I am a fraud. It pains me to admit this in a place where the people I have tricked may discover the truth. How is it possible that I am in charge of two children, I chaired our school’s auction, or run the school gardens?! Yet here I am, looking competent. Sort of. It’s a charade! Behind the curtain I am overwhelmed, scrambling and dropping details all over the damn place:
- I teach lessons (which I love) in the elementary school garden, but I scheduled the first lesson of spring planting at the same time that I have an eye exam.
- I organized a produce tasting at my big girl’s school while just plain forgetting that I would have to pick up my little girl from preschool at the same time. I kind of forgot about her completely.
- We’re co-hosting a cocktail party fundraiser for Little E’s school, and I neglected to secure a babysitter.
There are loads of more over-scheduling errors, missed dates, unmade beds and poorly cooked dinners that I could list, but I’ve got to hold onto a shred of my dignity. While I did fix the problems above, it was messy and involved making a lot of excuses, telling half truths, and asking people for favors. All the while accepting their praise for all the volunteering I’m doing. FRAUD!
It’s a crappy feeling. I want to feel competent and capable; that I am a super-woman-super-mama-have-it-all-together-exceptional-human. Or even just like a normal can-make-dinner-and-not-forget-to-pick-up-her-children-human. But I feel a little bit like I am failing at all of it.
Could be that it’s just me, but I suspect that a lot of us mamas are overwhelmed and possibly have no idea what the hell is going on in our lives. Our time has become contaminated time. We toggle back and forth from work to kids, to volunteering to home, and back again. Because, as we do one thing, we are busy thinking about the next thing, and then none of the things get the best we have to offer.
Brigid Schulte, author of Overwhelmed: Work, Love and Play When No One Has the Time suggests, and backs up with scientific evidence, that this takes an emotional toll. I didn’t have to read the scientific research to know that I have paid the toll.
We have jobs, we volunteer and we cook. We run errands and do mountains of laundry. We keep our households running. And, oh, yes, we parent. We guide our sweet babies through their lives. We teach them how to not be obnoxious little punks. And we try to squeeze in a date night here and there, or at least a little hanky panky.
“Busy” has become our currency. We trade in this currency with pride, saying, “Oh man, I’m so busy I couldn’t even brush my teeth this morning. What? You need someone to coach Battle of the Books? Sure, I’d be happy to.” What the what?! To whom am I trying to prove something? Myself, my husband, other mamas?
Why can’t we slow down? I don’t know any mamas who would say they have it dialed. That their lives feel smooth, easy and under control. We all report that we are drowning and overwhelmed in the parenting of young children. And although I am loath to admit it, I’m trying to prove something to everyone. I like looking like I am super mom. I like being a figure at my child’s school. I like that the principle knows me and appreciates my work, I like that other parents stop me in the halls to thank me. It validates my choices about parenting. It confirms that I am indeed making a difference for my kids.
And that’s what we want, right? There is nothing more important than doing right by our babies. And THEY sure aren’t falling over themselves to thank us! I hear it gets better when they’re teenagers. Then they’ll be thanking us all the time. Hah!
Let’s start celebrating each other. Not for the 723 hours volunteered, but for the stuff that matters. So here’s to you, Mamas! Congratulations on getting out of bed today and soldiering on. Well done getting your small, sweet monster to soccer on time. You remembered to sign the permission slip? Excellent work! I see your kid eating vegetables, and I salute you.