As a writer, you need to have thick skin. I admittedly don't -- not even a little bit. Look at me the wrong way and I'm balled up in the corner crying. It's always been my downfall as a writer, putting all of my words and emotions out for the world to comment on and critique as they see fit, knowing that there is little protection to save you from the hypothetical harpoons the world is throwing at you when they don't agree with your words or thoughts. I like to think this blog is an honest portrayal of my life regardless of who likes it and who doesn't. I like to think I'm pretty honest and don't hide the ugly parts for fear of judgment. I mean, it doesn't take much for me to ramble on about how filthy my hair is or acknowledge it's about time I wash it, you know, for the first time in a week. I joke about and embrace the tumbleweeds of cat hair floating across the tile. I fully admit to having gigantic piles of clothing on our couch, futon, hamper, on top of the washer or dryer that can only be rivaled by the piles of dishes in the sink. From where I sit writing this, I am looking out at a floor cluttered with clothing hangers, plastic toy boats, an empty egg carton and a roll of bubble wrap. I post frequent photographs of my child dressed in only a t-shirt, never really wearing pants unless we're out in public, and usually with some kind of food-residue goatee thing going on. There are some people with spotless homes, sinks void of dishes and children who are always perfectly coiffed even at home. Sure, sometimes I make the effort to wake up a few minutes early and run a flat iron over my morning Quiet Riot hair, but usually I've stayed up well past my bedtime planning tot school curriculum or wasting away in front of Roseanne reruns and settle for a messy ponytail (I know -- and I believed myself when I swore I wouldn't succumb to mom bun anymore). This doesn't mean I'm better than those people. And it doesn't mean they're better than me. It doesn't mean I'm more real than they are. It doesn't mean that they're lying when they put their feet up at naptime basking in satisfaction that their home is utterly spotless. It doesn't mean because my life is somehow always a driving force of chaos that anyone who finds themselves smooth sailing through toddler-wrangling is lying. Or fake. Or hiding something from you. The world is not lying to you. Parenthood isn't some giant conspiracy.
I've found that my defenses are somehow heightened since becoming a mother. Let's say that I disclose in a woe is me blog entry that my biggest problem with my marriage is my husband's job and the fact it keeps him from us so often. He works long, late nights and we rarely see him. Sometimes I rock my child to sleep as he cries for daddy until his eyes just can't stay open any longer. Sometimes my husband works six days a week and I can't even remember the last time we sat down for a family meal together. I'm feeling sad, and lonely, and really miss my husband, I will write. "How do you think I feel? My husband is deployed and I haven't seen him in over a year," someone will say. "Oh, please, no one has a perfect marriage, there must be secret problems going on," someone will say. "How utterly un-self sufficient you are to rely on a man for happiness," someone will say. Two weeks later I will recount a story about how my husband forgot to buy bread for the third day in a row like he promised he would and it's driving me out of my mind. "I would never eat bread, it's like poison," someone will say. "But it's gluten-free millet and chia bread," my defense mechanism will say. "Oh, you're so fancy, I guess regular bread isn't good enough for you," someone will say. "My husband has Celiac disease," my defense mechanism will say. "My neighbor's cousin's aunt's son's friend has a worse disease, one that is terminal," someone will say. "I knew there were problems in that marriage," someone will say.
Because motherhood is, in actuality, seventy-five times worse than high school, there are cliques. There are groups and labels and people who just will not like you because your kid is or isn't drinking juice on the playground. There will be a mom watching your two year old peel the organic label off of his plum and insist that she can't be your friend because she doesn't like "organic moms." There will be a mom who will attend your child's birthday party and never talk to you again because she doesn't like "Pinterest moms." There are apparently more subcategories and subcultures of motherhood than there was in high school, and those were confusing enough for me. Like the time in high school this girl told me I "couldn't be" emo because my hair was long, and saw to it to remind me of this every chance she got. Like the time outside of an Alkaline Trio show where she felt the need to walk up to me and ask why I was there, because I was obviously a poser. "Look at you with your long hair, you're such a poser." You guys, motherhood is worse than that.
Everyone is in this constant state of labeling and assuming. It's like in our sleep deprived stupor of mothers, we're convinced that the world has been taken over by some massive conspiracy theory in which everyone is trying to make us look or feel bad. I was recently asked if I'm a mainstream parent or an alternative parent and, you guys, I didn't even know how to answer that. I don't even know what that means. I'm a parent. I'm a mom. I'm doing the best that I can in the only way I know how, even if that means finding a disgusting amount of dorky joy in planning Tot School lessons and making batches of homemade playdough in between chugs of espresso. It means that when I'm putting the finishing touches on a sensory bin, I'm honestly not thinking about how much better a parent this makes me than someone who doesn't even know what a sensory bin is. When I'm slicing cucumbers and tomatoes for Ethan's lunch, I'm honestly not thinking about how much better of a parent I am than someone who is slicing deli meat for a sandwich. These ideas never cross my mind until I'm somehow accused of them and I find myself dwelling for far longer than necessary. I find Pinterest fun, and I love turning my little home into a place of creativity and child-led learning. These things are important to me. It doesn't mean I won't look your way in the grocery store if you're all "ain't nobody got time for that" about arts and crafts projects. I'm a mommy. I'm Ethan's mommy. You're a mommy. Maybe you have an Ethan, too ("did you know it's one of the most popular names in 2012?" - says everyone I run into ever). It is the greatest title and role I could have ever imagined taking on and it isn't always easy. Sometimes I'm way too worn down to even answer an e-mail that has been sitting in my inbox for three days, or walk to the mailbox to check the mail, or blow dry my hair so it doesn't dry all matted and mangled. These things are just part of my motherhood gig, like the mom you run into with the perfectly curled hair. She's just existing, and living, and being -- and she's probably not hiding anything from you.
And, really, I promise -- neither am I. Life is short. Live it in a way that makes you happy.