Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Drop the Cape, Super-Mom

This last two years have been very hard for me.

I don't like to admit it. I like to be strong.

"Hahaha yes I am a mom of 4. Oh yes I home school. And run my own business.   Sure it's crazy but we're so blessed." (She says smiling with a glance downwards. So humble. So strong). 

I can give this bullshit speech in my sleep.  I quite literally gave it the other day to a girl I'd recently met. She (as folks often do when they know me through work and haven't yet met my family)  marveled at the fact that I had 4 KIDS. And seem sane.

I delivered my speech as I always do, complete with smile and downward gaze as though I hadn't spent the better half of the morning bawling,  fighting with the kids and stressing about our current life and financial crisis.

I cheerily loaded my kids up in the van and drove off. Quite proud of how well I'd acted and quite convinced she was impressed with my togetherness and competence.

Why do I do this?

Why do any of us do this?

We act as though managing 27 levels of stress and obligations is a commendable feat.  We wear our over-committed schedules and our fake ability to cope as a badge of honor. We praise the ones who seemingly do it all.

And in the process we damage everyone around us.

We perpetuate the myth that the more you do the better you are. We heap steaming crap on the pile of shit that everyone is already digging out from under when we pride ourselves on how flawless and together we are.

Maybe you don't do that.

Maybe your Facebook,  Twitter, Instagram and snap chat reflect accurately the joys and challenges of your life. Maybe your posts aren't filled only with amazing dinner pictures,  family togetherness, and just enough glamourized and dramatic struggle to gain the attention you're seeking. Maybe you are able to be authentic and genuine  about your life without falling into the common trap of the victim or poor me routine. Maybe what we see on social media is in fact an accurate representation of your sweet and perfectly balanced life.

Or maybe that doesn't exist and you've succeded in bullshitting yourself like I have.

But what then, you ask, should we put on Facebook? 

I don't know.

And who really cares.

I literally just about didn't let my 8 and 6 and a half year old ride their scooters around the block the other day in our small town because what if someone saw and judged me and put it on Facebook?

My ability to make sound and reasonable decisions or judgements about my life is skewed by the completely false and attention-seeking world of social media.

Now please don't comment with a whole bunch of #Facebookhater kind of stuff.

Social media is great tool . In fact although I seem a bit cynical here my beef isn't really with the internet at all.

It's with people like me.

People who put so much emphasis on doing it all.

It's the sentiment that the more stressed out you are the more successful you must be.  The more tasks you juggle, the more competent you are. The more you do, the more worthy you are.

Want to see if you're guilty of any of this false advertisement? Here's a test.

Imagine how you'd feel if I told you that for each day this next week, these had to be your Facebook posts:

"Today I slept in so I fed the kids rice cakes and processed cheese for breakfast"
"We can't afford to pay our power bill."
"My husband's busy work schedule and the extra 15 pounds I gained with our last baby has sure made for a lousy sex life"
"I'm depressed. I probably need therapy but I'm too tired and ashamed to admit it."
"I really love my kids. I think they're great and deserve good things"
"I can't cook. I hate cleaning. I'm really not a  very great housewife".
"Today I took my kids to the park and sat on my phone the whole time" (no "lol" here)
"I think I deserve better. I am sad and tired.  Everyone else seems to have it together."

You could keep going.

I suspect I'm not the only one with whom these statements resonate. Maybe one of them, maybe more.

These are truths.

We feel alone. We feel tired. We feel self-pity.

So what do we do?

We post pictures of our food and our perfect family and try to make ourselves feel better.

We don't feel better but we do perpetuate the cycle of isolation and sadness by creating for others a false sense of our reality.

In the developed, affluent culture we live we are seeing unprecedented levels of depression,  anxiety and mental health issues.

I think a lot of that is related to EXPECTATIONS.

"I should be more like her. I'm not enough. I could do more."

And the world we see tells us WE CAN have it all.

As women especially, but also as humans,  we need to drop the super-human standards. Nobody is ACTUALLY reaching them.  It's a bunch of smoke in mirrors.

We need to start speaking openly and vulnerably about how life is. We need trust, loyalty and authenticity to feel safe to share what real life looks like.

Gritty. Hard. Lonely. Beautiful.

Or as the wonderful Glennon Doyle Melton of Momastery.com puts it ... Brut-iful.

Brutal. But so deeply beautiful.

So ladies,  put down your capes and pick up your phones (you know, they do more than take pictures and browse Pinterest).

Call a mom you know. Ask her to bring her crazy, grubby, beautiful kids over for a coffee. Tell her not to worry, your house is kid friendly. Or find her a babysitter and take her out for dinner.  Listen to her. Encourage her. Be honest.

Call a college student and take them for a fancy dinner. They need to know college can be fun, but it can also be horrid and overwhelmingly stressful.  Tell them you know lots of college kids have committed suicide and ask them how that makes them feel.

Call the newly married couple in your church.  Have them over for dinner.  Let them swoon about how great marriage is.  Let them remind you about those times.  But also share with them that it's okay to fight.  That you might wake up one day wondering who the heck this other person is ... and that's okay. Love is a decision, and sometimes it's a tough one.

Call a teenager and instead of telling them, "Ah kid it gets better after high school" (which is totally false!), share with them. Tell them how you're dealing with current challenges and ask about theirs.

Honestly is hard.  Authenticity (without being disingenuine, fake or belittling) is a learned skill.

Practice it.

Nurturing real relationships is the only way to shed the light of truth on our lives and our expectations. When we get to know people, really know them, then what we see on social media can become a fun, anecdotal outlet, but never a standard against which we hold ourselves.

This takes courage. It takes boldness and it takes some honest self-reflection.  It also takes kindness.  Especially to ourselves.

If we can be kind and generous in our assessment of our own life, this will naturally extend out.

And isn't this what we are all looking for ... A little more understanding and connection?

Want to be a real Super-Hero?

Drop the cape and find someone today you can be more open, honest and kind with.

Even if it's just yourself.

Bravely forth my Super-friends,

Jac :)

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