Maybe it's just because schools around here started, or maybe it was because I was too wrapped up in my own little soap opera of…whatever-ness, but something's going on with moms.
No, not that something. We're not talking about that mom who's got it going onnnnn. I'm talking about the mom who has TOO much going on.
I'm sure I'm not the first to talk about this, because I've seen it mentioned several times before. But I thought to myself, a majority of moms know better than to push their minds and bodies beyond the limit. I mean, we may be juggling many roles and have our two hands full, but for the most part…we all know when to call it quits, right? We know our limits; we know when enough is enough.
Apparently, I was wrong.
For whatever reasons, God has blessed me with many opportunities over the past few weeks to really get to know the mommy friends I call…uhh..mommy friends. I mean, I knew of these wonderful women, but I didn't really take notice to all they do. It wasn't until I (somewhat haphazardly) jumped into their little world of busy, busy, and did I mention busy (?) that I got to know them for who they really are.
First off, these women are great. They are what most would consider "Super Moms". They attend all the PTA meetings, they volunteer regularly at their child's school; they help wipe snot off the little toddler's at Sunday school. On the outside, they seem like they got it all together.
But, after immersing myself into their world, I have found a side that no one wants to talk about or discuss. I call it "Super Mom Syndrome". These moms, they feel called by some higher force (God, PTA presidents, Girl Scout Troops and their crack-laced cookies, whatever) to do all that they do. I don't doubt for a minute that maybe, in the very beginning, that higher force really did call them to do something. After all, have you ever had those Girl Scout cookies? *drools*
What? Oh, right. They felt called to do something. Maybe God called them to do Sunday school. Maybe the PTA president called them and offered them the super-comfy chair in all the meetings. Maybe those gosh-darn Girl Scouts came to the door with puppy dog eyes, and a little red wagon full of cookies to be pimped. I mean, sold. Anyways, I won't deny their entry into the world of volunteer work. They felt called, and they should follow that calling. However, once you say "yes" to such commitments…you get a little high off of them.
Oh, don't you look at me funny because I compared what you do as a high. Take a deep look at yourself and admit it. The first time you did it, someone said to you, "good job!" or "you handled that like a pro!" or something to that effect. It made you feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Someone noticed that you (a mom who rarely ever gets praise from your own family, who you work the hardest for) did something, and you totally rocked it. The kids you volunteer with gave you hugs…willingly. The head honcho (whoever that is to you) praised you. You realized, hey, you are freaking awesome. This (fill-in-the-blank) is totally your "thing". You can do this, and even better, people notice you doing it and praising you for it.
But just like that high you get once you've had an extra cup of coffee or snuck a piece of that chocolate you told the kids you were throwing away because "it's bad for you"(don't worry, I do it, too), you suddenly can't stop at one. The same people that praised you also throw in, "You can do this next week, right?" or "maybe you should consider a position in this (Sunday school, Troop leadership, VP of the PTA, etc.)." And, although you may politely refuse the position that makes you there all hours of the day, you may say, "Well, I can't do this all the time, but maybe…once more?". Then, you start to make friends with Betty Baking all the freaking time Crocker and Suzy I have a volunteer list that longer than my spiffy Hummer Homemaker. And you secretly think, "Wow, these women are amazing! They can do it all, why can't I??" Shortly after that, you sign up for another activity (that may or may not be higher-authority approved), and you get a DOUBLE high. It's like eating the whole candy bar in plain sight and the kids don't notice, baby! Then, you meet more of the Betty's and the Suzy's of the volunteer world, and you are encouraged, motivated even, to do more. You add a third activity, and you get a TRIPLE high. You're not only eating the chocolate in plain sight, you are eating an entire bag of it! Woo!! Now, of course, the praises are followed with, "You really should consider a position in this…" and, because you're so freaking high on praise and adoration, you're like, "HECK YEAH! GIMME SOME OF THAT!"
While you're off getting high on volunteering, suddenly you're angelic children are suddenly little demon spawn. They are complaining about doing activities (Sunday school, Girl/Boy Scouts, going to another PTA meeting with you…or worse, staying home with Daddy and who knows what he's making for dinner!). They grumble and get clingy. They start fighting with each other more, suddenly only want such-and-such a food and not a thing more. They suddenly become little walking advertisements for PMS, and they're not even old enough to reach puberty, much less the top of the counter! What gives?!
Don't they know that, in a sense, you're doing this for a higher power? Don't they understand that, in a small way, you're doing this also for them? After all, how would the PTA function without a VP? How would Sunday school class be taught if you weren't there every.single.week to teach it? How would the Girl/Boy Scouts get their camping badge if you don't take them out to camp? Don't they get it?
Suddenly, their little outburst of B&M'ing (Bitching and Moaning) becomes a regular occurrence. Your defenses go up. As a mom, you know something is wrong. Confused, you turn to one of your many Betty and/or Suzy friends and voice your concern. What are you doing wrong? Their children are angels, why aren't yours?
Then, Betty and Suzy reveal the truth. "Oh, my little Johnny only acts like that with you. At home, he's a complete monster!" or "Oh, my baby girl, she complains about coming here all the time, but once she's here, she just loves it!" They sigh and roll their eyes when their child comes over B&M'ing about being here for the third time in ten minutes. They say, it must be a phases, they'll get over it. They'll outgrow it. They'll be okay.
