The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Mommy
So, here’s a little secret about me:
I’m a CompetiMommy.
That’s right. You heard me. CompetiMommy.
Before you recoil in horror, let me explain myself. I’m not a CompetiMommy of the my-child-is-better-than-yours variety. I don’t view myself as a competitor in the Tour de Mommy or the Momolympics or anything of the sort. I’m not comparing my child to yours. I’m not competing against you.
I’m competing against me.
This probably sounds like a lot of bullshit hair-splitting: if I view myself as competitive in the arena of motherhood, I must be competing against other moms, no? Well… no. I’m not interested in comparing strollers or diaper bags or how many months we breastfed our respective children. I don’t care how our children compare on growth charts or development charts or any chart that can be found through BabyCenter. I don’t care if your child walks or talks or masters algebra before mine. I really don’t.
What I do care about: whether I measure up to my own benchmarks of success as a mother. Whether I can compete with the ideal mother that I always imagined that I would be: the devoted, imaginative, stimulating, hand-pureeing-organic-veggies-for-dinner-while-wearing-sample-sale-Jimmy-Choos-and-reciting-Suess-in-Latin-before-putting-baby-to-bed-and-dashing-out-for-martinis-with-hubby kind of mother. The kind of mother who balances being a wonderful mother with being a good spouse and an interesting woman in her own right. The kind of mother who takes advantage of every opportunity to enrich the lives of her children and her life with her partner and - and, and - the life that is her own. I care about whether I can hold my own against that kind of do-it-all-have-it-all mother.
The kind of mother who only exists in my imagination.
Because, yes, I do recognize that this is a fictive mother, a mother who does not exist. A mother who, even if she did exist, wouldn’t necessarily be the best kind of mother. But she is still the mother that informed my maternal ambitions (once I realized that I had such ambitions) and the mother that now looms in the background of my evaluations of myself as a mother.
And, oh, how she looms.
Against this accomplished, attentive, well-groomed mother, I reveal myself, to myself, to be sorely lacking. I can barely keep our house clean. There are Fisher-Price toys littered across our living room floor. I do not take WonderBaby to lessons of any kind; I have not taught her to swim or Salsa-Baby or sign. The organic food that she eats usually comes from a jar. The last time I wore heels was at BlogHer and a) they were closed-toe to hide my desperately pedicure-deficient feet, and b) had to be ditched after an hour because my post-partum body has lost the ability to hold itself upright in anything other than Converse sneakers.
(I do recite Suess in Latin, but only to myself, late at night, to overcome insomnia. Cattus Petasatus. A classic.)
I know that I am a good mother. I know that loving WonderBaby and playing with WonderBaby and exulting in life with Wonderbaby is being the best kind of mother that I can be. I know that motherhood is not about the laundry and the shoes and the appearance of things. And I know that I do not want to be one of those mothers who overfunctions and overanalyzes and turns herself and her children into a perfect little robo-family.
But still… I thought that I’d be better at this. I thought that I could be a good mother AND a good partner AND keep a tidy house AND look good AND make time for other interests AND not get overwhelmed. I thought that I would finish each day with a long bath and a cuddle with my husband and a martini and that I would bask in the glow of my maternal accomplishment.
I thought that I would get more laundry done.
I thought that I would be able to do it all. But I can’t. And sometimes I find that fact overwhelming. There’s not enough time, there are not enough hours in the day, there are not enough eyes and arms and hands to stay on top of all of the things that I want to stay on top of.
And so I get frustrated, running this race against myself. Frustrated when I have to stop in the middle of this road, alone, to catch my breath. Frustrated at the cramps in my legs, at the aching in my chest, at my body's inability to go as fast and as gracefully as I thought I could go. Frustrated that I can't let go of this silly mom-o-meter that I measure myself with.
Frustrated that I can't let go and just run freely. Just enjoy the wind in my hair as I go forward as a mother.
Frustrated that I'm finding it hard to just be.
Trying to be the best that I can be. For her.
Devra and Aviva over at Parentopia will be addressing this post over at their place sometime in the near future - they'll go through it and give me feedback on how I might CHILL THE EFF OUT and stop treating motherhood like a race against myself that I'm going to win or lose. I'll post a link once they've done this. In the meantime, you can go check out what they did with Christina's post about learning to let some things go.