I’m about to say something that could really tick off a whole group of people; a group of which I am a part, a group both fiercely loyal to each other and also at times pretty judgy toward each other. I’m not out to get this group; I’m trying to come to peace with my standing in it.
For those of you who either aren’t moms or simply don’t read mommy blogs, here's an example of something you’ll find on almost every single one:
“You are enough! Whatever you did today, it was perfect.
You slept on the couch while your kids cut each other’s hair and ordered pizza for themselves? It’s all good! You deserve it, for everything you do. You are always taking care of them them them, it's time you put you first.
You do you, sister!
You’ve got this. You are amazing, just as you are.
You woke up like that, and you're killing it!”
I love this stuff. I eat it up.
One of my favorite posts is from the patron saint of mommy bloggers, up there with the Pioneer Woman: Glennon Doyle Melton's Don’t Carpe Diem. This post spoke to my soul, brought head nod after head nod and even a tear or two like,
She gets me! I’m not the only one! Preach!
This is the highest compliment a blogger can receive, in my opinion. That she has revealed her truth in such a way that helps others feel less alone.
But something started to happen when I absorbed a lot of this kind of messaging. It’s sort of the way I feel when I am deeply immersed in The Bachelor (here I go messing with yet another wasp’s nest).
Disclaimer: I have spent years of my life (beginning at age 16 with the premier season) glued to the TV every time The Bachelor or Bachelorette was on.
I only gave it up a few years ago (unintentionally, not for any noble reason), and then I just haven’t gotten back into it.
The thing is, from the perspective of the me who is not currently hooked, I think of the me who is hooked and I see things I don’t like. I see hours and hours of precious free time spent on TV, then websites about the TV because I can’t do anything without mining all pertinent information on said thing, and then some of my best relationships become centered around this particular kind of TV.
I see the putting aside of other goals that can only be reached in the few hours of alone time I have each week, and I see a lot of stagnation.
I become more gossipy, more superficial, less interested in reading, less interested in getting to know my people on a deeper level- or even a lighter level that is more uplifting and requires more engagement.
Before you burn me at the stake, understand this: The Bachelor can be replaced with anything in your life you feel is a less-than-innocent-guilty pleasure. Some people can responsibly watch The Bachelor and go about their productive, non-gossipy lives. I haven’t reached that level of enlightenment, so for me, things like The Bachelor are vices.
If I stay long enough in a place where my core relationships are with people who watch The Bachelor every week together, I will dive right in. I will bring the snacks. I will discuss, ad nauseam. I will. And I will love every second.
The bottom line is: I am impressionable. Since I’m impressionable, I need to be careful. I am also inherently lazy. I’m not someone who has consistently woken up at 6am and done… anything. Even though my kids wake up at 5-6, there are very few mornings when I get up and do the same thing each day.
I can push through and get things done when they need to be done, but it requires a lot of mental preparation and self-motivation to get started.
When you put this all together--I’m impressionable and I’m lazy--you can imagine what goes on in my head when I’m reading a blog post praising every woman/mother to walk the Earth:
I dive right in. I do not hesitate to adopt the messages into my head and heart. I don't struggle to believe that I'm enough or that I have done enough today or that I am doing just fine exactly where I am. I embrace that message and wrap it around myself like a warm, cozy, comfort zone.
As you can see, it’s not good for me to hear this all the time. I probably shouldn't have You're Perfect! as my mantra. All it has done for me is lead me to believe that I am okay stagnant.
Yes, maybe I'm okay as a human being and I still deserve to be alive and not burned at the stake, but next year at this time, if I stay at this rate, will I be okay? In my own heart?
Will I have that deep and lasting satisfaction that can come only from progression? Is my telling myself that I'm perfectly fine and good today really useful for me long-term?
When I visualize the kind of woman I want to be ten years from now, what are the things that kind of 42 year old woman would have been doing at 32? Are they the things I'm currently doing? Am I at least giving my best effort to the refinement of the most essential areas of growth?
Now, let's not be ridiculous. I definitely want to hear that I am enough from my husband, my kids, my kids’ teachers, my employer, my colleagues, my friends... basically from anyone to whom I have an ounce responsibility.
It would be great if they always thought I was amazing, that I am doing a wonderful job and showed me the appropriate level of appreciation and gratitude at all times. So nope, I'm not ready to give that up. Keep up the kudos, people.
But I'm starting to doubt the benefits of seeking out this type of talk from the Internet, and then abiding by it, and especially of getting to a place where it's a core belief I have about myself.
It feels a little like giving my kid a bag of M&Ms when he's crying about needing to get shots (controversial topic alert), and then still not even making him get the shot.
As in, not only is there no pain, there is literally sugar-coating over the top of where the pain would have been. The necessary pain.
Yes, being a mother is difficult. Any kind of mother.
It is laborious; it is a roller coaster of emotions, and all the things that Glennon and others point out most eloquently on their sites. And you know what? We are enough. Of course we are, why wouldn't we be? We are human beings with infinite potential (shoutout to Mormon theology!)
We are good moms, we deserve breaks, and we deserve to be the master of our own lives-- making time for ourselves, setting personal goals and having the opportunities to achieve them, not being shamed when we make a not-so-great parenting call... the list of reasons to support moms is endless.
