I entered my busiest season of work, and a near-miss car crash triggered panic attacks from being in a near-fatal car accident two years ago.

It was not the time for mama to breakup with my credit card and Pinot Noir.

For the first time in motherhood, and perhaps even adulthood, the crutches I had relied on to mute the overwhelm and stress that walked with me every day, were stripped away. What remained was the grating cry of my own doubts, criticism, exhaustion, endless to do lists, and no easy fix to soothe it away.

When my son was a few weeks old, a friend gifted me with a wine tumbler engraved with “Mama needs wine”. Search Etsy and you’ll find thousands of items with this design – shirts, hats, stickers, and more. While the sentiment is funny, it perpetuates a myth that the exhaustion of motherhood can be masked with a bottle of wine – and that to be a mom means needing to escape your present reality with a big glass of mommy juice.

what mama really needs

What this mama really needs is help – to hold lifelines instead of crutches, to connect instead of numb, to go to therapy instead of Target. Being a parent in our society is relentless and there are very few structural supports, if any, in place for moms. But until we find ways to fix a complicated system and culture that undervalues motherhood, we need to stop telling each other that numbing out is the only way out, so much so that it deserves a spot on our tote bags.

I deserve more than wine, more than a pint of Ben and Jerry’s, and much more than new throw pillows. What mama deserves is this:

To have help carrying the load.

Needing help means being human. Whether it’s therapy, a house cleaner, asking for more support from my partner, a weekly girl’s night, or just being honest about the good and bad, I need connection and to know I am not living and experiencing the mental load of motherhood and life in isolation.

To take care of myself physically.

My husband and I made the painstakingly difficult decision to not have more kids. Pregnancy was brutal on my body and intensified some underlying health issues. When I accepted that my son needed a healthy and whole mom more than a sibling, I knew I wanted to be the most vibrant version of myself possible – for him, and for me. I have long been depriving myself of its bare necessities to thrive. There are seasons for barre class and green smoothies, but there are also seasons when going for a walk is all I can handle. Whatever my capacity may be, I deserve to prioritize my health – and to be healthy just for me, not only so I can give more to others.

To live without the unattainable expectations of what being a mama should be like.

I fall into the trap over and over that being a mom comes with a list of “shoulds.” The only “should” is that my motherhood should look different than yours, than my mom’s, than the #utahmoms on TikTok. The illusion that anyone can do it all with enough self-determination and strength is a lie. I am an incredible business owner, a fun and creative mom, a loving wife, a giving friend – but I am never all these things in the same day or even month. There is no balance here, just a novice juggler knowing that one of these balls will eventually get dropped, but I’ll pick it up and begin again.

To pursue hobbies without purpose or profits.

With great intentions, I have been affirmed that “you could start a business doing that…” whenever I started a new hobby. Whether it was growing flowers or making yarn pom poms, the moment it was suggested to be profitable, it lost its pleasure. I deserve finding a hobby that brings me joy without a further purpose. I deserve moments without answering questions, making plans, or putting things away. I deserve to pursue dreams that are just my own.

Like every mom, I plead and pray for the opportunity to see my son grow up to be an adult. I want him to see me as both a mom and woman who loved others and herself well too.

I trust that while he never seems to listen, he’s watching and seeing a mom who models how to navigate a world with disappointments and fears without running away. And one day, when his stress is much bigger than broken Legos, I hope he knows he has the power to face life without numbing his pain.


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