I was deep in conversation with my boss about our current parental challenges when she tossed something at me I didn’t expect: she called me a “better than average mom”. Me? Really?
Not really being sure what constitutes “average”, but being wholly surprised that I could be considered above that waterline, I pointed out what I tend to see on Facebook that often induces my own sense of being behind that particular curve.
There are the moms who seem to be able to handle it all…
…their hair and makeup always look spectacular.
…they always rock these sweet outfits that make them look so ridiculously cute.
…their kids are on multiple sports teams each and the schedule seems to manage itself.
…they’re so lovey-dovey with their spouse or significant other that you wonder if they’re secretly still newlyweds.
…they always seem to be cooking the most amazingly complex, attractive food that takes a ton of time and that their kids just LOVE.
…they’re typically on their way to or coming back from a workout where they just crushed a personal record or finished off the latest Beachbody DVD.
In other words: they’re fricking fantastic at being moms AND getting it all done.
Or are they?
My boss (probably) rightly pointed out that we typically only take pictures at our best. True enough, I don’t see a ton of people taking selfies in meetings when they’re being told that the thing they’ve been working on is getting sidelined or defunded in favor of something else. And rarely do they stop to take video of little Timmy having THE MOST EPIC MELTDOWN EVAR AND ISN’T IT SOOOOOO FUNNY. In general, you don’t see these same moms showing snaps of their ultimate bedhead or how they look trying on the pants that don’t really fit super-well because women’s sizing is complete bullshit and any size in one designer may be a complete other size in another designer.
In other words, while we show all of these pictures of us at our best, it’s easy to assume that when we don’t have those ourselves we must be at our worst. We’re psyching ourselves out, seeing pictured perfection that’s lit just so and snapped with costly digital SLR’s–not looking at the reality when the accent lights are put away and the best you’ve got is the camera on your old iPhone 5.
I don’t know that there’s a perfect mom out there, although I think that every mom who tries to be perfect is striving for something that looks like success to them. And it’s really easy to fall back on the assumption that if little Timmy isn’t an A student who plays three sports and two instruments, who volunteers in his spare time and cleans the house, that somehow you’re a failure as a parent.
The thing is, it’s not our responsibility as parents to outshine each other; our responsibility is to raise civilized humans that can grow up to be improvements on the original models. We shouldn’t be setting ourselves up to assume that every mom who rocks some fab blow-out is looking like that all the time–nor should we ignore those times when we look in the mirror before heading out and our own hair looks REALLY FRICKING CUTE. Call it out. Note it. You don’t have to take a picture of it to remind yourself that it happened.
My idea of the actual average mom is someone like me:
…she has a pretty full day, whether that day is spent at home, at a business, or somewhere in-between.
…she has those days where she looks really adorable or hot, and she has other days where you wonder if she needs to do laundry and learn about that thing called “a comb”.
…she cooks as healthy as she can based on what she can afford–both in time and money–and she makes choices all the time about whether she can “afford” to cook more than one meal or if the kids will just have to deal with whatever’s put on the table. (This also assumes that she’s the one doing the cooking, which may not be the case.)
…she wants to be healthy, for whatever definition that is in her mind, and she could always do more–but she’s trying. And some days, she just deserves credit for even thinking about trying, because even that can be hard.
…she maps out her schedule in her head on a daily basis, trying to figure out how to keep all the moving parts of her life from colliding in spectacular fashion.
…she sometimes yells at the kids because they’re not always behaving like those smiling, happy-faced kids that you see in those random posed pictures.
…and–most importantly–she deserves a freaking break every now and again, because perfect doesn’t and shouldn’t exist.
Our kids won’t always be perfect, either, and misbehaving isn’t always a sign of bad parenting. Sometimes it’s just fatigue or hormones or hunger or stress or any one of 1,000 other things that we can’t tell because the Psychic Hotlines just don’t work.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that we all should cut each other some slack–and we need to save a bit of that for ourselves, too. It’s hard to unlearn years of self-suppression, but maybe we each deserve the opportunity to consider ourselves “above average” from time to time.