I've often said that motherhood is one of the toughest gigs going... not really because of the actual day-to-day routine of it, but because of all of the surrounding issues.
I mean, as a Mom, no matter what you do, you're stuck. Whether you have a big family or small family, stay at home or work outside the home, somebody, somewhere is going to deride your choices and call you selfish or misinformed. There's always going to be someone whose choices are superior; whose children are smarter, better behaved; whose husband is more romantic, more successful in his career; whose house is bigger, better decorated and who doesn't worry about losing a child in the laundry piles... the list goes on.
Comparing ourselves to anyone else is a sure-fire way to madness. Yet, we do it constantly. The media loooooooves our comparisons. Heck, the entire advertising industry is based on making us dissatisfied. Be it our body shape and size, our wardrobe, car or household cleansers, the whole point of advertising is to make us unhappy with who we are, what we have, how we do things, so that we'll run right out and buy whatever product they're claiming will magically solve whatever issue they're trying to destroy our confidence about.
We do it with our friends and family. 'Sue' has a knack for decorating, her house is so wonderful. 'Jane's' children, who are the same age as yours, were conquering algebra around about the time you started to wonder if potty training would ever work, or your child would be in diapers forever. 'Ann' is always perfectly dressed, coiffed and done up with makeup. 'Sherry' is always so laid back and patient, never a cross word or raised voice. 'Shirley' makes everything from scratch -- bread, pasta -- and every morsel of food her family eats is organic, harvested by the loving woodland creatures that inhabit her acreage. She sews all her family's clothes, from material made from fairy dust and unicorn tears. (OK, that last example *might* be a bit of an exaggeration. Maybe.)
Then there's you. Shuffling out of your room, groggy-eyed, squalling baby on your shoulder who, at a year old, still doesn't sleep through the night. (Unlike Jane's children, who, of course, along with PhD level math skills by the age of 4, slept through the night since conception). Tripping over toys that the kids have left lying around and stepping on Legos and dinky cars. Muffling language that would cause Sherry to fall down in a dead faint, you concentrate on pouring coffee, without slopping it all over the table, and are almost successful.
You growl at your family, stomp through the kitchen and fling yourself into a chair, while slamming some badly-needed caffeine into your bloodstream.
And, looking around, you feel... a failure. Or, at least, a bit ashamed.
You want to be sunshine and light for everyone. You want to always have the right words, the patience, the humour, the gentle, loving touch, the organized, neat, clean home and never have to yell, "Where are the toddler's shoes? Everyone look!" "How about a clean shirt, pal? What do you mean YOU DON'T HAVE ANY?! I just did a load of wash!" and tear into the laundry room, only to discover that the load of wash is still sopping wet and never made it into the dryer. You're convinced that normal mothers don't debate the merits of having a child turn their shirt inside out and claim they didn't notice... at least until you can hit a store and buy them a clean shirt, because you're on a tight time schedule, and there's no way you can get a shirt dry before you leave... hang on, what's the worst that can happen if they wear a wet shirt?
You're sure that nobody else goes through this.
We all have our "wet shirts." All of us. We all have our blazing imperfections, our flaws, our struggles. There's not a one of us that REALLY has it all together. Honest.
Some of us just lie better than others. And some of us would fall down in hysterical laughter to hear that anyone, EVER, thinks we're one of the anointed ones that have it all down pat and perfect.
We are blinded by our inner competitiveness, our insecurities. They keep us isolated from one another, instead of supporting each other and pulling together.
Well, they do for me anyways.
So, from one completely imperfect person, wife, mother, to any others out there:
It's OK. You can quit competing. The only standard you should measure yourself against is yourself. I'm trying (oh, trying!) to set and keep a simple goal: 'Did I do better today than yesterday?' That's it. I'm trying my darnedest to quit competing or measuring up to some arbitrary standard set by people who don't know me, never met me, and whose opinions shouldn't have anything to do with me.
So, what about you? Did you do better at something today than yesterday? How about tomorrow?
If we adopted that mindset, can you imagine the impact we'd have? Advertising media would cease to have such a powerful hold on our society. Mommy wars would end. Mom burn out would be no more.
Compassion... for yourself. It's a first step.
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