Sorry kids…I can’t do it all!!!!! (Max age 7 and Sophia age 5 dressed in their Halloween costumes. October 2011).
As a product of the seventies, I grew up watching such hit shows as Leave it to Beaver, Little House on the Prairie and other classics that portrayed women and families as an all-encompassing, idyllic unit; as one big happy family. My TV role models were simple housewives wearing their aprons and huge, happy smiles across their pretty faces while they effortlessly did it all. Ran the house, cleaned it spotless, cooked fresh homemade meals, took care of the kids, helped them with their homework and had freshly-baked cookies awaiting for them after school (not to mention opened the door at five and planted a warm happy kiss on their husbands dear face).
As time passed and I grew older, of course I realized that this reality was not true. There were plenty of families who did not follow these rules or were “traditional”. Divorce rates soared as did secret affairs and the whole meaning of the word family seemed to change significantly across the nation. No longer were married, one-working parent families the norm. Instead, double incomes, single-parents and out of wedlock families became more prevalent.
Some critics have argued that the entire meaning of a family has changed and this change has negatively effected our society as a whole. Whether or not this is entirely true, it is for you to decide. However, what has also been happening is the other extreme of the spectrum: The growth of the supermom mentality.
“What on earth is she talking about here”? you may wonder, perplexed. I’m talking about the moms who are over the top in their pursuit of being the best mom out there. Those moms who feel that they have to do it all and do it without complaints. The moms who are overly successful in their careers or as a housewife, while cleaning their house, caring for their kids, keeping in shape and looking good for her husband. The perfect wife. But is that really possible?
I decided before my first child was born that I would be a stay-at-home mom. Before having children, I was all about my career. I worked extremely hard in college and killed myself to get those A’s. I wasn’t a necessarily gifted student. I just worked harder at getting perfect grades. Sometimes I worked so hard that I got sick. I stressed myself out silly just over trying to do well and feel proud. I graduated with a 3.7 out of 4.0 which made me feel pleased. But once I got a real job, I realized why on earth did I kill myself over those grades? It didn’t even matter. Yes, it helped to have a nice GPA on my resume but aside from that, no one really cared about the A’s except me.
Fast forward to my working years in the business world, I never truly seemed to find a job that I enjoyed. I tried and tried and worked hard. But every job I ever did left me feeling empty inside and unsatisfied. I was able to pay for myself at 23 years old which felt like quite an accomplishment. Yet, I realized what a disappointment the real world really was. I was accustomed to always hearing “the world is your oyster” from my motivating parents. Yet, was it? I felt trapped in one unhappy job after the other. It was almost a blessing in disguise when I got laid off from my job at 32, went on a trip to Australia, got home and decided….”hmmm….isn’t it about time to start thinking about having kids”?
I’ll never forget the comments I received from my working friends about my decision to stay at home. Perhaps the most offensive one was “I won’t think bad of you if you don’t work”. That was from my ex-bestfriend. I knew I’d face a lot of criticism as well as encouragement by others. For some strange reason, deciding to stay at home and raise a family is sometimes looked down upon by other professionals. But it was my choice. A choice that I will never ever regret as long as I live. The best choice I could have made in my life was to stay at home with my children and I feel lucky to have been able to have this choice. I realize many mothers can’t stay at home with their children, even if they wanted to.
The first three years as a stay-at-home mom were brutal. I had severe postpartum depression with my first child and then had a new baby girl four days after my son turned two. Exhaustion haunted me. I gave 100 percent of me to my children and there was nothing left. Nothing for me or my husband. I believe that caring for young children is perhaps the hardest job ever. We are without a village as they like to say. In the past, families weren’t so isolated and you had a ton of other family members around to help you out and get through it. Nowadays, life is different and families are spread out, like mine, leaving a new mom completely on her own to care for a demanding newborn baby.
I look back at these days in disbelief and astonishment wondering how on earth I managed to survive when even taking a simple shower was a struggle and a reward. But being there for my children to see their first smiles, watch their first steps and marvel at them in wonder as they grew, has been a true gift. Perhaps the greatest gift I’ve ever received.
Now that the kids are in school my life is beginning to change. My son is away all day at first grade while my daughter is away four mornings a week at preschool. Windows of time are opening up. My mind is coming out of the mommy fog and my life is coming back to me. I’m getting to know myself and my husband once again. I am once again doing the things I love. It feels good but also a little intimidating.
You see, there is this huge pressure in life to be a supermom. That over-achiever, that always the best mom. I try so hard to not follow that path. To not be the mom always volunteering in class, making the best, healthiest meals, looking perfectly put together and being at every single event in my children’s lives. But it is hard. Very hard. Perhaps I put too much pressure on myself. I want to achieve and be loved by my family and admired by my peers. But sometimes (like now that I’ve worn myself out so much I’m stuck at home with a terrible cold and have to go out of town tomorrow) I need to step back and realize that I’ll never be a supermom. I can try my best to be a wonderful mother, wife and citizen, but I’ll never be perfect. I’ll always be just me and I’m only one person.
So perhaps it is time to stop chasing rainbows and learn to relax more. Enjoy my downtime. Take advantage of being sick. Let others do the work for once instead of feeling like I’ve got to do everything. The world won’t disappear. It will all be waiting for me when I return, refreshed, healthy and ready to seize the day!
Stay tuned….instead of organizing my thoughts on my upcoming New Zealand posts or going on a run or cleaning the house or packing for DC or making dinner….I’m going to take a nap and try to beat this cold!