Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Writer's Workshop Wednesday ~ Elyssa from The Incompetent Hausfrau on How to be a Supermom

Welcome to Writer's Workshop Wednesday! This is my way of paying it forward to all the people out there who want to start writing, but don't have their own blogs yet, or who are established writers that are looking to appeal to a different audience. I have also opened this up to those who would like to post anonymously about topics that are too difficult to write about publicly. Each week, I will host one or two posts by different writers.

I hope that you enjoy this series, I hope you find some new writers to follow, I hope this helps them out and I hope we can all learn something from them.

This post was submitted by Elyssa from The Incomptent Hausfrau. If you haven't met her and fallen in love with her yet, you should go. You can find her blog here and her Facebook page here.

She's kind and funny and honest and she lays it all out there. She's also a ridiculously talented writer, as you are about to learn. With love and respect, Elyssa.

A Definitive Guide to Being a Supermom. Like Me.

I’ve been accused of being a supermom on more than one occasion. That must make it true. Recently it was in the mall as I packed my two-year-old around on my shoulders (because I forgot my Ergobaby) to keep her out of shit trouble. Last night, it was because I have a small electric air pump in my van for soccer balls and bike tires. I don’t know why having that makes me a “supermom”, but I guess I’ll just roll with it.

People ask me, “How do you do it all?” I usually respond, “I don’t.” It’s the truth. I may have many domestic abilities these days, and I may juggle all of my hats fairly well for the most part, but it took me twelve years to learn it. I’m still learning, changing, and growing. I didn’t roll into this job making food from scratch and homeschooling three of my four children. I add skills on an as-needed basis, and struggle to maintain balance, Like anyone.

Every mom is a “supermom”. It’s not actually about doing all the things; it’s about how you perceive yourself. If you are constantly doubting yourself and putting yourself down and beating yourself up, congratulations! You are just like most other moms out there, including the ones you think of as “supermoms”.

Based upon how I apparently achieved “supermom” status, I’ve created a short guide:

Overcompensate publicly whenever possible. Also known as putting your best face forward, just because you’re a frazzled, disorganized mess with a sink full of dirty dishes and a million unfinished projects you don’t have to drag all that out in public with you. Just bring you and your awesome. You are not your dirty house or your unwashed siding. You are a person with interests and feelings. Let other people see that, not the haggard mom who’s lamenting her unfinished chores.

The thing is, if you act like you’re all together, people will assume you’ve got your act together in all aspects of your life. Most people don’t think about “company manners” and how we act differently in public than we do at home. While I admire Atticus Finch and his ability to be the same at home and out in town, most of us don’t meet such high standards. Around the house, most of us don’t even bother with real pants or makeup.

When you have to be around people put in a little extra effort, but only enough so you are comfortable. You may go for a full-on French twist, fashion forward outfit, and lipstick. Or, that may not be your style. You don’t have to have perfectly styled hair, stylish clothes, or a manicure. Put on a clean shirt, try not to drop “f” bombs around other people’s children, and rock the messy bun look. It only took almost 20 years but it’s actually a legitimate hairstyle now. Yes!

Lie your face off. You don’t need to confess all your sins. When people see you and think you’re all put together and in total control and rocking at being a mom, they’re right. We’re all sacrificing certain things to make other things happen. You don’t need to correct them. Supermoms don’t have perfect homes, children, and well-coiffed hair. Well, some of them do, but for the most part, supermoms are just average moms and it’s your perception of them that makes them seem so perfect. They’re big fat liars, too! So, lie your face off! No one needs to know you haven’t found time to mop your floor in weeks or that you have piles of unfolded laundry. What they don’t know won’t hurt them. Don’t destroy the illusion!

Be honest. I know I just told you to lie, but now I’m telling you to be honest and be yourself. Don’t pretend to love baking if you hate it. Don’t tell people you shop at Macy’s when you thrift all of your clothes. Don’t pretend to be someone you’re not. It doesn’t do anyone any good for you to pretend for the sake of others. It might make your liberal friends uncomfortable to find out that you didn’t vote for Obama (although you really should steer clear of politics, religion, and breastfeeding in mixed company), but you can’t be someone else. If people can’t accept you for you they are not worthy of being in your life, worthy of your time, and they are certainly not worthy of the energy you’ll need to expend to lie convincingly to them. I used to get teased when people found out that I like to do cross stitch, make my food from scratch, etc. Now it’s cool. Whatever. Just be you. Whether you’re tattooed and pierced, or won’t say “shit” if you have a mouthful, be honest about who you are.

Say, “yes”, except when you need to say, “no”. Humans are social creatures. We are designed to work together. They only reason we have awesome technology like iPods that keep us from interacting with one another is that for many thousands of years we would die if we weren’t part of a larger group with everyone taking care of everyone else. Some people are afraid to ask for help. Others are quite vocal about it. Go out of your way to be helpful sometimes, even if you don’t really want to. We have to help each other out or we’re going to go extinct. We cannot allow ourselves to lose the ability to connect with other people.

Unfortunately, our modern world encourages individualism. So, be the person others turn to for help when you can. You can’t do it all, so say “no” when you must, but we are awed, inspired, and blessed by helpers. And it’s contagious; helping begets more helping. It’s kind of awesome. Someday, you’ll need help. Helping others is a lot like karma. Put some in the bank so you can make a withdrawal when you need it.

