Thursday, August 2, 2012

May I Be Honest?

Here's the thing, my peeps...

I've been a mother for 17 years and a female for a leeeetle bit longer than that, and I still don't understand something:  why can't women just be honest with each other?

Or, perhaps, more clearly stated: wouldn't women be better off being truthful with each other?

Mothers, especially, share so many of the same issues and concerns in common, and, yet, I find that we all tend to gloss things over. Are we afraid of appearing weak? Do we think we won't measure up? Are we frightened of making ourselves feel and seem "less than" because we open up our hearts?

Surely, if we look logically at ourselves and others, we can see that not one of us is perfect. Some of us may be better than others at some things, like baking or crafting, but we also lack in areas in which others excel. It all evens out, right?

However, it seems that all of us feel the need to hold back some parts of ourselves (concerns, failures, bad habits) from these equally flawed people. From my experience, depending on the group of mothers you're dealing with, these things you keep hidden change. If I'm chatting with a group consisting mostly of working moms, I tend to hide the fact that I haven't worked outside the home since I was pregnant with my oldest. Worse, I try to downplay the very important work I do as a wife and mother because I feel that I must look lazy to these women who try to juggle both worlds. But, if I'm visiting with a bunch of other stay-at-home moms, I play up the various ways I "over-work" myself  by being the best Suzy Homemaker in the world, all the while trying to hide the fact that my laundry room is over-flowing with laundry and, out of sheer grumpiness, I ordered pizza for dinner the night before.

With the birth of our beautiful William Luke this past Winter, my "less than" days have increased and   I've been hounded by feelings of confusion ("I am eating sensibly like that new mom over there, so why is she losing weight but I am staying fat?") and a real sense of "no control". Post-partum depression? Probably, yes, compounded by the fact that Will was a preemie who stayed in NICU, followed by my re-hospitalization for DVTs, then three months of injecting myself daily with blood thinners, topped by the fact that Will really struggles with weight gain. I'm sure all of these things have made me question my abilities and, at times, my sanity. 

But, I still cannot stop comparing myself to others (a very bad idea, I know) and feeling so discouraged when I come up short. Other people, women especially, make it seem so easy to do all the things I can't seem to do no matter how much I try. Weight loss? Just eat sensibly, drink water, and get some exercise! OK, I cut out most sugar, don't eat processed foods, drink nearly a gallon of water daily, and go for a walk with the baby and toddler 5 days a week. The frappin' scale has not budged. I hear/see other new moms who seem to do the same things (or, worse! Eat ice cream every night and never go outside!) and are reporting weight losses from 5-20 pounds! They look happy and healthy and TOGETHER! I keep re-tweaking what I'm doing to the point of confusion in an effort to achieve similar results and nada.

Or, what about housekeeping? People! I have 6 mobile children who have daily and weekly chores that they perform under protest  quite nicely, and my house still looks like a bomb went off in a junkyard. I'm trying to remain available for near-constant breastfeeding for a 5 month old who still hasn't broken ten pounds, while trying to throw a load of laundry in or fill the dishwasher. With all the help I receive, this should not be such an insurmountable task. But it is.

The other day, I realized that, perhaps, while I'm glossing over the unpleasant parts of my life, that I may be giving other women a reason to feel badly about themselves. That stopped me in my tracks. I don't think of myself as an influential person, but I suppose that just by the fact that I have been a mother to many for a few years, that some may look to me or my behavior (or, my kids' behavior! gasp!) and start playing The Comparison Game. Maybe something I've said has made another mother feel like she was inadequate. Honestly, this made me feel terrible. 

So, from now on, I will use my example to live as honestly as I can and hope that I can also remember that comparing myself to others only serves the purpose of making me feel "less than".

What do you think? I'd love for people to weigh-in on this and talk about their experiences on either side of the Are You Honest debate!