Lately, I have felt rather beaten down. Work related obligations, household responsibilities and child-rearing in general have taken its toll on my temperament, my time and the shininess of my hair. The spring in my step hasn’t been quite as bouncy, the grin on my face not so quick, the witty retorts not readily available. I’m not necessarily unhappy, but the joy just isn’t as exuberant.
Mistakenly, I make comparisons with my peers, sitting perfectly showered in carpool, chatting away happily on cell phones in the grocery store, buying supplies for family craft night at the hobby store, and wonder aloud in my capital letters voice “HOW DO THEY HAVE IT ALL TOGETHER?!”
Or do they? Are they pretending on the outside in well groomed attire but on the inside full of shameful dismay over the state of their laundry room? Are their children really that obedient or have they successfully casted an unbreakable spell over their offspring with the all-powerful evil eye? Is their crockpot really simmering away at home with something delicious and healthy or do they zip it through the drive thru, in dark sunglasses and hooded jacket, ordering all manner of preservatives they will throw later on a plate with mandarin oranges from a can?
Which is it? Poser or Real Person? Pretender or Real Deal?
Are these well dressed, well liked, well-spoken moms just posers? Pretenders? Frauds? What is it that they do, or say, or accomplish that is currently impossible within the realm of my own capabilities?
Am I the only one that seems to always be an hour late and a laundry load behind?
Feelings of incompetency had been building for weeks, and overcome with perception of ineptness in all areas of which I am responsible, I sat down on the floor of my closet and had a full blown monkey fit. It was similar to the kind of hissy fit you throw post-partum, when sleep deprivation and total exhaustion leaves you literally incapable of dealing with ONE MORE STINKING DIAPER. (Pun absolutely intended.)
As timing would have it, my husband walked in as I was in full crying fit mode. He looked at me wide-eyed as I sat crossed legged on the carpet with tears streaming from eyes already twitching from overtaxed tear ducts. Through embarrassing hiccups and words that didn’t quite string together as logically as I would have liked, I elaborately confessed all of my shortcomings.
Immediately he grabbed my hand and lovingly began popping a vein in the skin to prepare for IV insertion that would administer large dosages of sedatives to yours truly.
After sixteen years of marriage, my spouse knew that I didn’t need to be fixed, just encouraged. Not necessarily helped, just unconditionally loved. But most importantly, after being together for over a decade and a half, my physician husband fully understood the healing powers of a good, cleansing ugly cry. Science should never overlook the medicinal effect of a properly thrown monkey fit.
A few weeks later, I was listening to a friend describe how beaten down she felt by her responsibilities. Her shoulders sagged, the sparkle absent from her eye. Understanding exactly how she felt, I described to her in full detail the fit I threw in my closet.
She looked at me in puzzled silence.
And then some more.
Finally, in all seriousness and confusion she said, “Really? Really? But you’re so funny. And you always seem to have it together.”
And that’s when I realized, in the same way I finally accepted that there is hair above my lip and my thighs will touch when standing, that I could be a poser. Maybe not intentionally, or with impure motives, but that I could be seen as a pretender, too. Other moms were looking at me like I was looking at them, falling pitifully short of the expectations as set by peers, Pinterest and upbeat status updates on facebook.
Our outside can be pretend. A put together appearance doesn’t hide marital discord, a well decorated home doesn’t masquerade financial difficulty. Humor can’t camouflage pain, and plastered smiles can’t wipe out struggle. Falling down, falling short and falling apart somehow has become unacceptable, even though the truth is that we all do it.
Why is there such shame associated with imperfection?
Posers are for the world’s cameras. Pretenders are those needing to perform. How disappointing to think I may have been thought of as either.
If you happen to find yourself with similar feelings of inadequacy, let me offer this short bit of advice as retribution for my own misgivings, this quick fix absent of any kind of academic support or clinical finding.
I won’t set myself up for failure by thinking you have it all together, if you won’t think the same of me.
Think of the monkey fits we could prevent together.