May 21, 2010

Supermoms R Us

Where is it written that I have to do this mothering thing the right way, the first time...or even the second?

Or that I have to remember all things, be all things, and give up all things to do it "right"?

Or that I should know instinctively what they need, want, and require, intuitively?

Where is that written?  Because I'd like to read it.

(and I'd like to know the person who wrote it, ahem)

Frankly, most days I'm moving forward minute to minute in terms of style and thought-process.  Hour to hour.  And let's be honest - "forward" is a kind, lavish word - don't you think?

I think that anyone who tells you that you should know/be/do all those Super Mothering things out of the gate (or even at all), is wrong.  Don't listen to them.

For that matter, why can't we stop looking at others and feeling like they probably do it better than us. Right?  This is where I fall down.  Wanting the patience of one, the humor of another, the tenderness of her, and the wisdom of that one over there...

All the time comparing myself and observing those around me who seem to have a better grapple on it.

Guess what I think?  I think they don't.  Have a better handle on it, that is. Not really.  I mean, some of them might - but most don't.  You're just catching them in a good moment...a "forward" moment.

Case in point: today I decided to treat the kids and myself to a fun lunch at a local cafe.  Admittedly, it was probably brave of me to get all big in my britches and go it alone, but what the heck.  We ordered, got seated (two highchairs and all), began munching on chips, and were even happily engrossed in people watching - all three of us.  After the food arrived, the kids began to eat quietly and patiently...silently continuing to eat and occasionally throw in a giggle (or a grunt for more) in my direction.  It was so enjoyable.  I thought to myself "this can't be any better...they are such lovely children".  Forward moment!

Women were glancing my way.  One woman stopped by my table and said "my goodness, I hardly knew there were two small children sitting behind me...they're so wonderful...what a blessing...not a peep".  

Dangit. Jinxed.

Keira started to cry.  Quint took her chip or something.  Quint started hollering at her "STOP SISSY!  STOP!"  and eyes began to shift...heads began to turn...Keira dropped her food on the floor, Quint threw his cup, I walked two feet away to get a napkin and Quint started screaming at the top of his lungs...anyway, you get the picture, eh?  It was all downhill from there and my "Golden Parenting Statue" was unceremoniously left on the Cafe floor as I scurried out of there with my children in tow.

Can I tell you?  I was embarrassed.  Not of them, but for us.  Because it felt like I just didn't have my act together.  Because my kids were melting down and everyone was trying not to look, and that just made it worse.  Because I couldn't keep my 11-month old from crying snot-bubbles out her nose, while I drug my cranky squirmy tantrum-ing 2-year old behind.  Get me out of here - that's all I could think! 

Now, as far as I know - none of us were handed an instruction manual.  No book to tab through and turn to that says "unplanned tantrum - see page 83".  Or "tantrum with food throwing and obnoxious screaming - see page 145".  Yes, I need that book, actually.  What about "When to put in earplugs and step into a bubblebath - see page 6,457".  Heh.  Cough.

More often than not, I'm holding myself to an impossible standard.  Do you do that sometimes?  The standard that says "my children will never meltdown or tantrum in public".  The standard that says "I will always appear as if I have it all together, even if I don't".  The standard that says "my children will behave exactly as I have taught them at all times, no matter what the circumstance".  

Now, I don't really expect that.  But doesn't it feel like we're holding ourselves to those impossible standards some days?  And when it doesn't happen, how does that makes us feel?  Like we've failed somehow?  Sigh.

What I really want is to give myself a break.  On the days when everything falls apart to the days when we couldn't be happier...just give myself a break.  Even more, give my kids a break.  Who loves cranky, busy, stressed out, impossible standards Mom anyway?  Boo on her.  And let me tell you something, she's around way too much.

I don't know about you, but I frequently miss the parenting boat.  That is to say, I do or say the wrong thing.  Maybe I'm too quick to be impatient or to anger.  Maybe I'm frustrated.  Maybe too tired.  Sometimes I don't manage my time well, or forget about things all together.  Other times, I'm throwing in my towel before the day has really even started.  Schedule goes out the window, nap-times are shot, patience is low, tantrums are high, dinner hasn't been laid out, keys are misplaced, laundry is piled too high.  On and on.

Been there much?

Sometimes I'm putting the kids to bed for the night and in my head saying "I need a do-over of this whole day...I screwed up...I'm sorry...tomorrow will be better".  

Other times I'm feeling pretty good about the kids I'm bringing up and the way I'm doing it.

Sadly, for the most part I'm just over-comparing myself to other moms.  It's silly and tiring.  And I'm already tired.  Supermoms are least where we live.  And it's overwhelming.  Soccer, ballet, piano, gymboree class, art class, mothers-day-out school, high-end pre-school, pottery painting, playdates, mall dates, this and that and the other...on and on...and these are all for kids my children's ages.  Ack.  

Listen up - if I don't even get a "mall date" with AB - then the kids can forget it.  I mean, sorry, but seriously?  I think we're trying so hard to make sure that every moment of our kids' time is full of wonderful things to do...that we forget the simple pleasure of letting them learn and explore on their own - through free-play.  The operative word there being "free".  Ha.  

Truly kids have more fun exploring their own backyard most days, than the energy and time it takes just to get them to some of these events.  We joke often that it's a production just getting out the door.  Not to mention that mom gets stressed out and then that's no fun for any of us.  Undue pressure?

