Maybe I use the word “confession” too much, but this e-space of mine can be a place to lay it all out, or at least hint at things to see if others are in the same boat as me. Have you seen these campaigns around the interwebs? Ending the Mommy Wars, stopping Breast vs. Bottle Brawls, etc. etc? I like it. It is so easy to get sucked into the comparison game when it comes to parenthood.
I had a big realization the other day, so I thought I’d share so you could laugh at me and laugh with me.
The kids started taking swimming lessons this fall, which admittedly has been a bit of a roller coaster for all of us. It’s not your low-key, splash a little in the water type of class, but instead one that prepares the kids how to actually swim on their own – even when they’re kicking, and crying, and scratching at the instructor’s face (that was Day One of class, by the way, and the scream-cries continued another two weeks). Seeing them grow in their skills and not be scared but call out, “I’m Brave, Mom! Watch me!” and then awkwardly jump into the pool and swim to the designated stairs, or ladder, or floating crocodile is pretty awesome.
So where do these comparison battles amongst moms come in? Well, there is another mom that brings her daughter to class. She looks so well put together (her kid is super cute, too), and I’ve found myself envious and over-hypothesizing her situation. Her outfits are so well coordinated [me: she must just really love clothes and shopping, and not have any other hobbies that keep her occupied], her hair is perfectly styled [me: she only has one 3-year old to manage so she has more time to get ready beyond just brushing teeth and smoothing down bed-mangled hair], and she has no signs of the dark circles like the ones that have haunted my eyes for years now [me: no baby in tow, not pregnant, and probably not staying up too late reading books or grasping at hours of quiet sanity like me]. Meanwhile, across the pool I’m just working on surviving, looking unkempt, and I am totally that hobbling pregnant lady struggling with kids and bags and towels and snacks as we move to and from the car.
Wanna know what happened last week? When I’m feeling especially worn out and she is looking so cute and adorable with her equally cute and adorable daughter, I nearly gasp out loud when the swim instructor says casually that she’s the babysitter. Yes, THE BABYSITTER [me: cue the choir singing HALLELUJAH here] and I want to high-five this stellar babysitter and say, “keep up the great work!” Can I tell you how ridiculously good the relief felt that washed over me? I look at my swelling belly, and my crazy energetic children and think, “Well I must be doing pretty damn good at this motherhood thing if I thought I needed to compete with a babysitter!” A babysitter who gets paid for a job, and most likely isn’t with multiple children 24/7, and gets time to herself on her terms, and could manage a sick day without calling in an army of reinforcements. I, instead, am the mom and this is my crazy busy kind of life.
My momma friends out there: When you are worn down, and feeling broken, know that it is because you carry a huge load on your shoulders. Don’t compare yourself to the babysitters that can do more in a 30 minute swimming lesson, but aren’t there for the everything else. And if you’re looking to other moms to make yourself feel stronger, or relieved, or just a little more put together, we’ve all got our tough days when things don’t line up, and when the chaos swarms above what we easily swam the day before. Or heck, look at my kids and their swimming lessons: even if we start out kicking and crying and scratching about the tough stuff, we can still call out, “I’M BRAVE” and jump in anyway. Right?
P.S. Do you have a story to share like this? Maybe it’s against the Mommy Wars, or just a story where you felt real and authentic instead of following the social norms and acting profile-picture-perfect. I’ve been adding to my stories about being real in motherhood as part of my Let’s Be Real Campaign and might start accepting guest writers. If you’re interested, submit your story to tugboatyarning [at] gmail [dot] com and maybe it’ll get added!