Tuesday, July 15, 2008


I have this friend. Let's call her Jill, just in case she should someday stumble upon this blog. Anyway, Jill is perfect. I mean it. She's perfect. She comes to playgroup every Monday with her two perfect boys who never throw a tantrum and always follow her first request. She popped out her second baby and left the hospital wearing her size 4 jeans. She wears makeup and fixes her hair for outings with her children. She brings healthy snacks for her kids to eat after playing on the playground. She coordinates her outfits with her jewelry and her nail polish. Yes, she even polishes her nails. I would really, really like to hate her. Unfortunately she's also really nice and a great mom. She's the whole package.

Did I miss some class in how to juggle a husband, kids, a house with a yard, friends, and a job without turning into a slob? Individually, I can do any of those things well. I could be a good wife, or a good mother, or a good housekeeper or a good gardener, or a good friend, or a good employee. I could even make myself look presentable. The problem is that I can't seem to do them all at the same time. So, at any given moment, I will have a super-clean house but 3 cranky children. OR I might have a solid relationship with a friend but be neglecting my spouse. OR I might have a well-manicured yard but nails that haven't seen a manicure in years. How do women like Jill do it?

I think I stumbled upon the secret today. Lean in close, because this is a well-guarded secret. I'm pretty sure they DON'T do it. Yeah, it blew my mind too. Let me share with you how I know this. Today I took my kids to Sprout. If you've never been there, it's basically a big room full of toys divided into "educational stations" that kids can visit. This place is great because you pay your admission and then let your kids run around like maniacs for a couple of hours making messes that someone else has to clean up. Meanwhile, the mamas sit on leather sofas and sip coffee (well, those that aren't breastfeeding do, anyway) and chat or read a book or just stare into space and enjoy the feeling of no children climbing on their legs for a few minutes. So, today I took them and was really looking forward to nursing the baby to sleep in my lap and then diving into a book that I've only read a few pages of thus far. But when I arrive I see a new sign. This wasn't there last week. It's an outrage! It reads: "Sprout is a parent/child interactive place. Have you played with your child today?????" (Yes, there were really that many question marks.) So, evidently the people who opened the place didn't have in mind that we would sit and watch from afar. Okay, so I take a deep breath and enter anyway. I can do this. I can play with my children and sacrifice my solo reading time. On the inside, however, I notice that the other mamas are going out their days like any other Sprout day. They are lounging on the sofas and sipping coffee and reading books. The signs (I notice that there are several more posted on the inside) don't seem to have phased them at all. I decide that they won't phase me either. But they do. I can't concentrate on my book. I feel like a kid in school trying to hide a comic book from a passing teacher. Every time one of the employees passes by I drop the book into my lap and feign interest in the plastic food salad that my children are preparing in the pretend kitchen nearby. So, I grudgingly drop my book into my bag, throw the baby over my shoulder, and make my way into the indoor tree house to play with my children. Here's the thing, though: my kids behave a million times better when I'm not hovering over them. So, although they are usually really well-behaved at Sprout and I don't worry about them at all, today they were really bratty. They fought over toys, made messes that they then blamed on someone else, teased each other, and talked back to me. I was really embarrassed. I kept looking around to see if the other moms were looking at me and secretly making a mental note never to allow us to join their playgroups because my kids would certainly corrupt all the other children. They never even looked up. Huh? My kids are acting like wild animals, and no one even flinches? Nope. So, I started looking around the room at the other children. I saw a little boy grab a little shopping cart out of the hands of a toddler. I saw a little girl wipe her glue-covered hands on the table. I saw siblings all over the place quibbling over who had the toy first and who got to be the fireman in the play. I witnessed at least ten tantrums when moms said it was time to go or to return a toy to another child. Actually, I think my kids might have been near the top of the list as far as behavior goes. Is it possible that today all the kids were worse than usual? Or is it just that I was hyper-aware of my surroundings because the Sprout folks added an extra dose of mommy-guilt with their wagging fingers? Logic would suggest the latter.

Okay, so back to my original thought that the other moms don't have it any more put-together than I do... Today I realized that, although we definitely have our bratty moments, my kids are really well-behaved. And I came home and took a good look around my home and discovered that, for housing 3 children, the place looks pretty darn good. Mike mowed the grass today, so although we don't have much in the way of landscaping, we even look tidy from the outside. The longer I thought about it, however, the more flaws I began to notice. The curtains behind the kitchen table have little spaghetti hand prints on them that need to be washed out. The dog needs a bath. My hair needs dying again. My toenail polish (freshly applied only 2 weeks ago!) is almost entirely chipped off. And I'm off, making a list of all the imperfections that set me aside from all the super-moms out there who have their lives put together. Now, wait. I seem to recall that the super-moms ignored their children attempting to beat each other with drumsticks earlier today. So, maybe they don't have anything magical about them. Maybe it's just that I don't make lists of every one of their imperfections the way I do my own so they never seem to add up the way mine do.

You know why being a mom is so hard? Every night as I lay in bed I replay the day in my head. I criticize my every move. I was too hard on Jackson. I ignored Ei when he was clearly trying to get my attention. My expectations of Aaron were too high. Etc., Etc., Etc. See, I'm responsible for these people. Three people completely depend on me for their physical, emotional, and spiritual needs. And I'm just terrified I won't get it right. Before children, when I went to work during the day and came home at night, I could acknowledge my mistakes and then leave them behind because they didn't directly impact the well-being of anyone else. This is huge.

And here's where all of this got me. Tonight I'm putting my children to bed and internally stewing over how I'll never be perfect (beginning to acknowledge that none of the other moms are either) and trying to prioritize which things I will allow to monopolize my energies. I kiss my Ei and tell him good night, and this is what he says to me: "Mama, if you get scared tonight, you call me and I'll come right in here." I realize that none of this other nonsense matters. My children have heard me say that I will be there for them if they are scared so many times that they have internalized it. They have enough empathy to realize that others might have similar feelings and care enough to offer to help. I don't need to prioritize. Without even thinking about it, I've been doing that all along. Worship God. Love your family. Be a good helper. These are the lessons I teach my kids. These are the lessons I hope I act out with my own behavior. I'm Supermom. So are you.

No comments: