Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about our perceptions of each other as moms. It’s easy for me to slip into the negative cycle of comparing myself to others and feeling like everyone else has it so much more together than me. When I read other blogs or talk to other moms, I imagine that their floors are sparkling, their children are well behaved, and their days are organized. This adds to my shame over the state of my house, my guilt over my kids’ behaviours, and my stress about my disorganization. I imagine them cooking every meals from scratch using all the food groups and feel embarrassed about my kids sometimes making themselves peanut butter sandwiches for lunch or me feeding them scrambled eggs for supper. I look at these other moms, at the parts of their lives I can see, and feel that I come up short.
But that’s the thing…I am only able to see the parts of their lives that they want me to see. I don’t see that maybe they struggle with controlling their temper with their husband or binge eating or yelling at their kids or drowning under laundry. I don’t see their insecurities or their flaws. I don’t hear about real issues their kids are having. Some moms may share that their 2 year old tantrums or their baby still isn’t sleeping through the night, but most don’t share that their 9 year old is still having tantrums or their teen is sneaking out at night. I’m just as guilty of it as the next person. And in our effort to make everything look like it is okay, we are isolating ourselves and making each other feel inadequate.
Then again, I want to be a positive person, an optimistic person. If all I ever shared were the hard things, this would be a pretty depressing blog! I guess it’s about balance.
One of the biggest reasons that this has been on my mind lately is because I lost a relationship in my life because of comparison. A friend or family member of mine told others for many years that it was hard having me in her life. In her words, “she has seven kids, homeschools, and does everything. How can I compete with that?” When the people she was saying this to told me what she had said, my response to them was to joke, “If I had known it was a competition, I’d have been trying a lot harder!”, but in truth, it hurt. It hurt because I had shared my struggles with this person. I had shown her my imperfections, my messy house, my weaknesses. I had shared with her my insecurities and fears about my failings as a mom and she still felt intimidated by me, by what strangers thought of me. She was so worried about being compared to me and coming up short that she instead began to distance herself from me and even take actions and speak words that were hurtful.
I am sad that comparison, the misperception of others, and perhaps jealousy resulted in the loss of a friendship with someone who had been in my life for a long time and due to circumstances will be in my life for many years to come. I sometimes examine the role that I played in the end of the relationship and wonder if I had been more transparent (not to her, because I was transparent to her), but to mutual acquaintances and strangers, if the relationship would still be there. Then again, I can’t imagine introducing myself to someone for the first time and saying, “hi. My name is Sharla. Yes, I do have seven kids, but my house is a disaster, I often feel like a failure, and I second guess my parenting decisions all the time.”
At the end of the day, I can’t change that I have a big family and choose to homeschool. I also can’t change that I find it fun to plan parties and do indoor activities with my kids. If it were a competition, I may “beat” some other moms in the party planning department, but I would lose every time in the ‘housekeeping’ category or in the ‘outdoor activities with kids’ category. God made each of us with gifts and with weaknesses. Organization does not come naturally for me. I don’t like going outside. Keeping house or keeping a schedule are also not on my list of talents. When I compare myself to others in these areas, I am always going to feel like a failure.
I’d love to wrap up this post with some lovely words of wisdom or platitude about how this problem among women can be solved, but I don’t have the answers. I have resolved to be more transparent, both in my real life and in my blogging. Helping others know that they are not the only ones who struggle with clutter or organization or insecurities is one of the reasons that I started this blog. It is the reason that I have been willing to display real pictures of the mess in my house and document the truth about my struggles to overcome it. That hasn’t been easy for me. It’s been a bit embarrassing, but if I hadn’t done it, I would have missed out on the comments from others who said things like “my kids saw the picture and thought it was our house” or “I’m so glad I’m not the only one”. Those comments help reassure me that no human being is perfect. I am not the only one.