I recently posted an article/blog post on my facebook about the Elf on a Shelf mommies, kind of making jest of the idea. These incredibly creative, passionate women, precious mama bear friends, who all work just as hard (harder in most cases) at managing the mommy/work life balance, amaze me sometimes at the lengths they go to to make everything and wonderful for their children. I do not have the energy at the end of the day to think creatively about what mischief an elf is going to get into in our home. I see these amazing feats on Pinterest, where the elf makes messes, rearranges furniture, and generally causes havoc that I, as the mommy, would have to then clean up. Also in consideration is the fact that we have two large dogs, and two mischievous kitties, primarily the kitties, who roam the house when we are sleeping, and do whatever they want (our cats are thugs, basically, without any regard for the rules of our home).
One of my dear mommy friends startled me one time by telling me that she has the highest regard for me, as a mother, because of everything I do for my child, since I seem to have boundless energy to play, make things with him and for him, and still manage to cook, clean and go to work every day. This made me stop and think, because I don’t think of myself as one of “those” mommies. I see these perfect mamas at preschool drop off, hair done, smiles in place, children dressed in coordinating clothes (with buttons….which my child has been known to refuse from time to time), and children who look like they probably had a nice, balanced breakfast their mother prepared for them, after they got out of bed on time, cheerily and happily. I am not one of those moms. Last week, Cole had his regular cheese, and then a yogurt smoothie, and then grabbed two gingerbread cookies as he walked out the door (yes, fabulous preschool teachers, he did have cookies for part of his breakfast, right before I dropped him off for you all to manage all day, Merry Christmas!). I see more of these perfect mommies on social media, and their children are wearing sweaters (while mine loves to simply be wearing his underwear, and sometimes a cape), eating vegetables, smiling sweetly for the camera and generally doing whatever their mama asks them to do, while they carry their perfectly created lunch, in a monogrammed lunch box (poor Cole Keller wishes for his own lunch box on the daily, but I am trying my best to get him to try new foods at school).
My mother always tells me what a good job I am doing, mostly because she is my mother, and let’s face it, she has to. We speak often about the differences between raising kids when I was little, in the magnificent 80s, and now, in the age of sharing online. It had to be a little more simple then to not have all of your successes and failures documented to the general public. While I am certain I showed out in the grocery story and at church (I specifically remember what the air conditioning unit behind our church looked like, since I was frequently taken there during the service for a “talk”), I doubt my mama had to watch her precious friends online every day doing everything the right way, while she felt most days like a big fat failure at mommy life. Since I work with teenagers in a mental health and kind of life coach mentality, I talk to them frequently about the importance of being the same person privately and publicly. Everyone has that one friend, if you are lucky, who posts ridiculous posts online, and you find yourself saying, “right sister. Keep trying to convince yourself. We know the truth”. I feel personally that if my students and friends know that I also struggle with self image and sometimes uncertainty, they can better relate to me, that I am my most authentic self. No one wants to share their struggles with someone who has never struggled, honestly. I need to know that person I am bearing my soul to comes from a place of understanding where I am right now.
So why do we mommies try to be so perfect then, if we know that none of us are perfect and have it all together? If you have a full time job, in addition to being a mommy, you have two full time jobs, basically. So, why don’t we all share in each other’s successes and pick each other up in our failures? I have so many mama bear warrior friends whom I could go to in a moment, and they would listen to my struggle. As a working single mama, I have to sometimes check myself, out of fear that I am doing what I do for Cole out of guilt for not still being a married mama (the struggle is real, all of you fabulous single mamas know), and Cole has a daddy who would move heaven and earth for him, if he asked.
Happy mommy life is always a challenge, even for the most fearless of mamas, but it does not always have to be a competition, mainly because I would lose the competition. Always lift up other women if you can, and share your struggle, and most importantly, don’t feel like your kiddo will be in therapy if he does not have his own personal elf (because seeing that elf torn apart by my giant dog in the morning would put him into more years of therapy….)