You try to allow their words to sink in. Their kids do it, so it must be normal, you reason. You follow their parenting; you roll your eyes in frustration. You sigh and say sweetly(even though you want to beat the living crap out of your kid...but, of course you won't, because the other moms never think such thoughts!) that, for the 50th and final time, no, you cannot leave this place and go home. You grit your teeth. You have a higher calling, and this must be the "thorn in your side". Yes, that must be it.
Before you know it, those activities that got you high are slightly more than you can endure. Your kids are grumpy, your house is a mess, and your husband may be getting sick of all the fast food you've had to order because you were simply just too busy to remember dinner. Or maybe he loves the fast food, but you're not loving the spare tire (and exploding biscuit can) that's seemed to develop around your middle. You're getting bags around your eyes because you are planning the next meeting in your dreams, plotting the next bake sale while waiting for the kids to finish soccer, and cutting out the Sunday school craft while watching television. You want to quit, or at the very least, ease up on some of the activities, but these people, these children…they need you. You can't say no, right?
I know where you're coming from. I've been in that spot more times than I care to admit (that high IS addictive!). As I look back on my own upbringing, I notice something.
My mother was very good at saying "no".
I'm not saying she was lazy or that she didn't find other ways of getting that "high" (another entry, darling…another entry). But she knew her limits. She knew she needed down time. While she may have taken it to the entirely different end of the spectrum (I really don't recall her volunteering for anything…), she still stuck to her guns and said "no". My mom was all but too happy to send us to anything under the sun that was low-cost and her attendance wasn't required. But at the same time, she loved trying to "get into our world", by trying to listen to our music and wear our kind of clothes. She was considered the "cool mom" by most of my friends. She watched movies with us, gave us all the junk food the corner store would allow her, and her boyfriend worked as an Ice Cream Truck Driver during the summer, and a Pizza-Hut delivery man year-round.
She was very good at saying "no".
Were my sister and I perfect children as a result? No. But, I would like to think both of us as having some sort of fond memory of her because when we really needed her, she was there. I don't recall her ever talking about our younger years as being a "little divas" or "clingy". I don't remember my mom ever being "too busy" to deal with me. She may have taken me to her job, but it wasn't something that was done because she needed to. It was always a special treat to go see where Mommy works. Lord knows there was an unspoken code of "you'd better be on your best behavior or else!" always in place. But, at the same time, I always wanted to be on my best behavior, because that meant I could go again to Mommy's job.
Am I saying all this to make you feel guilty? Should we mothers do a major exodus of all activities, leaving the Sunday Schools and Girl Scouts Troops to fend for themselves out in the wild, wild woods?
However, I think we need to take time to do what my mother did and learn to say "no" sometimes, to really think about our priorities. Did God (or those Girl Scout cookies) really call you to do all those activities? Or did He/She/It only call you to one or two, and you jumped the gun and took FIVE instead? And the time spent at home…do we really need to be sending/ checking up on 15 e-mails every 10 minutes about the next activity planned? Do we really need to constantly check our Facebook page to "like" the picture of Betty's newest baking creation or Suzy's rearranged kitchen(*looks around nervously* not that I do that or anything…)? Can we reduce the activities enough, stop the electronic chaos enough, to really stop and listen to our kids? Granted, they may be moaning about watching a particular show or that new recipe for meatloaf but simply showing them that you're fully attentive shows them you value their opinion, their feelings. Kids need to hear that, kids need to see that in action. If they see you loving up on and being attentive to other adults/ children, but come home snappy and unfeeling towards them, they are going to feel a little resentment towards that activity. They are going to lash out to get some attention.
Please don't think I'm on this soap box without understanding how "it is". I worked jobs outside the home, I've attended school outside the home, and I've done a long list of activities outside the home. I tried hard to accept my bratty, cranky children that resulted from me being busy, busy, busy all the time. My kids are still in some ways, in the same spot as your children may be now.
Something inside me said this is NOT okay. I cut back on a lot of things. I'm still trying to listen, really listen to my kids. I'm not on this soapbox because I like to point the finger (no, not that finger), but because I've seen it, lived it, going through it.
Sure, you may still be busy, busy, and busy until they reach adulthood and they may still turn out okay. They may even be outstanding citizens. But why wait until then to find out? Why miss the opportunities God gave you with them now, the ministry you have at home? The ministry called your children, and your family.
A mom's time is precious. Why willingly spend a great chunk of it on children that aren't yours and may not even remember you 20 years down the road? Why take that momentary high for the lifetime high of baking with your kids, reading those bedtime stories, listening to their endless babble, trying to "get into their world"? You may not get all the thanks you really deserve from it.
Don't you want your children to be able to look back on their childhood, remembering you not as Super Mom to everyone else, but as the mom that was there for them when they really thought they needed you? Will it really matter to them that you were Betty Baking all the freaking time for other people Crocker or Suzy look at my endless list of activities that are no fun to my children Homemaker?
Let's take off our Super Mom capes and wean ourselves off that volunteer high. Let's learn to say "no", and put our priorities, our energy, and our love, our full and undivided attention where they really belong.
In the freezer, sneaking those pieces of chocolate we told the kids we were throwing away.
…I mean, home! Let's do all that stuff at HOME. Let's learn to say no to "Super Mom Syndrome" before it even knocks on our door with those crack-laced cookies.