I have Mommy Perfection Syndrome.
Mommy Perfection Syndrome (MPS) is a mental disease that requires you to not only look like you are the perfect mom to the outside world, but that you also actually be that perfect mom to the insiders of your family. Symptoms include not asking for help, not accepting help when offered, smiling through the pain, enduring hours of crying/needs, acquiescing to unreasonable demands (and then exceeding expectations), adding more demands to yourself (like reading, or writing a novel, running a playgroup or planning a party), personally requiring that you look good while you do it, loss of sleep, and slow loss of sanity. Are you, too, a sufferer of MPS? (and what happens when your MPS starts getting mixed up with that PMS? Earthquakes…earthquakes happen…)
I am not actively trying to be the perfect mom nor make everyone think I am (Note: another symptom of MPS is denial). I have these two boys and I have a lot to do, so my mottos for the day are generally “here we go!” and “let’s push through this!” Being a woman of color with two boys who don’t necessarily look like they are mine, I do make a big deal about making sure that I present myself well when we leave the house. That means that the Locs look good, the clothes look clean and neat (and sometimes, even stylish), and the walk is purposeful. I refuse to be mistaken for anything less than I am, and because my two sons take me out of my normal Northern Anonymity (e.g., Invisible Black Woman syndrome–a post for another time), I want to make sure that when you see me, there is no mistake about who I am and what I’m about. This projection of confidence and put-togetherness is often taken by others as me not struggling. That for some reason, motherhood is effortless.
Generic Mom or other stranger. “Wow, I don’t know how you do it with two.”
Me, often with a sigh. “It can be a challenge…”
Generic Mom or other stranger, either disinterested or not listening. “But, you know, you’ve got it so together. Your boys are so well behaved!”
Me. “Yeah, well, that’s how they are out of the house.”
Generic Mom or other stranger, with a flick of a hand and a smile. “Well, they look great to me.”
I’m not going to lie to you: I have a love/hate relationship with this scenario. While I’d much rather that people who encounter us think that I’m some super mom rather than something else, I do hate that my expression of challenge and struggle is dismissed out of hand early and often. It is understandable that Jane Doe stranger doesn’t want to listen to a mother’s woes. I am, however, always surprised when it’s other moms who have decided to dismiss me and my struggles, especially I’m willing to listen and share.
The other side to this coin is that I don’t like to struggle in front of my husband. I do want the house to look like it is running smoothly. My husband works hard, and he goes out every day so that I can stay here and raise our boys. I can’t help him at work with his ridiculous science, so I don’t like to bother him with crisis here at home. A good and normal day means that the house is clean, the boys are happy, and dinner is in the last stages or ready to be served when The Husband comes walking in the door at 6:15. Yes, I know that my (and only mine, my husband did not dictate that) expectation is totally 1950’s. Yes, I realize that this is my hang up. I really, really do. And it came to bite me in the butt on Wednesday.
On Wednesday, Ursa Major started a new playgroup. A drop off playgroup! 2 hours toddler free! I was so pumped! I had the car, I dropped him off, he was cool, so I took Ursa Minor with me to Costco and then came home to play for a bit before getting him. We came home, I fed them lunch, put them both down for naps, and thought I’d be able to Zumba for an hour before doing some writing. I Zumbaed for 20 minutes for Ursa Minor was up screaming screams from Hades. He got it into his head that, unless he is being held, it is the end of the world as we know it. What does that mean? I spent my entire afternoon one-handed and frustrated. And because Ursa Minor was getting all of the attention, Ursa Major, like any good toddler would, was either pushing boundaries or whining and clinging. When The Husband called at 5:30 to announce that he was coming home. I was like “we’re getting a pizza” and he was like “mkay.” Despite my best efforts over the next hour to get the boys to be cool, when The Husband came home, both boys were screaming, the house was a mess, Pizza was here but unserved and I, too, was on the verge of tears.
It was a cacophony of Mommy Fail.
After we, finally, put the boys down for bed (after more crying, and a time out), I retreated to the shower for a very long reflection on my life. My husband, the good man that he is, cleaned the kitchen and the play area and gave me a sweet kiss when I slinked out of the shower. It was a good reminder that I have a partner who I should utilize during time of crisis. That’s the point. I was grateful for the gentle reminder.
It has, frankly, continued to be a fail week. But I’ve been able to better handle it through humorous retellings via e-mail to my husband for the past two days. I’m so looking forward to having an “all hands on deck” weekend with my husband here. I might even be able to sneak in a nap at some point.
So, take it from me: Don’t let MPS episodes control your whole week. When it rears its ugly head, claim your victories one day at a time.