The other morning I went out for coffee (hold the Danish) with a group of moms. Moms who, despite being under caffeinated, managed to successfully ditch—sorry, deliver–their children at school. Who managed to untangle Rapunzel knots and supervise the brushing of half-grown in teeth, pack snacks and lunches and water, remember homework binders and permission slips, keep siblings an arm’s length apart while gulping a slug of cold coffee and still get to school on time. That’s a pretty successful morning in my book. So imagine my surprise when one mother sighed and confessed to me that she felt like every one else was so much more “together” than she. That everyone else seemed to have it going on; finger on the pulse, locked and loaded. She felt, as she put it, that she was always flying by the seat of her pants.
Oh dear friend. We are all flying by the seat of our worn, frayed, ass nearly hanging out pants. And anyone who tells you otherwise has full-time help. Or is lying. Probably both.
You know that mom who shows up at the school drop off in heels and make-up? She has to get up at 5:30 to do that. She may tell you that her grade school children get up, get dressed and breakfast themselves, brush their teeth, pack their lunches, remember their homework by themselves without being reminded 67 times and never need to be physically separated when the ‘who got more cocoa pops fight’ gets ugly. She may tell you that she gets up at a normal time and just slaps on some lipstick. Liar, liar pants on fire.
You know the mom who always has a clean house? The one whose play room is organized and has Lego color sorted and dress up costumes hung on cute little kid hangers and framed finger-paintings that form a timeline of her children’s youth? She is a Type A neurotic with slight OCD tendencies. Possibly an anxiety disorder as well.
You know the mom who never has to run to the market 5 times in a day because she never forgets her list, forgets the toothpaste, forgets the trash bags, forgets the ground beef to make meatballs? The one who meal-plans and has a monthly menu available in PowerPoint? She gets her groceries delivered. And her kids get school lunch. And they have take-out. A lot.
The point is, almost all of us are scraping those barrels of reserve some days, tapping into the dregs. Sure, there are days here and there when we wake up feeling perky and refreshed, where we have time to make eggs for breakfast and not just hurl a heel of toast at a whining kid. Days where the kids are ready ten minutes before you have to go, a load of laundry is spinning, the dishwasher is empty and you actually smell like you’ve showered. But there are simply too many things you have to remember as a parent, too many possibilities to be prepared for. You have to be able to fly by the seat of your pants, it’s part of the job description. You have to be a parental chameleon, able to change those mom spots at a moment’s notice. Just when you think you’ve got it figured out, sussed, made in the shade, they up and change tactic on you.
Mom: Jimmy, guess what? I remembered to sign you up for baseball this season!
Jimmy: But mooooom, I wanted to play basketball this year! You’re the worst mom ever!
Sure, there is always going to be a parent or two who seem as if everything comes easy. They never raise their voices, are always impeccably dressed, only say nice things about their kids. They make not one, not two, but three different types of nut free cake for the sales, always volunteer for field trips, host sleep overs for 10 kids. With a smile. But you know what? They probably never have sex. That’s what I tell myself anyway.
Every season or two there is a spate of articles or books about being a ‘good enough‘ mom. Almost all the moms I know are more than good enough. We all play to our strengths. But how dishonest we are being to ourselves and others if we pretend it’s easy to stay on top of everything all the time; to have a well-balanced meal on the table every night at six, to cross train, to Christmas shop during the sales in September, spend time with your children, your husband, your friends, yourself and still be sane. I don’t know anyone like that. We all have bits and pieces of what it takes to glue it all together. But it’s up to us to fit them together in a way that makes sense. Not for everyone else; just for ourselves. Pretending that it’s easy, that it’s no big deal, without admitting to household help, medication, increased alcohol intake or a propensity for compulsive lying is just mean. It’s mom bullying. It’s making someone else feel bad about themselves to make yourself feel better. Being a mom is thankless enough, let’s not make it harder on each other by pretending most of us aren’t flying by the seat of our pants most days.
Oh and me? I’m the one with the organized play room and the color coded Lego. Mess makes me anxious, so I organize and clean to deal with my anxiety. But I am also the one who is forever forgetting to buy toothpaste (see above) or meat for the meatballs (true story). I am often running out at the last-minute to buy a birthday gift for a party that is starting in fifteen minutes. Sometimes I have make-up on at drop off. Sometimes I show up in shorts and rain boots. And this is coming from a Type A minus, neurotic, Virgo list maker. I have a white board, a calendar and any number of written lists on the go at any time. I have the equivalent of an excel spreadsheet in my head as to which boy has a playdate on which day and at whose house, what vegetable they had at lunch and what they are having with dinner. And yet I too am often flying by the seat of my increasingly tight pants.
You can just call me Amelia.
Earhart, that is.