Friday, April 07, 2006

SuperMoms (Take 2)

This is my second attempt on a post that I deleted months ago because I was not able to get my thoughts across correctly. This draft has been in my file for some time now and I think I'm finally brave enough to post it. I hope this time my thoughts will be more clearly conveyed. This time I have decided to state up front that I do not consider myself to be a super mom. The problem is that in my past others have labeled me as such.
I know my weaknesses better than anyone else does. However, I have pretty much always been able to run my home in a fairly smooth way. For quite a few years before my marriage, I observed and assisted two more-than-capable women, my mom and my step-mom. My mom had to balance a career and a home and my step-mom handled a brood of six children and a rather eccentric husband. Both women had to deal with a very needy teenager, me. I had good examples to follow and I learned a lot. I knew how to clean a house and keep it in good order, cook dinner for a crowd, change diapers, and get six kids under eight ready and out the door. Keeping everything in its place became an obsession of mine, even as a teenager. I understood the importance of teaching young children obedience and taking care of what you had. I also understood the value in getting all “purtied” up to go out with your husband. So, I began married life with a big head start of experience.
I don’t relate all of this out of pride. My experiences in life and the load of energy God gave me made me who I am. Especially when I was young mother, people would rave over how much I got done in a day. I was a high-energy person. I didn't create myself and I did not overcome another nature, so I have no bragging rights.
Seven children and almost being forty has had it's effect. Now, even if I do get a room nearly perfect, with ten people in the house, it doesn’t last very long. And now that I'm older, I don't have the energy I used to have. I am often impatient and get stressed out over very small things. Most of the time, I confine myself to the first floor of our house in order to avoid getting very irritated at the messiness of the children’s rooms. To save my sanity and live with nine other people, it has been necessary for me to learn to let go. So, things change.
The problem is this. There are women who are intimidated by women who can manage things effectively. That is understandable. They struggle. Some of them had no previous experience or good examples to learn from before entering marriage and motherhood. They were not endowed with a lot of energy by their Creator. They may even have physical problems that inhibit them in their work. Whatever the reason, they cannot seem to get it all together, at least not enough to satisfy themselves. I see them having two options. Accept who they are and come to terms with it. Or seek counsel from those who obviously can help and then try to follow their advice. In other words, seek to improve themselves. Either way it doesn’t matter to me. I don’t care what their house looks like, how much laundry they have piled up and when the last time the toilet was scrubbed. Really, I don’t. I am only responsible for my house and that is the only one I care about enough to notice what needs to be done.
What I do care about is this intimidation sometimes leads to nasty comments and attitudes that would never be tolerated if the shoe were on the other foot. I have heard women make disdainful remarks about these “supermoms”. Assumptions are made which reveal they think they could never relate to one of these "perfect" women. In fact, I heard these kind of statements again recently at a homeschooling meeting.
I once had a woman stand me up when she said she was bringing her sister to meet me. This sister lived on the other side of the country. I had really looked forward to the meeting because she had spent months telling me about this sister and how much she wanted her to meet me. Later she told me she didn't show up because she thought it would be discouraging for her sister to see how perfect my house was. I actually cried. Had I known, I would have been more than willing to mess up the house. I felt discriminated against for the way I ran my home. What if the situation had been reversed and I had stood her up because I didn’t want my sister to see how out of control a home could be? (not that hers was) Hands down, everyone would agree that such behavior was rude. But it was ok to do to me, because I was a "super-mom".
This doesn’t just happen to me. I have seen others treated this way, mocked and held at a distance because of their perceived perfection. I have watched these so-called SuperMoms go out of their way to reveal their own weaknesses in order to be accepted. They don’t speak up when they have a suggestion to help a mother in need for fear of looking like a bragger. I have done the same thing. It’s lonely up on the pedestal and it’s not fun being trapped up there.
I write all of this in hopes of opening eyes. Like God, we should seek to not show partiality in our love for others. Thankfully now I have many good friends who do not do this to me. I don’t have to worry. They know my weaknesses all too well. They know human weakness all too well and know better than to put anyone on that pedestal. But I still encounter it from time to time. And more often, I see others encounter it. Every one of us desires unconditional love, the struggling mother who can’t seem to get a handle on life AND the one with the perfect nails, hair and home.


Kaleesha said...

Wow, what a timely read. Lately I've been feeling overwhelmed merely by my knowledge of my poor management of time. I could get the housework done and spend adequate time with the kids, but I dwaddle and, um, spend too much time on the computer... and at the end of each day have to come to terms with it. My life is kind of sloppy. Do I accept it with a smile and a shrug, or DO something about it? I'm a first-born perfectionist, so I usually beat myself up until I get it done. Just this morning I thought of asking you and your sister, "How do you do it?! We have less kids and aren't even fully into schooling yet!"
Thank you for writing what you did. It was very well expressed and a point very worth considering. I don't think I've been one of those moms who knock you "super" moms; I've even been mistaken for one myself (we all have good days). ;) But on the flip side, I admit to being very encouraged by seeing messy houses! -laf- Seriously, one of the most uplifting visits I've ever made was to the home of a family of 12 - 7 children (8-24yrs), 2 parents and 3 of their parents, all under one shabby tin roof. This was a fully functioning farm and there were mud-covered boots, buckets of eggs, piles of canning jars on the plywood floors, books and paperwork of all sorts spilling off shelves. The kitchen, well you can imagine! They had a few knicknacks and photos about, as well. The front door barely stayed closed and if the pet lamb on the front porch could nose it open he'd saunter inside and no one seemed to mind. I absolutely love this home! They're so busy living life, the kids all buzzing about making breakfast for the grandparents, canning jam and baking bread for the market, Mom & Dad eager to clear a spot for you on the ragged couch to show you their produce/meat price lists and tell you the latest news in organic gardening and cattle digestion...
I'm ranting now, but my point is that it cleared away the guilt I carried for not having a perfectly kept house. I realized there is something wonderful about a house that is LIVED in - and shows it. But thanks to you I am now aware of the dangers my attitude faces when visiting a home that's spic n' span. It doesn't mean it's not lived in.
Surely, if one looks close, one can find those fingerprint smudges on the wall that you missed, the cobweb in the corner, the dust on the mantle...

MomToCherubs said...

I often benefit from your knowledge and experience, and I always appreciate your gracious and humble heart! I am truly blessed to know you.

tootlepip said...

Thank you for expressing this so well! I, too, have felt bad for having a clean home, people don't seem to realize that I struggle in other ways. I have a dear friend who is always apologizing for her home when I come over. She doesn't realize that I LOVE her and go to see her, not her home.

Tim's Mom said...

Nice post. My house is somewhere in-between, I don't have a lot of energy to do what I could, but I muddle along as I can. I have friends at both ends of the spectrum. Energy level seems to have a lot to do with it, although I have one friend who has lots of energy and does a lot for others - but is too busy to be home enough to keep her house the way she'd like to.