I’m the only parent struggling right now. Everyone else seems to be fine. Parenting is such a challenge and I’m part of the minority of people who feel this way. Why don’t my children behave like other peoples’ children? If I told people how I really feel, what would they think of me?
How often do you feel this way?
Though it’s not often (or not as often as when I was a new mother), when I’m at a low ebb, it’s easy to give over to these negative thoughts. When I’m thinking like this, I convince myself that it’s only me who feels this way. Down the rabbit hole I go, where reason and logic hold no purchase.
Last week I wrote a post about trying to get out the door with young children, and I noticed a recurring theme in the comments:
“All the other mothers look calm and I feel frazzled.”
“Of course it goes without saying that many of us struggle to get places on time with children yet I’ve found the school gates to be a place of smiles and ‘good morning’s’ rather than mothers like me who clearly look like their morning has NOT started well!”
“Somehow to know that we all struggle some days is comforting….”
So it’s not just me. I’m not the only one who wonders why other mothers seem to have such ordered lives, when mine is a whirlwind. I’m not the only one who thinks that the neighbours can hear me when I shout, and what must they think of me, because of course they never shouted at their children. I’m not the only one who wishes my house could be a little tidier, a little cleaner, like the other mothers I know.
I’m not the only one making comparisons and coming out at the bottom.
But then again, I’m part of the conspiracy to build the Potemkin village that my mothering life is ordered, tidy and calm. I went to a friend’s immaculate house a few weeks ago, and when she came to mine a few days later, I confess I tidied, ran the vacuum around and cleaned the bathroom sink. I hoped that I’d pulled off the illusion that it’s always like this, not covered with a layer of crunchy detritus that sticks to the soles of your feet, as it normally is. Then, a day or so later, I was stomping out the front door with smoke coming out of my ears, only to come face to face with my neighbour, whereupon I quickly re-arranged my face, turned on a smile, and when asked how I was I said, “I’m fine, thanks, and you?”
So there’s a pretence that must be maintained. I’m fine. You’re fine. We’re all fine. We all arrive at the school gates, having had a frustrating morning, and we turn on the smiles and pretend that everything’s jolly. “How you doing? Alright.” I love that in south Wales, they not only ask you how you are, but provide the answer as well. “Yeah, alright” is the only expected and appropriate answer.
If you say, “No, I’m terrible,” then you’re a moaner. If you say, “Actually I’m having a brilliant morning” then you’re boasting. You can’t win. You can’t be real.
But I want us to be real. I want us to be honest. That honesty starts with what we say to ourselves. There is no utility in telling ourselves that everyone else is fine. Maybe I should whisper it because it’s really rather counterculture to say it, but they’re not fine. They’re human, just like you. I want us to believe in the fact that we’re in this together. Some parenting moments are wonderful and some are downright challenging. Some are mundane, some are mind-numbing. Let’s free ourselves from the artifice that undermines connection and awaken to the fact that we’re not all that dissimilar. Let’s make ourselves vulnerable and look one another in the eye. Look a little closer and see yourself in those eyes. Then there really will be a cease fire in the so-called Mommy Wars.
Like the proverbial swans, even though everything seems smooth and graceful on the surface, underwater we are all paddling like mad and secretly hoping nobody notices. Or maybe it’s just me.
(See? There I go again.)
©Lisa Hassan Scott, 2013.
Thank you to Lori Pickert for inspiration. See her brilliant post about renovating habits of mind here.
Photo credit: By Frank Vincentz (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.