Find your happy. My mom used to tell me, “Go do something, even if it’s wrong,” all the time. She was right. When we are feeling overwhelmed by life, you just have to make a decision and do it. It’s about getting started and launching the process. If your house has you totally frustrated, get out of it for a bit. If you’re lonely, go to a friend’s house for a visit, arrange a coffee date, or find a good chat group online. If you’re unsatisfied with your life, take a class or learn about something that interests you. Whatever aspect of your life is unsatisfying, do something, anything, about it. Be your own champion. You have to make your own happy, no one else can do it for you, and all the money in the world won’t buy it for you. Well, it can buy chocolate, which can make a good substitute for happy on occasion, but that’s about it.

Play catch-up when you have time. Go ahead and let stuff slide if it gives you more time for actually living. Catch up on the laundry or the scrubbing when you don’t have something else going on. I’m not suggesting that nasty should be the standard, I’m only suggesting that maintaining a spotless house might require more sacrifices than any one person should have to make, and you should neither let it bother you, nor apologize for it.

You have to have time to do things you enjoy, and I don’t mean taking 15 minutes for yourself in the bathroom. Thanks, Grandma. I mean telling everyone to fuck off so you can knit, read, garden, or whatever else it is that makes your heart soar. It’s part and parcel of caring for yourself. You can’t be a good parent and partner if you’re a dried up hulk of housecleaning humanoid. Our lives and homes have gotten simultaneously easier and impossibly difficult with modernity. You simply cannot have it all or do it all. You can only do what you can do and no more.

Make something, anything. Part of being human is using your hands. I think every person is a craftsman and artisan at heart. I think it’s as much a need as food and sex. There is something out there you will enjoy creating. If you don’t already know what it is, start trying stuff out until you figure out what it is. It could be something as simple as scrapbooking, or it could be woodworking. Crafting doesn’t need to be costly. You can make rugs out of rags and hula hoops and baskets out of newspapers, for example. Some people make babies. Those do tend to be costly, fyi.

Whatever it is, be sure to brag about it a little. So many people don’t take time for hobbies anymore. Come on out of that closet and wow your friends with your handmade goodies. Unless they are total jackasses—and you don’t need those in your life anyway—they’ll be impressed that you take the time to actually make something and will likely even be inspired to try their hand at making something, too. Ultimately, it’s not about showing off, it’s about sharing the love and demonstrating that it’s acceptable to take time to do it. With everyone trying to keep up with the Jones’ and posturing to have the biggest TV on the block, you’re actually performing a service and resetting the standard.

Let go of your preconceived notions about what makes a “supermom”. Seriously, lower your expectations. I’m a perfectionist. I used to get completely paralyzed with fear if I couldn’t get something just right. A messy house would, at some point, throw me into an apoplectic fit complete with crying and histrionics. This was a regular event because I’m a slovenly housekeeper and I would walk around with full knowledge that my Grandmother would be judging me and wanting to kick me out and clean my house for me. Luckily, I don’t do that anymore. I might sigh and roll my eyes, but letting it stress me out is so not worth it.

I guess with age really does come wisdom. I spent years shoveling shit against the tide that is my home and getting nowhere. Go figure. I have many children, and I have not properly housebroken them. I’m trying! Believe me, but still, it’s a common occurrence for them to come in from sports and leave a trail of shoes, socks, and stinky tee-shirts to the bathroom or to eat a granola bar and let the wrapper fall to the floor. We have homeschooling, sports, scouts, friends, errands, and play dates. I have hobbies and freelancing in addition to my ancillary jobs of executive chef, laundress, chauffer, project manager, nurse-in-training, housekeeper, and sex slave. And I have ADHD.

I have to prioritize, and things have to go to the wayside. My car is usually trashed. My house is usually messy. I may or may not remember to pluck my eyebrows, but my pits are always shorn. My nail polish may flake up to the middle of my nail before I get around to redoing it. And all along the way, I know bitches be judging me. I know they think I lack self-respect or some other such nonsense because I don’t make my image a priority. But you know what? I can’t see me. I can only feel me. And my stray eyebrow hairs aren’t heavy.

What is “heavy,” is the feeling I get when I’m bogged down in endless chores instead of spending time with my kids or taking time for something I enjoy. My heart is heavy when I think about all the things I’m not getting done. So, I focus on what I do accomplish. I have to frequently take stock and my number one question is not, “Is my kitchen clean enough,” it’s “are my kids happy enough?”

Supermoms have happy kids. The gold standard for “supermom” is happy kids. Nothing else matters. If you are loving and attentive, if you have behavioral expectations and limits you get happy kids. The toys, the activities, and the “right” school ultimately do not matter. If there is enough of you to give of yourself to your children, you’ve got “supermom” in the bag. Your kids think you are the greatest mom ever. No one can love them and teach them like you can. You’ve held their tiny hands in yours and kissed their boo-boos. You are their biggest fan. You are the one who will always be there. Your strength and love for them is their life-long refuge. Even when you’re gone, they’ll look to the heavens for you and keep you in their heart.

All that other stuff that I mentioned before? It’s all about you making you a priority so there is enough of you to share. So what if a random stranger has never called you supermom? Or if the ├╝ber organized PTA president with a Handi-Vac in her trunk has never called you a supermom? You’re not in this for them anyway! Take care of the “mom” part of “supermom” and the “super” will follow. So don’t get caught up in the mommy wars, don’t compare yourself to other moms (because they are just comparing themselves to you and trying to one-up you), and don’t think you aren’t good enough. You are awesome just the way you are.

2 comments:

  1. Oh, Frau. I love Every Single Word here. If I were on a computer and not my phone I'd pull a few great quotes and talk about each of them. But I'm in my car, waiting for the little dude to finish cross country practice, finishing my half-eaten lunch that I didn't get to because instead of getting my nails done I went to the nursing home to check on my MIL.

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