So…this picture annoys the crap out of me. I get it. The intended message here is something along the lines of “it’s okay, mama, stop freaking out about cleaning up and have fun with your kids.” Totally understandable. But like everything else on the freaking internet right now, it’s completely unfair to one side of the population, and that side of the population happens to be where I reside. What if its inverse was circulating out there: “Good moms have… vacuumed floors, wiped-down countertops, clean clothes, made beds, and happy kids.” Can you imagine the ire??? Oh the horror. I am envisioning the haters that would come out of the woodwork if I posted that on Twitter. Holy smokes.
But y’all, I am that mom. I’m reading a self-help book for moms right now, and there’s a lot of fun-making at the expense of the Type-A mom. The unrealistic standard. Somehow, in helping women be okay with themselves, we’ve indicted an entire group of us in the process. It’s not okay to be thin, to wear makeup just because, to make dinner from scratch, or to have a clean house. That’s unreasonable. I caught myself last week, lying jokingly about how much laundry I had piled up, because the truth that I actually like to stay on top of laundry might make me un-relatable. What the heck?!
The truth is, I’ve been struggling with this one for a while. That mom who wakes up mad because she’s overweight, and the house is a mess, and the kids are eating boxed mac and cheese? It’s true- I can’t identify with her specific struggles. But I can identify with feeling anxious or worried that somehow I’m not meeting the expectations for a successful millennial mom. The idea that I’m supposed to spend all day without a bra on, with a “messy hair-don’t care” attitude, and sit scrolling through Facebook while trying to motivate myself to vacuum, is totally prevalent- and the fact that I’m not that mom, but that whoever is that mom is doing it better than me, is a little intimidating. I tried to find blog posts that offer some level of support to the tidy mom, without going all sanctimommy about it. I found a few- but the vast majority of what’s out there is pretty eviscerating towards moms like me. We are a joke- the frigid moms whose kids will grow up without creativity and deprived of happy memories. We’re also the reason for every other mom’s suffering- the standard-setters, who only post what appears to be perfection while hiding some sad truth behind our well-dusted plantation shutters. We’re catering to the world because we put on makeup and wear regular clothes instead of yoga pants, and we’re trying to out-mom everyone else by keeping clothes washed and beds made. Our healthy choices are unrealistic and our happiness is contrived or prozac-driven. Y’all, it’s crazy out there.
This is not an indictment against messy moms- and I’m not going to be apologetic about saying messy moms. Everything I read about moms who are not neat-freaks used the phrase “real moms,” and while that’s amazing for moms who are cool with messes, it’s pretty demeaning to those of us who aren’t. I remember getting turned down for a promotion once, based on an interview, and the feedback I got was “her answers didn’t sound like they came from a real person.” What they meant was “she’s too removed from those situations, and we wanted her to talk more about her emotions.” But what they said (or at least how I interpreted what they said at the time) was “she’s not a real person.” It took me a long time to get over that (can’t you tell?), and even now, as I read all the things that real moms do, I can’t help but harken back to that same feeling. Am I less than a real mom because my house is clean, or because I like to get dressed and put on makeup? Am I a fake mom? I’m a real person- doesn’t that count for something? It also means I automatically drop out of lots of conversations or pretend to live a lot differently than I do, because I don’t want to be perceived as a sanctimommy, shaming everyone who doesn’t live the way I do. Instead, I’ll pretend I have no clean underwear for anyone in the house thanks to piled up laundry (never gonna happen), I’ll joke about going through the carpool without a bra (which I have seriously never done), and I’ll have a few laughs about the cheerios my kids are eating from under the couch (okay, this may have happened once).
So hear this, neat freak moms: YOU ARE AWESOME, TOO. Nope, having a clean house doesn’t make you better than the mom with a messy house. But it doesn’t make you cold and unloving. Having clean, folded clothes for your peeps does not make you any less interesting than the mom whose laundry is piled up all over the house. Wearing makeup even though you’re only going from the front door to the mailbox? Totally acceptable. Bonus points if your kids can say the words “moisturizer” and “primer” in the right context. No- your kids aren’t going to wake up hating you when they try junk food for the first time at someone else’s house, since you don’t have it in yours. And next time someone tries to make you feel less than a real mom, just remember: if you pee, poop, and require nourishment, you are real. Everything else is subjective 🙂
**And because I now have this rant out of my system, I’m planning on starting a series of organizational posts, to show exactly how this neat-freak mom manages to keep chaos at bay with 4 (and hopefully soon 5) littles in the picture. Stay tuned!**