I apologize for my long hiatus…it has been insanely busy! Between a post-election trip to Washington D.C., Thanksgiving, Bellie’s third annual round of Nutcracker performances, Christmas preparations and the like, I have been swamped. But I promise to fill you in on all those adventures in due course. Life has been good, I have been staying upbeat, but wouldn’t you know it…once the kids finished school for the year and I was finally allowed a break I came down with the flu (flu shot notwithstanding!). It has been a fun three days of that but I think I can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. Right when I start feeling better I am sure the rest of the family will follow suit and get sick. Right around Christmas day, I’m sure:-) Oh well, c’est la vie.
I think I mentioned earlier that I have befriended a new-to-motherhood and new-to-the-area young lady who is married to a coworker of Hubby. We’ve been hanging out every few weeks or so; I have been introducing her and her baby daughter to the various activities available in our town for family fun/child enrichment. My younger kids get a kick out of hanging out with her baby, and I think she is genuinely appreciative to have the companionship. It is fun for me, too, to experience, through her, how far I’ve come as a mom. I mean, ten short years ago, I was that new, slightly uncertain and definitely appreciative for friendship – young mom. Several years later, I don’t know if I would claim that I’m an expert or anything…but I am WAAAAAAAAY more laid back and more confident (sometimes) about my parenting skills. Still, it made me dissolve in laughter when Hubby called me from work one day.
Hubby: [previously mentioned co-worker] told me his wife is super-jealous of you.
Me: What???!!!! Why???? (silently thinking, “Did she SEE my four-year-old eat that gum off the bathroom floor at playgroup?”)
Hubby: Yeah, she thinks you are like the perfect mom. She thinks the kids are always so well-behaved and you discipline them so well. And you always are on time and have your makeup and hair done when you guys get together.
Me: (Trying not to choke on my 8th cup of coffee that morning while the kids dump an entire box of cereal onto the floor) !!!! Oh my gosh!!! I have TOTALLY mislead her. That was not my intention.
Thinking back, I really was only trying to not scare her off with my frumpy slovenliness. Generally I am not on time, anywhere. And I don’t usually do my hair, but I thought I should put forth a little more of an effort with someone I am getting to know. (It’s weird how friendship with other moms is sort-of like dating. You want to put on your best face until you know you can relax a little around them in your own skin.) I certainly did not mean to make her think I was…Perfect.
Hubby to the rescue: It’s OK. I set [previously mentioned co-worker] straight. I told him that generally I come home to a house with cereal all over the floor and no one has gotten dressed for the day.
OK, that was once. But if it serves to burst the perfection illusion my new-found friend has developed about me, so be it. I don’t want to be seen as perfect! That is a lot of pressure.
I think women, moms especially, are set up for failure with the perfectionism thing. I mean, we start out young, unmarried and childless bombarded during our preteen and teen years with images on Cosmo and Vogue of these gorgeous supermodel/actresses and are convinced that is who we need to be (airbrushing be damned!). Our images of perfection may also be tied up in being the smartest, getting into the best college, having the most prestigious (and lucrative) career. We may spend hours on facebook and instagram looking at our friends’ “perfect lives”. Then, we graduate to the competitive mom-ing. Oh wow, that mom fits into her size-2 jeans and always looks like a million bucks, with her five beautiful children in tow who look like they stepped out of a Gymboree ad. And that mom volunteers for Everything at school. Isn’t she superwoman? Plus she holds down a full-time job AND is going to grad school at the same time! How is it possible this other mom keeps her home so immaculate with her two sets of multiples? I have never seen her with a hair out of place, and she’s always cheery and friendly. I’m sure her life is so charmed.
The danger in this “Projected perfectionism” thinking is that it tends to be a whole pack of bulls**t. People, no matter how hard they try to make outsiders believe it is so, are not perfectionistic automatons. There are happy, hard-working people who are living their best life, sure. But they will be the first (often) to admit that their lives are not “perfect”.
Just yesterday, my little group of best girlfriends was blindsided out of the blue with some information that left us stunned and devastated. A marriage we had always viewed as strong, a couple with a strong commitment to their family and community, had suddenly spiraled into a place none of us would have imagined. Domestic violence, safe houses, and divorce proceedings. The whole story is not immediately clear, but what an incredible shock for friends who have only ever seen the one face of their relationship. How could we have missed if something so dangerous was going on with our friend? Why didn’t she come to us for help before? I always had (and still do) look up to her for mentoring with my parenting. She was always so calm, so serene and so capable that I never would have imagined anything like this could happen to her. And as a couple, they completed our little group that hung out camping and doing fancy dinners. Our several families of combined children were good friends. We were all so happy together. I grieve for my friend and her family in this. (Prayers greatly appreciated on her behalf)
The lesson? Well, I could say “Try not to appear too perfect.” But, in reality, it might be more prescient to say, “Don’t assume anyone’s life is perfect.” Everyone has challenges. Everyone has things they keep hidden. If you suspect something with one of your friends that seems “off”, follow up. They may not be ready to share, but they might be able to tell you how to help.
Meanwhile, next time I get together with my new-mom friend and her baby, I think I will put her more at ease by showing up 5 minutes late in my sweats, leaving that grape jelly smeared all over my kids’ faces and regale her with the tale of the “Floor Donuts” (that delightful time I let Spike carry the dozen-box of frosted donuts to the register at the grocery store. He dumped them, the box came open, and all of them plopped juicily to the grubby floor, frosting side down. And before I could begin cleaning them up, Spike wipes his hand over the frosting-smeared floor and begins eating it the delicious goo.)
Who’s a perfect mom, now? 🙂