I was at a wedding a couple of weeks ago and like a magnet I was drawn to a woman amongst the people and I started speaking to her. She was a beautiful woman but you could see that she has not slept for weeks (if not months) she looked tired, a tad over-weight, and as us Afrikaans folk would say, she looked “gatvol”. She also desperately needed to go get her roots done and maybe a manicure.
One of the first things she said to me is that she is a mom of a 6 month old baby and she works full time. Immediately I mentioned I am a mom of a 3 month old and we clicked. She asked how baby was sleeping and instead of saying that he is an amazing baby and sleeps well (which he does mostly). I decided that I was not going to be THAT mom. You know, the ones that always talk about how perfect their lives are, the ones you can never compete with, the ones that can always recite the rules of raising kids off by heart, straight from whatever kid-raising books they study meticulously in all their off time during manicures and Pilates. I was NOT going to be that mom that leaves other moms feeling like shit.
So instead I said “You know what, it is hard and I am tired” and I carried on explaining that I have not slept in a while because I am always dealing with either a sick/hungry/bored/tired/dirty/thirsty/need to get his homework done 7 year old, or a baby that needs feeding, changing, bathing, burping, being rocked to sleep or being picked up. After that I try to get to house work, cooking, cleaning, the fish, the dogs, the husband and when I am done there, I am trying to respond to emails, write proposals, organize events, work on my business, build my website, write articles, record videos, edit and the list goes on…
I have had many people ask the question “how do you cope with it all?” The answer is I don’t. I drop the ball many times. When I borrow time from my children to attend to work I am dropping the ball. If I am borrowing time from work to attend to my children I am dropping the ball. I drop the ball all the time in my relationship because I am attending to all of the above. I am tired, I have not had a good night’s sleep in a long time. I started getting gray hair for the first time in my life after the second baby and still trying to run my own business. I have never been so freaked out in my life. Half the time I don’t even know what I am doing. Sometimes when I hear the word “mommy” I want to curl into a corner and cry. Sometimes when I look at my watch and realise its 6pm and I have to start doing homework (and I STILL have not cooked dinner) I want to curl into a corner and cry. There is baby shit all over my house (I mean toys and stuff not actual shit). I am not even ashamed to say that I literally loathe feeling so much stress and pressure and chaos, ALL THE TIME, but you know what, its ok because I know I am not alone. For every single thing that I am going through, there are many, MANY moms out there who do and feel exactly as I do. These moms are my tribe.
Next time you are tempted to say to the broken mom that your baby-angel is just perfect in every way, JUST DON’T. Don’t tell her how wonderful your kids eat, sleep, behave, do at school and at sport and extra murals and how well they are doing in the Mandarin class. If your kids are just dreamy in every way, good for you. If you can balance your dinner in one hand, while typing emails with the other, great. But when someone is asking you, how is your baby sleeping? It is actually code for “Help” “Mayday” “Mom-down”. Rather than making that mom feel like shit, even more than she is already, consider to give your baby sitter that look’s after your kids, the credit where its due. Rather offer to help her with something even if it is just advice. Rather say that you also find things difficult at times and give some tips on how you cope. Or even better, just be honest and say that you also have a hard time coping at times. As women we need to support each other and we don’t have to “out-perfect” each other.
As for me I will be here, still hating stepping on Lego, and scooping out dead fish because I couldn’t get around to cleaning the fish tank, but at least I won’t be alone because there will be my mom-tribe who have my back. As for perfect mom, “You can’t sit with us” we have nothing in common.