Lately I’ve been reading a lot of stuff by moms that makes me feel…uncomfortable. I keep wondering why I feel this way. And I realized that it’s because I need a refresher on one of the key concepts that helps free us all from The Cult.
Did you know even I need a refresher now and then? It’s true. When you have to live surrounded by people who have drunk the kool aid, it’s easy to think “Maybe I’m the one who’s crazy.” But no, it’s not me.
Let me back up a minute. What is it I’ve been reading that bothered me? I’ve been branching outside of my usual circle of awesome bloggers I follow–the ladies from The Book, and some other bloggers I really admire. So, what I’ve been coming across lately is a lot of stuff about feeling like you’re not doing enough as a mom. That the kids aren’t perfect; that the house isn’t perfect; that the family photos aren’t perfect.
I keep reading these kinds of things and thinking “I do less and less all the time as a mom. Fatigue sets in by 3PM every day. I can’t even get up with them some mornings because I’m too tired. Am I even a mom anymore? I don’t have a breast anymore. My hair is still so short, it looks like a guy’s. Am I even a woman anymore?” That shit hurts. Those feelings are right under the surface, because as treatment goes on and we add new drugs to my cocktail, the side effects get worse.
So I would quickly click away from their words. And I would feel more and more isolated. And more and more like a failure.
Until one night, I thought, “It’s not you. It’s them.”
It seems to be deeply embedded in the American psyche to be constantly striving for more. Bigger house, higher test scores, more trophies. Nothing is good enough. Nobody is doing good enough, not when there’s room to do better. And we lie to ourselves and say that more is possible, even when it’s clearly not. Harvard is hovering off in the distances if on,y you sign Little Sally up for enough sports teams and community service experiences and foreign language classes.
Well, I don’t want that kind of more. I don’t want a life spent running around like a chicken with my head cut off. I don’t see how that life would make me happy.
I’d settle for the more I had before cancer. More energy. More years to come. More smiles. But I can’t have even that kind of more. I have less now.
Does that make me less of a good mom? Does my less make you say “She’s a shitty parent”? Are you an asshole? No, of course not. It makes you say “She’s doing the best she can, and her kids are turning out fine.” You say “Of course you’re a woman, look at how feminine Sinead O’Connor was with that bald head. And that chick from the first Star Trek movie in the 70’s, wow she was hot.”
I think the real problem is this: we look at our lives, and we say, “I’m unhappy. Something must be wrong with me. Why can’t I seem to make this work?” But it’s not us. It’s the pressures the world is putting on us. It’s the feeling like you’re failing, but the only thing you’re failing at is meeting a completely stupid expectation that won’t make you happy even if you meet it. It’s that we’re not looking at our lives and deciding “These are the things that make me happy–what do I do to achieve them?” Instead, we’re saying “I think I’m supposed to do these things, because I see others doing them, and I can’t seems to do them. I am a failure.”
No. No more. Today is the day I stop looking at other families and judging my parenting by their actions. Instead, I will look at what is important to me, and what my values are, and what my limitations are, and choose my actions accordingly. If I’m too tired to make dinner, and too tired to fold clothes, I will remind myself that I value cuddles with my kids over a fresh made meal and unwrinkled shirts. If five nights a week practice doesn’t work for our family’s schedule, we’ll pick an activity that does work for us. If other families do it differently, it doesn’t matter. They do what works for them, and we’ll do what works for us, and it’s all good.
I won’t keep aiming for more. I will be happy with less, because my less will consist of what is important.