But I've gotten the sense for a long time, as I see more and more "Moms Are Amazing" posts going viral, that maybe we sort of need this kind of talk a little too much.
Maybe we’re a little hooked on it?
What are we missing that has us looking to the often superficial and impersonal depths of the Internet for validation? We read these things and nod and cry and discretely share with our husbands, like, hint hint Honey, and supposedly we agree. Supposedly they're speaking what we already know--that we are good, we are doing our best, we are enough.
But if we are actually enough, why do we need so many articles/posts/essays confirming it? If we already know it and it's already so obvious, why do we act like the whole world needs to hear it on the regular?
Do you see Dads writing blog posts telling each other that they are good enough? No, and you know why? Because they legitimately believe that they are enough. We can argue until Armageddon about all of the messages of oppression that have been sent to women over the centuries keeping us from internalizing this truth, but in the end, the reasons don’t matter in this discussion.
We all have the choice to do or not do, regardless of the objectifying, oppressive, dismissive messaging that the world has given us over the years. We have the power to act and not to be acted upon in every single thing we think and believe.
If we are really enough, let's stop talking about it and just be it. I know I'm enough as I am, but I really can do more than eat cookie dough and watch garbage TV, which has been my reality on more than a few occasions.
Where are the posts that say suck it up and get going? Get off your backside and finish that project you started?
(Something other than fitness posts though. Someone else pushy but not so… exercisy? You feel me?)
I have friends who do this for me, who don't wallow, who don't buy into “you are just fine exactly where you are.” These are typically women who know that they are just fine as they are, but also know that pushing themselves just a little harder will build their self-respect and increase their life's progression.
They keep their essence, and then they kick their own butts. It’s inspiring and gives me permission to do the same, all while believing that whether I succeed or fail that day, I'm still a valuable human.
I read something, I won't even tell you from whom because you will be so mad, but it talked about how writers are making a lot of money from the clicks on posts praising, in particular, Stay-at-Home-Moms.
Typically the people writing these aren't even women. They are men, realizing that these mushy posts go viral because SAHM's are hooked on this external validation; believing that the world doesn't see how challenging, self-sacrificing, and important their job is, they share these articles left and right trying to get the word out.
It made me so angry because it was true-- we are hooked.
These posts can be emotionally manipulative and condescending; condescending because, think about it: do you go out of your way to tell people who are obviously so sure of who they are, so capable, so secure, that they are enough and that they matter?
Likely not. Typically we go out of our way to say those things to the downtrodden, those whom we see as unaware of their value and contribution.
It’s one thing to offer empathy, support, and to commiserate or praise as equals, but it’s another to pity and treat another as if they are dependent on our approval to feel valuable.
It’s a fine line, and I’m getting the urge to move completely away from the line. At my most vulnerable to this validation drug, I started to feel like a victim, even slightly entitled, and sometimes more than slightly.
It’s silly, because when I step away and ask myself, I know the truth:
I’ve got this. You can tell me I’m great, I’m a good mom, I’m enough, but even if you don’t, I’ll be good. I’ll step up. I’ll put my big girl pants on, change out of my sweats, and finish that project. I’ll take both kids to the grocery store without saving it for the five minutes my husband is home, and maybe even clean out a closet while kids are awake!
I’ll get to the friggin’ post office and mail those thank you cards that I actually wrote, and I will make those customer service phone calls I’ve put off for approximately 19 months.
I’m doing a good job, I have a lot on my plate, but I can take a shower. I can go to the gym or do that YouTube workout I bought the equipment for. I can write that journal entry I’ve been putting off, and return those emails that are a year old.
I can find a way to help my neighbor with her yard or donate a little time to that children’s hospital down the street. I can set a schedule for our day and build the structure I’ve been needing to keep my head on straight.
And when I feel like I’m doing a lot, that I’m overwhelmed and unappreciated, I can ask my husband/partner/best friend/child to carry some of my load, to pull their weight a little more, or to give me words of authentic encouragement.
I can ask for exactly what I need and want, just like the grown-up I used to be before I let myself believe the message that everyone should praise me just for existing, just for “keeping an eye” on my kids.
I can do more. I was made for this, and I am just as capable here as I was at the office. At work I had to earn my kudos, my gold stars, my praise and my promotions, and sometimes, despite endless hours and effort, no acknowledgement came. It can be hard, but it's reality.
Here, I am the boss and I can push myself to be greater today than I was yesterday, even if that comes in the form of saying No to mindless Facebook scrolling and Yes to five minutes of reading Tolstoy. Even if it means no one notices or pats me on the back. It still matters. I know I did it, and I'll benefit from it.
Because I know these things about myself, I know them about you, too. You can get up, you can do a little more today than you did yesterday. Even if that's in the form of getting yourself to the point where you believe that as you are today, you are valuable and sufficient.
But never fear, I haven't lost my solidarity. If you send me a text saying that it’s 3pm and you are in your pajamas and your kids have eaten nothing but a Costco box of fruit snacks, I’m going to send you some high-fives and likely share a similar story. I’ve got your back. Let's go to the spa. Momming ain’t easy and all the catch phrases.
I think after all that I actually just wrote a You Are Enough post.
Don't listen to me. Step it up, Woman! You're better than this!