Because I’m the mom of many, I’m especially sensitive to how I present our family. I’m aware that moms of two are allowed to vent about their kids, express frustration, be stressed out, and look overwhelmed and no one thinks twice. It’s normal, right?
Unfortunately, moms like me don’t feel like we have that luxury. If we vent about our kids, express frustration, are stressed out, or look overwhelmed, we feel judged for bringing it on ourselves by having too many kids. It’s just the way it is. Another mom of many has explained it better here.
I’ve long given up on being a “together mom.” Thankfully, Pinterest has never held an appeal and I’m content not being crafty or particularly fashionable. Frankly, it’s a good day if my kids are wearing shoes when we leave the house as a family. My expectations are pretty low.
Four years ago, I left my life as a homeschooling, stay-at-home mom and joined the ranks of other professional working mothers. I felt like I’d stepped into a different culture. As the former, I was used to engaging with other moms of many on a tight budget whose homes were chaotic, messy, and fun like mine, who were used to stretching a dime so thin you could see through it, who overlooked the unbrushed hair of a toddler to the sweet smile underneath.
Suddenly, as the latter, I found myself surrounded by dual-income women with disposable finances whose homes could grace the covers of magazines, whose family outings were to pricey ticketed events, and who bought their kids’ clothes from trendy boutiques. Still feeding a family of ten on one-income, I was out of my depth and comfort level. I glossed over the details of our freakishly large family and Beverly Hillbillies daily life, and mostly kept my mouth shut.
Four years later, I’ve opened up a lot, mostly with jokes and self-depreciating humor about my life but didn’t realize how reticent I was to be completely real, completely me, until this weekend.
My youngest daughter and I were invited to the princess-themed birthday party of a co-worker’s daughter. Of course, KJ was thrilled to go. The morning got away from me and by the time we were getting ready, several awful revelations hit me full force and at the same time.
- KJ’s hair was dirty…like stringy, dirty and there was no time to wash it. No amount of brushing would make it look presentable.
- Someone had thrown her Elsa dress in the dryer and now it was matted and wrinkled and tacky looking. I’m not sure I even own an iron nor was there time to try and find it.
- The camo pants she insisted on wearing under the dress had to go, but the best I could do was slightly clean jeans.
- The only matching shoes I could find were pink tennis shoes with about an inch of dried mud caked on them.
- Her jacket was in the wash and her only other choice was a zippered hoody…with a princess dress and muddy tennis shoes. Awesome.
- We were going to be really late as it was and still had to pick up a present on the way there because that is just how I roll, dang it!
None of it should have mattered. None of it. But the truth is, it all did. It bothered me so much. I needed my five-year-old to look good to validate me as a mother. I was ashamed for even feeling embarrassed, but it was still there.
On the drive to the store for the present, I tried to get KJ to skip the party. “We could have a lunch date, just you and me!” She was having none of it. (Good for her!) So instead, I prayed. I repented of my foolish pride, prayed that I would be a blessing to someone else at the party, that KJ would have fun, that the birthday girl would be honored, etc.
In retrospect, of course I feel foolish. We were welcomed by wonderful hosts, we ate amazing Filipino food, KJ was treated like a princess (and got to meet one!), we had fantastic fellowship, and were so grateful and delighted to have been part of it.
I almost made us miss all of it because of some imaginary comparison and feeling like I didn’t measure up. It wasn’t that I was trying to measure up to other people’s expectations. It was that I wasn’t measuring up to the spin I’d created.
For example, when the young moms at work asked if I give my kids’ baths every day or every other, I answered, “Not everyday. It dries out their skin,” which of course implies I bathe them every other day, right? Spin. The reality is, the little kids get a bath when I notice they need one. Which is usually when their hair looks greasy or they’re visibly dirty.
Why didn’t I just say that? Because I’m insecure and I don’t like to be judged. Basically, I’m proud. I’m convinced that other people are doing it better and I don’t want to be found lacking. But we’re all lacking. In some way or another, every single one of us is lacking. And we’re going to continue to feel insecure and isolate ourselves due to comparison and continue to spin our lives if we don’t start letting our guards down and being real.
I do have one regret about the party (besides being crazy late, as usual). I wish I would’ve let KJ wear the camo pants under the princess dress. Any five-year-old that eats a plate of Filipino food with gusto and asks for a snake painted on her face instead of a flower is well on her way to living a life comfortable in her own skin. I don’t want to stand in her way with my own hang ups.
I just want to teach her without a doubt, no matter her own lacking, there is grace for that.