What about the hose?  Sprinklers?  Play-doh?  Baking?  Painting?  Coloring?  Creating...

Ah, I don't know.  Maybe I'm on a soap box again.  Maybe we're trying too hard?  Maybe less is more?  

Even worse, maybe we're the ones trying to feel better about our own stellar efforts at giving them everything they could ever want or need?  Trying to never miss a beat, never fail...always present as close to perfect as we can.  Standards set so high, even we know they're ridiculous.  Still, we press on...towards some unforeseen goal of perfection in parenting.  Is that what our kids need from us?  Yikes.  Convicted over here.

Maybe we're setting ourselves up to feel like failures.  

Maybe it's too much.

And where is it written that we need to do any of that?  

It's not.

Do you know anyone who is a perfect parent?  A perfect mother?  I don't.  And I know a lot of wonderful women who are mothers.  Wonderful mothers, in fact.  But flawed.  Not perfect.  Just like you.  Just like me.  All of whom have had their rough patches, bad mornings, regrets, and days of sunshine too.

Maybe in letting our kids be them some freedom to just be, and giving ourselves the grace and freedom to sit back and enjoy their childhood as much as they do - maybe then we're re-writing the unwritten rule of perceived perfection?

Maybe by offering the Mom in line behind us at the checkout (you know the one, she's got the toddler who's melting down) - just a kind smile, a nod of understanding, a look or a gesture or even a supportive word that says "I get you...I've been's ok".  Maybe that will breed change in the facade by giving each other the grace to be human.  To be flawed.

And let's be honest for a minute - we're raising up human beings...little people, for crying out loud.  It's like...well, you know...this HUGE undertaking.  I'm just not seeing enough grace for ourselves or for the other women out there busting their hump, living in the trenches, and schlepping dirty diapers all day.  Actually, insert child's age here - all the stages are hard.  All of them. 

Maybe by being still, and allowing our kids to grow up apart from our planned agendas (in keeping up with the Supermoms)...we're actually setting the bar for new standards?  Ones that don't involve constant comparison, but encourage grace and support.  Showing others that we're only human.  And humanity is fragile.  Not perfect.  Not shiny and new all the time.  Not a Norman Rockwell painting.  Just real life moms, doing the very best we can.  

Tantrums, laundry, sweatpants, excess weight (mine), runny noses, meltdowns,  too much TV, too much chocolate (again, mine) and all the rest...


frogglet said...

Be real even when real sucks, that is what I say. I am sure you are too hard on yourself but I really don't know. I am still hoping that I got that super mom gene but I have a sneaky feeling it did not happen.

Cate said...

Amen, sista!

Girl, that super-over-acheiver-mom-perfect-woman North Texas thing drove me NUTS! Then again, it might have been the heat.

Anonymous said...

I love this post. I get you. It also sounds like you are becoming more and more content with the bird, duck or swan (depending on the day)that you are. :) Good for you!! ~Holly

Michal said...

I really needed someone to say this to me. I am really hard on myself and most of the time, I expect way too much from my 5 year old.

I have always been on the "stay at home and let them be kids" bandwagon though - so I feel good about that.
I usually I jump to the wrong conclusion about my daughters intentions. I am quick to correct most days.
It's something I am working on.

Melanie said...

let me tell you....that I sm right there with you.Exactly, thanks for this post

Kelley said...

Whoo-hoo! Can't type, because I'm too busy clapping! LOVE this post. LOVE those pictures, too! Bravo!

Tammy ~ Country Girl at Home ~ said...


I know exactly what you're saying and I'm right there with you too! It's so easy to compare ourselves with other moms and when we add homeschooling into the mix, as we do, boy it's hard sometimes to not compare myself with other homeschooling moms who seem to have everything together all the time! Whew that's tough!

Thanks for keeping it real. Cute cute pics too!


Valerie said...

A to the MEN.

I consider my day a success if I even show up for the job. Perfection??? That is getting everyone to bed with no hospital visits and most items in the house left unbroken.

It's all in the standards we set for ourselves, if they/we survive to 18 it's a WIN in my book of tricks.

Keep on truckin sistah!

Love V

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much. Everything you said here goes through my mind on a daily basis. It can be SO deflating to think that way about yourself as a mother. Thank you for letting me see that I am not the only one. Keep up the great work.

Anonymous said...

I love this post! It's so true. Why do we feel we have to enroll our kids in every possible activity to be a good parent. I'm a true believer in free play! :)

Ani said...

Yes, and yes, and yes, yes! Amen!
Love your honesty and your way with words!
I was sitting in the pediatrician's waiting room the other day, with a whiny 4 year old and a fussy 8 month old. I had spent the day at the office and, truth be told, wasn't looking my best. In walks this beautifully put together woman, with her beautifully put together baby, sleeping peacefully in her stroller. She looked at me with pity in her eyes, and for a moment, I looked down. Then I remembered, we are all in this together... So I smiled at her :-)

The Gang's Momma! said...

Thank you for this. I know, I know. I'm in this gig for 15 years and counting. You would think I'd know this stuff inside out, up and down. To give myself grace, to hang the comparisons out by their toes, to let me be me and let my journey be that. A journey.


I'm in the midst of a difficult parenting season right now and I needed to read this. In fact, I've read it twice this week. I might read it more. I might read it out loud to my moms' group coming for brunch next week. I might post it on my fridge.

So, thanks. I need it. More today than I care to admit on most days.