I have a confession to make: I’m a liar.
I started this blog for the expressed purpose of helping women know that they’re not alone in the struggle of, well, life. Of motherhood, wife-hood, womanhood, friend-hood, daughter-hood, sisterhood...all of the ‘hoods. I wanted you to know that I’m there in the trenches with you, semi-ignoring my sticky kitchen floors, the streaks of syrup on the walls, the stack of daycare forms piling up on the counter, and the microwave meals in the freezer. And I am. That’s my life. That’s my every day. If I didn’t ignore those floors and walls and stacks sometimes, I’d never sleep.
And sometimes I don’t. Because I’m a liar. While trying to lift you up and be right there with you, I’m regularly fighting an internal battle to be enough, to be better. A better mother, wife, friend, sister, daughter, colleague. I’m regularly fighting an internal battle that wakes me in the middle of the night, bolt upright out of bed, to add to my ongoing to-do list on my phone. I’m regularly fighting an internal battle that has me downloading meditation apps and then deleting them after successfully completing none of the five minute “beginner” meditations after 9 weeks. I’m regularly fighting an internal battle that has me reading about how to have more energy in my day so that I can be the partner my husband deserves at night and I’m definitely fighting (and losing) the internal battle in my mind that tells me I should wear something other than his old sweatpants to bed each night if I don’t want his eye to stray at year ten of marriage.
I fight the hype but download it at the same time. Am I thin enough? Taking enough “me time”? Am I thinking enough about my partner’s needs? Am I involved enough with my kids? Are my kids happy and stable enough? Am I cooking enough healthy meals? Am I exercising enough? Am I making enough time for my friends? Have I been a good enough daughter this week? Have I shown the perfect combination of ambition and competency at work to be noticed? Have I shown too much? Not enough? Am I doing enough?
So, you see, I’m a liar. I haven’t gone on a date night with my husband in…see? It’s been so long that I can’t remember. And I blogged about it, like, a year ago! Yes, we’ve gone out with friends as recently as last weekend, but doing the whole committing to one night every six weeks or so, just the two of us, thing? No, it’s been several months. Because I’m a liar. And I’m a tired one at that!
Which is why, at the end of 2019, I literally and figuratively ran out of all of the steam. I ran out of steam to care, let alone wear matching pajamas. I also got pretty darned sick for several months. Months that had me seeing several specialists, visiting the ER multiple times, and crying on the couch in my husband’s sweatpants about how maybe I’m having a midlife crisis? Maybe that’s what this feeling is?
And then I got some sleep - more than five consecutive hours in a row without being awoken in the night by pain or worry. And then I got a bit more sleep. And it’s amazing how I can go from feeling like I need to quit my job and move to the mountains with my family to feeling pretty darned content with life, if I just sleep. And after I’d mastered that whole sleep thing, I pulled a major power-move and left my laptop at home over the Christmas break and spent uninterrupted time with my family in the Midwest. I didn’t check my email. I thought about work, I wondered what awaited me when I got back….but I resisted. I also stayed away from my food tracking app. I ate a lot of cookies. I drank lots of wine. I didn’t work-out at all.
I even started wondering what it would be like to just care a little bit less. Care less whether my parenting, career choices, body, and house upkeep met someone else’s standards. “What would that feel like?” I wondered. Because I’d literally never not cared. I care so much that I think I actually made myself sick.
I cared so much about having a work-life balance that I created a perfect imbalance. I thought it was so important not to take even an extra hour to myself on a business trip nearly halfway around the world that I lost sleep flying back to a house full of people, big and small, who were doing just fine whether I was home an hour sooner or a day later. I thought it was so important to do a good job, that I worked through every “vacation” I had last year. And I created this narrative. Nobody at home told me I was away too much and needed to hurry back. Nobody at work told me not to go on vacation or work nights and weekends. And when I ended up so sick that I missed weeks of work and spent months not fully recovering, mysteriously, is when I started to finally look in the mirror and wonder if I’d been lying to myself.
Yes, because I’m a liar, duh. Of course. I was lying about the fact that I was always comfortable being a full-time working mom who travels a lot for my job. I hate it sometimes, to be honest, and found myself telling a friend that I was jealous of the stay-at-home-moms I saw in Target one day when I was home and doing our weekly grocery shopping in the middle of the day. It felt so dreamy that I was able to convince myself that they weren’t also lying liars who were dying to just get the hell out of the house and talk to anyone who was a grown-up, even if it was the Target cashier. I was lying about the fact that I didn’t stay up wondering if I was being a good role model to my daughters by trying to effortlessly (using all of my effort) “do it all” so much that I made myself sick and tired.
So I’m going to lie less to myself. Which may translate into a lot more Instagram photos like this:
But hopefully it’ll help you lie less, too. Because we all do it. We’re all lying liars about something. You care, I know you do, because when we’re eating pizza alone in my kitchen and talking about it, you tell me how much you care and how worried you are about failing.
You know what? You probably are. We all are. We’re big, lying failures.
Good. Because this is a bunch of bullshit, mama. I don’t care what your co-worker, Denise, said the other day about all of the food prep she does each week in order to make sure she and her perfect kids eat “clean” all week. You know what? Denise is also a liar. Maybe not about her food prep, because that actually does sound like something aspirational I’ll likely never do, but about something else. And I’m too busy lying about my own stuff to worry about what Denise is staying awake worrying about, so let’s just all breathe, shall we?
We’ll keep lying, don’t you worry, because it’s what we’re best at. But try to take one of the “enough’s” off of your list this year. That’s all. Just one enough. Mine? That I have “enough” work-life balance. Because I don’t. I likely never will. Sometimes I’ll be able to be home more and do all of the field trips and recitals. And sometimes I’ll be in a season of heavy work travel and forget to sign up for the umpteenth Tricky Tray event at school. And guess what? It’s fine. Because Rhonda, who’s running the Tricky Tray, is too busy lying to herself about how she has to be the perfect PTA president to even notice that I’ve yet to remember to show up to a PTA event. And at least I’ve given her someone to feel superior over this week, which might help her sleep a little better at night when she’s doubting herself.
You’re enough, mama. Me too. And sometimes that might be a lie, but it’s better than the other ones we’ve been telling ourselves. And if you bring the pizza, I’ll supply the wine, and we can even invite Denise and Rhonda, too. They could use it.
You’re doing a good job, mama. And that’s the truth.