I went out with a couple friends recently for a happy hour and small meal. There was a special somewhere local and it was the perfect excuse to take a break and catch up with one another. This isn’t something I do often because things don’t usually work out with schedules, child care or some other situation. Yet this time it did for most of us and we went. We all piled into my mini-van and went. The cool part was the women who went with me were two neighbors that I don’t get to see that often. As we sipped our drinks waiting on our food we talked about our kids and husbands one of us commented that stories like this always make it seem our life isn’t so bad.
I hadn’t gone out with these friends to compare my life to theirs. I seriously went for the cheap drinks and grilled shrimp. My reason was for some fun, connection with other moms, a meal someone served me and just a change of scenery. Maybe that was shortsighted and I was naive of what it would all mean. Yet here we were talking about our families, each of us building up the stories we shared and comparing it to our own family. I wondered as we each went back to our homes that night if we weren’t thinking “wow my family isn’t so bad after all” and smiling in appreciation while saying a little prayer for the other two we shared time with this evening.
When I look at my own family and life I feel love of course but also pride and accomplishment, survival and a lot of figuring it out as we go. I wouldn’t call my family or life perfect by any means. Like most I worry about making sure my family gets vegetables, how to cut back on processed food and how we’re going to get all the homework done on time. I wonder a lot about if my job is going to last so I can support my family. I also then turn thoughts to how I can continue to grow Dragonspit Apothecary to offset that risk. Then the big question always come up for me. I’m betting you ask yourself this question a lot too. Am I doing the best I can as a wife and mom?
There it is.
That million dollar question that never seems to have a complete answer. I ask myself that a lot. Am I doing all I can to give my family the best of me? Am I doing this wife and mom thing right? At the end of the day the question isn’t about how to solve major world problems or influence society but rather am I doing this right? Am I not messing it up to the point my family won’t love me anymore? Am I doing it at least as good as I hear my friends doing it?
The two friends I went out with that night, myself and probably you too all ask this question or a variation of it almost every day. I believe it’s why we’re always so busy and not taking time for ourselves. It’s most likely why we’re so stressed out and exhausted all the time too. It’s why we’re always the last to eat and first to get up in the morning. It’s why we cram so much into our daily schedule we don’t have time to eat well or exercise. We are all seeking that confirmation and affirmation that we’re on the right path, what we’re doing is good and we’re good at it. If that is even possible. It’s why we naturally compare ourselves and our families to others we know and see. It’s why we always feel like we’re failing or at the very least not graceful at it.
I looked at my two friends that evening and saw them as ideal moms. They were both stay at home moms where as I work full time and run a small business. They have free time while the kids are at school to run errands, go to the gym, clean the house, do the laundry and make meals where I cram things into the evenings and weekends to keep up. They seemed perfect to me and while I heard their stories of children struggling in school and husbands giving them grief just like mine I still thought they were better at it than me. They had the time to give more of themselves to their families and yet they were still saying the same things I was about my family.
How was this possible?
The truth is it doesn’t matter if we work full time or stay at home or if our homes are sparkling clean or a disaster zone. These sames feelings and question of am I doing it right arise for each of us. I believe we put so much pressure on ourselves to do what we think is right or what we should be doing that we end up thinking we’re not doing any of it right! It’s truly maddening to be honest. Yet here we were three moms and wives sitting together over a small meal and happy hour sharing how each of us was struggling to do it right and comparing it to one another with none of us feeling like the poster mom or wife of the year.
I decided that night driving home that maybe there isn’t such a thing as the ideal wife and mom. Most of the things we know about these roles come from our own moms and what society tells us they should look like. The little saying about women needing to work like they don’t have a family and mother like they don’t work is such a bullshit saying and a bar none of us will ever achieve. This type of messaging only serves to make it feel like we are constantly failing at something. I’d like to say I was done with that type of thinking but the truth is I still have a ways to go in overcoming that.
Dropping my friends off at their house before going to my own I really prayed they did not go into their homes thinking they were doing it wrong or the other two had it better than them. I myself sat in my driveway for a minute and promised myself not to do that either. I wanted each of us to honor that small time we had together, just 3 women and 1 happy hour having a couple laughs and sharing some stories of how life was treating us. While not easy I wanted to use this experience as a launch pad to stop leaning into the pressure and bar that I will never obtain and start just being me. Imperfect, sometimes ungraceful and doing the best I know to do every day with a little humor, sarcasm and maybe some good luck thrown.
It became important to me from this small happy hour to find more ways to live more naturally in peace for my role as a wife and mom. The society demands and pressures of we should be doing, how we should be doing it and getting it all done in a day doesn’t work for me. It isn’t working for my two friends and probably isn’t for you either. Yet we give into those feelings every day and fall into our beds exhausted, frustrated and feeling like we didn’t do enough. That’s not being true to ourselves and realistically not to our families either.
The best way I know to begin this transformation is to build a new way of thinking that does honor what it means to be a mom, wife and all the other elements that make up who I am. It’s redefining the expectations and giving a middle finger to the society pressures of never reaching some arbitrary bar of what these roles should look like. It’s using our own voice, mind, spirit and body to do what is right for us in each of the roles we fill each day. It’s living more of our best life naturally each day in happiness and peace that while imperfect we give it a good run when we rise in the morning until we tuck in those sweet babies at night.
Here’s to more happy hours with shrimp and sweet friends where we can lift one another up and our comparisons of each other are positive and helpful.
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