A friend of mine is struggling. She says she's a horrible wife, a terrible mother, and a worthless person. She sounds just like I did when I had PPD, except her youngest is already in school, so probably not... I was talking to her about the Myth of the Together Mom, and thought I'd share my little mind game with all of you.
See, I used to fall into the trap of thinking that the other moms I saw had it all figured out - that they were pros at this mom thing, and that it was as obvious to everyone else that I was totally faking it as it was to me. Not faking love for my kids, of course I love them, but faking the whole "having it together" thing. I would see other moms, who often had more kids than I have, and they'd have their hand-decorated, home-made, organic, peanut and gluten free cupcakes for the class party, and I'd show up with boxed cookies from Kroger (and I forgot to check the label, and the damn cookies are "made on machines that process foods that contain nuts...." Oops). Or I'd see a mom with three perfectly matchy matched children acting angelic in the mall as I struggled to get my kid away from the money-eating carousel - they looked like the Stepford family, and we looked like the World Wrestling Federation, and I'd think, "How do they do it?!"
I've figured it out - or at least figured out a way to live in the same world with the Stepford moms without losing my mind. Now, when I see those "together moms" I think, "Yeah, she looks all put together, but I'll bet she's got $100,000 worth of credit card debt!" or "Sure, those cupcakes are organic and homemade, but she's operating on 92 minutes of sleep and a whole bunch of speed today..." Of course I never VOICE these opinions to the "together moms" I see... I just smile inside and think, "Yeah, sister, your hair is coiffed and your makeup is perfect, and I could bounce quarters off of your abs even though you have 6 kids, but you've got a secret too..."
Now that I'm a little further down this Mommy Road, it has come to my attention that people see ME as the together mom! HA! HAHAHAHAHA!!! I call my mom or sister at least once a week to tell them that if they don't come down and get these kids, I'm going to put a sign on them that says, "Free to good home" and stick them in the front yard (they rarely show up, and the kids are both still present and accounted for - they understand my hyperbole). I spend entirely too much time on the 'net, and my kids watch WAY too much TV. I have vices, things I feel guilty about, and secrets just like everyone - just like you - but I present my "together face" to the world, just like everyone else. And unless you know me well, or catch me in a vulnerable moment, you'd never see those vices, guilts, and secrets.
Another friend of mine says, "Being a mom isn't hard work, but it's constant." I think that's partially true - it is constant. Kids just never stop needing (even when they're grown, from what I've seen!). It takes a lot of effort to be someone else's caregiver, and when you find yourself in the position of caring for a whole family - running to lessons, wiping noses and butts, dropping off, picking up, three meals and two snacks a day, making little decisions (what's for dinner? snack now or later? fight to get her to nap or give it up?), making big decisions (vaccines on schedule? preschool? work or stay home? vacation or new roof?) all the time, it can really wear you out. When you find yourself in the unenviable position of caring for aging parents and young kids, or caring for yourself or your spouse through a chronic illness, or just trying to spin all thirteen dozen plates in the air without letting anything fall - it gets hard. It's hard for everyone. No one has it easy in this mothering gig. No one.
In our western culture, the mother really is the heart of the family. As the saying goes, "If Mama ain't happy, nobody's happy." It's a lot of pressure to be "on" all the time, to be "together" all the time, to be "healthy" all the time - and it's easy to bend, it's easy to break, under that pressure.
But we owe it to ourselves, and to our husbands and kids, to be as together as we can. And I really believe that it's necessary to let go of some of the "shoulds" of motherhood - I should make organic, free range, peanut free cookies instead of buying something for school snack, I should make all the kids' Halloween costumes, I should make all their birthday cakes from scratch, I should turn off the damn TV and interact with the little weirdos 24/7, I should...... The only true should-ism is that you should put less pressure on yourself to be Donna Reed and spend more time on the stuff that really fulfills you and makes you happy. Your kids are going to remember that you were content for a lot longer than they're going to remember those perfect cupcakes.
The irony is that once you let up on some of your own pressure on yourself, once you start to give yourself some wiggle room, some grace, you enable yourself to be a better mother.
What do you think? Do people think you have it "all together"? What's your dirty little mommy secret? Leave an anonymous comment if you want - I honestly can't see who's who in the comments when they're anonymous. Help my friend realize that we're all in this together, and that none of us have it easy, by leaving a little confession.