If you’re anything like me, you are constantly feeling like you don’t have your shit together as a mom, and that all of the other moms around you do. It’s a constant, nagging voice in the back of my mind most days. I see moms out with their kids, smiling and playing, as if parenting is the easiest and most joyful thing in the world. And I think to myself, “Joyful? Yes, most of the time. Easy? Hell no!” Some days it’s a constant battle not to scream at my kids. Other days I struggle to remember to take care of myself. Everyday, I try to remind myself that things around me are often not what they appear.
Case in point…
A few months ago, my husband and I and our 2 young children met some friends in the city for lunch. We arrived at a “family-friendly,” yet pretty upscale restaurant on the upper west side of Manhattan only to find that they had screwed up our reservation. After some arguing about why our table could not accommodate both a high chair and a seat with a booster, we relented, and put our 4 year old in a regular adult chair. By the time we got to the table, I was already pretty fried.
Our friends, two couples who each had small children (one about 6 months old and not yet mobile, and one just under 2) seemed calm and content with our over-crowded, noisy location.
I spent the next hour sitting between my 4 year old and my 13 month old, frantically trying to keep them happy, fed, quiet, and relatively clean. This is no small feat, mind you. Kids are messy, and there was ketchup involved!
As I sat there, feeling somehow less together than the other two young moms at the table, I noticed something. They were in the same boat! I watched one mom visibly cringe and whisper to her husband for help as her 6 month old pulled a hot cup of coffee off the table and onto the two of them. And I caught the other mom quietly but quickly escape from the table after her 2 year old threw ketchup on her beautiful white sweater.
What I realized in that moment, is that for the most part, we are all pretty much faking it. We, as mothers put so much pressure on ourselves to be everything to everyone, to appear like motherhood is easy and fun at all times, and to never let on if we are anxious, unsure disasters on the inside, that we often fail to look around and notice that we are ALL putting on the same act.
So here it is…my confession du jour…I am a total, utter, and complete disaster about 90% of the time. About 10% of the time, I hit my stride. I am in the zone and parenting is a breeze. But the vast majority of the time, I have no idea what I’m doing. So if I appear like those moms who’ve got their shit together (which I highly doubt), please know that it’s not the reality you’re seeing. It’s a contrived, intentionally falsified persona who is simply trying to meet society’s expectations of what/who/how a mother should be.
Even typing that sentence makes me angry. Why the hell should we care what society expects moms to be??? My kids are loved, and they know it. Most of the time, they are happy. They are well cared for, listened to (and actually heard!), fortunate in both material and non-material possessions, and guided when needed and given freedom to figure things out on their own.
You know what all that means? It means that their dad and I are damn tired! We both work full time and do our best to parent well. It means that there are times when we will fail, and instead of being patient like we know we should, we will lose our cool and yell at our kids. It means we will serve them peanut butter, apples, and cheese for dinner some nights because it’s what they want, and frankly, we have no time or inclination to cook something that they won’t eat anyway. It means that I leave the house unshowered about 50% of the time, often forgetting to feed myself. It means I’ll look disheveled sometimes, but my kids rarely will.
So the next time you are feeling inadequate as a mom because the mother next to you appears to be showered, happy, and engaged without missing a beat, remind yourself that she’s probably just in her 10% zone, or she’s faking it. Hang in there, mamas! We got this.