The Mommy Equations
She looked at me over her glass of wine and said, “Sometimes I fantasize about running away- leaving the kids and just starting a new life somewhere else.” Then she took a deep breath, looked down and exhaled with both relief and anxiety as she looked back up searching my face for a reaction to her confession. At that moment, I had a choice to make.
- Express my shock and horror at what she said, exclaiming “You what??!”, which would allow me to maintain my status as the perfect wife and mother and simultaneously make her even more ashamed than she already was.
- Dismiss the comment and her feelings by assuring her, “You don’t really mean that. You’re just having a bad day”, which would shut down the uncomfortable conversation.
- Look at her with sympathy and give my best Southern woman, “You poor thing” or “Bless your heart”, simultaneously making myself feel superior and making her feel alone.
But instead, I…
- Dug in deep, got vulnerable and told her the truth, “I totally understand how you’re feeling. I think we all have those thoughts.”
She immediately said, “It feels really good to just say it out loud. I would never really do that. I love my family more than anything, but sometimes I just feel so overwhelmed.” And as I sat there nodding in agreement, her shame over those thoughts dissipated and we continued sipping our drinks laughing about how crazy motherhood can be.
You see, my friend was not looking for me to be an accomplice in some escape plan from her life. She just needed to know that she wasn’t crazy- that she wasn’t alone in feeling the way she felt. This time, with this friend, I chose vulnerability- that scary, yucky, anxiety-inducing exposure, which makes us susceptible to scrutiny. It would have been easy for me to pick one of the first three responses so I wouldn’t have had to admit to her or myself that I am not the infallible super-mommy that the magazines, TV and countless Internet articles tell me I should be.
Every day there is a new Facebook post on motherhood. I read them all. I just can’t help but click, hoping that this article will reassure me that I’m doing this mommy thing the “right” way. These articles say such conflicting things; it’s hard to even keep up. One will exalt the stay-at-home mom and in effect will assure me that by working, my daughter will end up a disaster. Then I’ll read an article that says working moms are setting an example for their daughters to be strong go-getters. So maybe she won’t end up in prison after all! I feel pretty good until I see the next article, which insinuates that I am an absent mother if I spend any time working on my physical appearance. AND THEN, the next article has a picture of a ripped-10-pack-ab-having mom of three kids under three asking me what my excuse is for not looking like a swimsuit model. Damn, I think, I am not winning at this mom thing.
Makeup + Cute Outfit = “Only Cares About Herself” Mom
No Makeup + Sweatpants = “Let Herself Go” Mom
Organic Homemade Food + Arts & Crafts Guru = “Obviously Has no Life” Mom
Just recently, I’ve heard from quite a few of my fellow performing artist mom-friends that feel like they have fallen behind. Agents have stopped calling, other artist friends disappear (because they are busy performing), and they are left feeling like the choice to be a mom has made them a failure in their own community. On the other hand, expressing anything other than ecstatic joy about being a mom automatically makes any woman some narcissistic psycho.
Is it any wonder that 1 in 5 women in America are on antidepressants or that “mommy juice” has become a thing? I mean, fuck, we don’t even have a chance to do it “right”. And of all of the jobs I’ve ever had, being a mom has come with the most responsibility, the highest expectations and the least amount of empathy.
So as Mother’s Day approaches, I invite you to join me in letting go of all these crazy and conflicting expectations for what a “good” mom is supposed to do or be or feel. I am going to allow myself to be the kind of mom that works for my family and I want other moms to feel the freedom to do the same. And when a mom, (or anyone really) comes to you and says, “I’m tired and this sucks” OR “Sometimes I wish I was still single and childless” OR “I’ve decided to quit my corporate job and be a stay at home mom”, let’s try to dig deep and find empathy rather than judgment, because the last thing we need as overworked, exhausted, stressed-out moms is to feel like we are alone.
You are not alone. You, yes YOU = “Doing a Really Great Job” Mom