Sunday, September 18, 2011

Just Plain Mom

My tv has been bombarded lately by advertisements for a new movie called, "I don't know how she does it." There are clips from the movie, interviews by the actors and actresses and countless discussions on how busy a life the main character leads as a working mother and what a superior being she must be.

The whole thing makes me sick.

First of all I must admit I have never seen the movie, although I have seen enough clips and "teasers" to know I likely never will. I realize it is meant to be a celebration of a woman's strength, an example of all we as working mothers go through every day and the sheer amount of things we are able to accomplish. But to me, its just another example of the often unrealistic demands that are expected of us daily.

Yes, I have been called a Super Mom. But I don't feel super. In fact, I detest that term. It implies that if I don't perform feats of heroism and go far beyond what is expected than I am just simply "mom" and no longer worthy of the title.

I am a mother of three beautiful children. That means I have three separate personalities to raise and nurture, three people to ensure receive an equal amount of attention and love. Three mouths to feed three times a day, three children to clothe and prepare for every changing season. Three dentist/doctor/optometrist/you name it appointments to organize and drive them to, not to mention seeing to the specific needs of each child; one needs glasses, one needs braces, one wants more attention because the other two seem to be getting it for various reasons. There is laundry for three kids, cleaning up after three kids, dealing with a house full of friends of three kids....and on top of all that I work outside the home as well.

I'm not complaining, in fact I love my life. And I do have a lot of help. I am fortunate that my husband is a wonderful father and a huge help with the household, when he is home. Being a military family, however, means that often I can be "solo-parenting" for long periods of time. So life gets busy, sometimes overwhelmingly so, and to be told in the height of such activity that I must be a "supermom" to pull it all off, makes me wonder what I am in the slow times.

Perhaps I am being petty and ungrateful - it certainly sounds that way as I write it out. So I will offer an example: just the other day my husband and I drove our son into the city, which is two hours away from our town, to see an endocrinologist at the children's hospital. The appointment had been made months ago, both our schedules cleared so we could both attend, so off we went. Only to arrive and realize the appointment was in fact for three days later. My blood turned cold, my heart sank to my feet and I felt like a total idiot. There was a lot of waving away of apologies and comforting words from both the nurses and my husband ("Don't worry about it, you're a busy woman") but the truth is, I wrote it down wrong, the fault was mine and mine alone. Being busy doesn't excuse being wrong and still left the hospital staff scrambling. In the end they were able to accommodate us and we did see the doctor (who thankfully was on call and on the premises) but I am still to this day left wondering how I could have made such a mistake.

Upon telling this story to a friend later that day, it was said, "But hey, you worked it out didn't you? That's what us moms do!" But no, I didn't work it out. They did. I wanted to shout, "Don't make me look like the supermom here, I was the dumbass who wrote it down wrong and they were the ones who were nice enough to take us anyway!" Yes I am busy, yes I have a lot on my plate, but isn't it my job to keep everything organized? To always know where we are going and when?

But you see that's the trap. The "supermom trap". By giving me that label I feel I have to live up to that standard and never, ever falter. It gives me the impression that as long as I stay on top of all the laundry, the homework, the school council meetings, the multitude of appointments, than I am doing my job and therefor deserve the "super". But the reality is that I do make mistakes. I sometimes don't get to the mountain of laundry for a week and have my son complain he has no clean underwear. I have work weeks so busy that I forget to sign all three school agendas and don't realize when one isn't completing homework regularly or another has a project on the go or needs a permission slip signed. I have forgotten about birthday parties, missed class trips and realized on the first snow day that one or more of my kids didn't have winter boots that fit them because I simply hadn't found the time to go buy them. I've made my daughter late for dance class, I still haven't sewed all my son's cubs badges on his sash, and if you show up randomly at my house (which is always encouraged) you may very well find it in shambles.

But I have lots of good days too. I am very honest with work and refuse to work a full week. I am open about the fact that working full time takes too much away from my family and I simply cannot keep up. People wave that away and think I'm being modest, but its true. I need a day or two a week to catch up on my housework, my grocery shopping and just being a mom. By being honest like that I am able to have that tea party with my youngest daughter after supper and help my son with his math homework as if I have all the time in the world. I am able to have those all important conversations with my "almost teenager" about who is doing what and who likes who. Mostly I just listen, but the point is, if I'm there she talks to me and at this age, that is golden. I also make it a point to carve out some time for myself, even when it seems impossible (and admittedly its easier now that my kids are getting older and all in school) and I have learned to ask for help when I need it. That was a big lesson that was a long time coming.

During one of those daytime tv interviews regarding this new movie, the co host of the program, also a working mother of 3, said, "My goal is at the end of the day to have only disappointed everyone just a little, because I know I can't do everything right and please absolutely everyone." Well said. I do what I can and when I make a mistake, it only makes me human. I don't need the specter of some over achieving, always perfect, never unwavering...supermom to make me feel less than what I am: a good mother doing the best I can in a busy life.

What ever will I do with myself when they're all raised and gone?