Sunday, November 21, 2010

the imaginary mom

You know those Facebook statuses that people copy and post until they spread like viruses on tiny, pudgy hands? "A real mom knows..." "Life isn't about..." etc.

I don't like them.

For one thing, what's the opposite of 'a real mom'? I mean, if I don't agree with you, does that mean I'm not a mom? Or I'm a bad mom? Or I'm imaginary?

I know it feels good to declare a stand, to assertively say how you feel before you have to get defensive. I know I do it, too. But I see negative things being desperately shouted as wonderful, and it bothers me.

Sure, right after having a baby-- and for a year or more afterward-- you're not yourself. Your body isn't your body. Your life isn't your life. Your house is a mess. Your sleep doesn't exist. Relationships change and hormones fluctuate and you basically have to dig in your fingernails and claw your way to daylight, until you feel like a person again.

But that doesn't mean that you have to revel in sacrifice. You don't have to put yourself down or deny yourself happiness in order to be a good mom. You just have to hang in there for a while, until you have control again. That's when you get to decide who and what you really are.

I know the "mom uniform" is jeans or yoga pants, oversized shirt, sensible shoes, ponytail, no makeup. And you know what? Dressing like that made me feel like crap. It takes me just as long to put on fitted jeans, cute shoes, a sweater or jacket, jewelry, eyeshadow, and brush my hair. My kids are 2 and 4, and I put them in the bubble bath together and have plenty of time to get myself ready.

So I feel great now, when I'm out in the world. I feel pretty and vibrant. But you know what?

My house is still a wreck.

I'm not proud of it. I'm not going to post that super long poem about how it's better to spend time rocking your children than cleaning up after them. Because that's not me, either. I'm just a bad housekeeper, and keeping things tidy around toddlers and preschoolers is a lot like shoveling snow in the middle of a blizzard. It's a losing bet, and it can make you crazy and take over your life, if you let it.

In fact, the only way I can get any writing or reading done is to go somewhere else-- usually a favorite cafe. Because if I sit down to work, I can see the dishes waiting, the crumbs on the floor, the piles of crap on the island where our entire family unloads. And then I start to feel guilty, and I seriously hate feeling guilty.

So I'm letting go of the guilt.

Just as I had my years of feeling frumpy and unkempt while I toted messy little babies around, so I've realized that there are quite simply going to be a few years where I can't keep the house nice. I'm just not willing to waste my spare pockets of quiet on trying to maintain something that's not maintainable. If I have spare time, I want to spend it being happy and bettering myself and creating things that last.

I don't want to feel guilty any more.

I don't want to feel bad for not reaching some celebrity-set level of beauty in body or home. I don't want to feel bad for taking time for myself instead of slaving for some impossible goal of tidiness. And I don't think other women should be forced to feel guilty for the things they can't do, so guilty that they jump at the chance to copy someone's copied Facebook status as a defense for the fact that life is never perfect.

Because life is never perfect.

Sacrifice of self doesn't make you a better mother. Children mean change and choices, but nothing is permanent. It doesn't define who you are-- it defines who you have to be right now.


If I were going to post that kind of Facebook status, it would be something like:

Right now, the house is messy, but the children are happy. I'm in love with my husband, and I am totally rocking these new boots. Being interesting is better than being perfect. If you agree, go write your own damn status.


Sorry, guys. Had to get that off my chest.


Harley May said...

LOVE THIS and completely agree. At the moment there are goldfish crumbs in crevices lost to men and a folding pile that Leonitus could not conquer.

But there is a tent up in the living room. We are laughing. My husband and I smile at each other over a heap of giggling children.

charissimo said...

If this were Facebook, I wouldn't be able to get to the "like" button fast enough.

Kate Hart said...

^^ what she said. LIKE.

My other status would be "Before you claim this day/week/month is National Awareness of This or That, please check a calendar." I've seen Nat'l Special Ed Week notices every week for like three months now.

Alice Istanbul said...

Awesome post, Delilah! You sure know how to say it.

Whitney said...


Whitney said...

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