I walked into the room with my chin tilted down trying to steal an inconspicuous glance at my stomach. Sucked in? Check. The room was abuzz with chatter, broken momentarily by smiles and greetings directed at me. I gave my cautious, tight lipped half smile in return and quickly found a seat in the emptiest corner of the room. I watched women daintily adding food to their plates. A sprinkling of pita chips here, a dollop of hummus there, a thin slice of pumpkin cake layered with cream cheese icing and pomegranate seeds, a glass of root beer. All delicious and such a pity that more eager consumption was not occurring. I stood and made my way over to the buffet for a hefty piece of that pumpkin cake and a large serving of hummus with some pita chips on the side. Lauren joined me at the table for some chit chat but I heard next to nothing she said. I was too busy analyzing her. She looked amazing as usual. Not a blonde hair out of place on her head, flawless makeup, tan skin, 5 foot 10 inch frame, a stomach so flat you’d never know she had a 2 year old. If only I looked like Lauren. She had it so together, to take care of herself like that and look so presentable every day. She was definitely not someone I could relate to. I went back to my corner and sat down to eat and observe.
Across the room sat Anya, her voluminous strawberry blonde curls hanging over her shoulders. She had a smile to match Giada De Laurentiis’, bright white teeth and all and a personality so full of optimism it was contagious. I liked her a lot but I still hadn’t let myself get close. Her barely 5 year old son could recite at least 10 different scriptures from memory and could read and write already. Not only that but he was the best behaved, most polite, most intelligent child I’d ever met. I knew she was the perfect mother, the kind who loved every single moment of both pregnancy and mothering and put all her interests on the back burner when kids came along. I couldn’t relate to that.
There was Tierny, our host with the patience of an angel as she sent her girls back to their bedrooms for the third time that evening. I was certain she never yelled at her kids. There was Lydia, who managed to balance daytime mothering with evening college courses and still stay happy and bubbly at every event. By the end of that evening, I was certain I was the worst mother in the group. I didn’t have white teeth, I yelled at my children, I was a bit of a pessimist, I’d never finished college, my smile was crooked, I didn’t do my hair enough, I couldn’t tan and I liked to go overboard on dessert! Why was everyone else so amazing? Where had I gone wrong?
Several weeks later I had a visit from a relatively new friend. I had liked her the moment I saw her. She was tall with hair the color of ebony and an accepting manner about her. We were having a nice conversation and I was talking about my latest adventures. Did you know I took up jewelry making? Oh and I also decorated another cake. The kids and I did this. I crocheted this. I’m teaching myself this. Then suddenly she stopped me and asked me a question:
“How do you do it all?”
I was stunned at first and she went on to use phrases like “amazing person” and “could never do that”. I think I said something along the lines of, of course you can learn these things and I’m just motivated. But the conversation left me feeling flustered and frustrated and thinking of what I wish I had said.
Amazing?!? HAH! Half my motivation for being constantly busy is to try and escape the hell that is my mind. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is something I try to live with as often as I try to run away from it. How do I do it all? I have never “done it all”, never will I be able to “do it all”. Sometimes I’m not the best mother I should be because I’m focusing to much on my hobbies. I’m as selfish as I am giving.
And what do you mean you could never do that? You could learn anything you wanted to, you could become anyone you wanted to, it just takes desire and drive to accomplish. I’m not wonder woman, I just have different priorities is all.
That’s when the light bulb went off in my head. Somebody saw me the way I saw so many other mothers. How could this be? I didn’t want to be the unapproachable perfect mother and wife I’d made so many others into. I knew I had faults and plenty of them, but those around me only saw my best behaved self, if you discount licking the pita chip salt off my fingers anyway. Then I realized that maybe those other moms who I felt I couldn’t relate to, might have faults to. That maybe, if I tried to be my real self around them they would feel comfortable doing the same and the burden of putting on even a small fasade could be set aside for some serious soda chugging, finger licking, belching good times. (Ok, well maybe I’m the only woman who belches but you don’t have to hold that against me right)?
I’m not perfect. I’m not a wonder woman. No mother is, but most of us are trying to better our families and ourselves, and that is doing something wonderful.
This article was originally published July 8, 2008 at summersnook.com