‘I’m ready to lean OUT.’ Thousands of people loved this Needham mom’s essay
A Needham mom was fed up with society’s expectations of working mothers.
So she wrote a Facebook post about it — and it resonated with tens of thousands of people.
Sarah Buckley Friedberg, a 35-year-old mother of three, wrote the 1,054-word post last Thursday, venting about how she and other moms are expected to excel at work, get in shape, herd the kids, care for pets, and make time for their partners and friends — all while shirking the urge to wear yoga pants and messy buns.
“Be Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, the birthday planner, the poop doula (seriously when will this end), the finder of lost things, the moderator of fights. Be fun. Be firm. Read books. Have dance parties,” she wrote.
“I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to lean OUT.”
The post has since garnered more than 45,000 shares and reactions and 10,000 comments — many of which lent support and empathy for Friedberg.
“I don’t even have kids yet and I am completely overwhelmed,” one commenter wrote.
“Basically . . . Raise your kids like you don’t work and work like you dont have kids,” another said.
One wrote in all caps: “I HAVEN’T RELATED TO SOMETHING SO MUCH IN MY LIFE!!!”
In the post, Friedberg — a microbiology manager for a large medical device company with a 6-year-old, 3-year-old, and 1-year-old — notes the ongoing struggles it takes to be a parent in the 21st century, and all the different skills she needs to arm her kids with.
“Ensure the kids are learning to swim, play an instrument, read, ride a bike, be a good human being, eat vegetables, wear sunscreen, drink enough water, say please and thank you. Don’t forget they need to dress as their favorite book character on Monday, and wear something yellow on Thursday. Oh it’s totally your call but most parents come in on their birthday and read to the entire class,” she wrote.
She also lamented how moms are expected to part early on with their newborns (“Go back to work before you have finished healing or have had time to bond with your baby”), burn all their vacation days running the kids to appointments (“Sorry, you are now out of vacation time because you used it all for time taking your kids to appointments or when your childcare is unavailable. You should go on vacations though. It’s good to relax and unwind from work. Makes you a better employee”), and somehow have time to be social and catch up with pals (“Social time is SO important. Surely there is an hour or two left in the week after all of the working, appointments, exercising, cooking, scheduling, cleaning, imparting lifelong morals and learning on the kids, the usual”).
Friedberg told the Globe that she typed up the post late last Thursday night because she just needed to vent. She set her post to public after her friend asked if they could share it.
“I woke up early Friday to go to the gym and 25 or 30 people had commented,” she said. “When I got out of [the] gym, it was a couple hundred. It was totally unexpected — it was a late night dump from my brain, and it kept going and skyrocketing a bit. It’s very surreal.”
Why did it resonate with so many people? Friedberg hypothesized that it’s because many could relate to the feeling of not being the perfect parent society expects.
“I have a full-time job and a husband and three kids, and all those things are really busy and a lot of days everything is going fine and I have everything together, but there are days where it doesn’t go as well,” she said.
She also said she reveled in the comments that were supportive — “it made me feel better after my tough day” — but brushed off some of the negative comments from people who noted she chose her lifestyle.
“Some people missed the intent,” she said. “I love my job. I love my kids. I love the life we have. Sometimes you just have a more difficult day.”
Friedberg also noted that her husband, who (in a poetic twist) is a pediatrician at a local primary care office, “does half, if not more, of the cooking and cleaning and putting kids to bed.”
“But society-wise,” she said, “if a kid is sick and the school has numbers for both the mom and the dad, they reach out to the mom first. All the birthday invitations come to the mom. Most people just go to the mom — the mental load I was referring to is the scheduling and the intangible things that moms will handle.”
At the end of the day, Friedberg said, she just hopes the now-viral post — it’s been picked up by the likes of “Good Morning America,” BuzzFeed, and the Daily Mail — helps other overwhelmed parents see that they’re not alone.
“I hope it helps other people see that not everyone has everything perfectly put together,” she told the Globe. “Sometimes we share all the good things on social media — I’m guilty of that. But sometimes we take the picture in the one clean area of the house, when there are piles of laundry behind you.
“Once in a while, saying, ‘We don’t have everything together’ helps if other people are struggling with certain aspects of those things, too.”