Monday, September 12, 2011

Am I the Only One Keeping Up with the Stay At Homeses?

If there's anything that being involved in the blogging world has taught me it's that I'm not good enough, smart enough, talented enough, clean enough, or anything enough. Okay, I'm kidding. But only sort of. Blogs are where we show off our extra best selves - unless we're writing about how we can't make it to the bathroom or being sad - and some people's extra best selves are just more photogenic and PR friendly than others. Seriously, a girl could develop a complex reading all the blogs written by all those ladies, wives, and moms who never have a bad day, are always surrounded by beauty, and don't have an ounce of stress in their lives.

That's the illusion, anyway, and it's an illusion that doesn't need a blog or a photo album. We all walk around not talking about the hurt or the stress or the challenges.

We present our most photogenic and PR friendly SELVES in real life, too.

I know it isn't real. Even those lucky people with legitimately sunshineriffic outlooks on life have their bad days. No one's house is picture perfect all the time. Perfect people lose their tempers, too. Some people are good at some things, some people are good at others. Everyone feels a little low now and then.

And comparing yourself to other people is a recipe for disaster no matter what. I know this.

So what's the problem, you ask? The problem, my lovelies, is that last part. Look, the fact is I have never had a lot of luck or crafting talent or a big interesting house or really cool hair. I'm not the smartest or the fittest or the cleanest even the luckiest. I'm blessed, but I'm not supremely blessed the way others seem to be (although I'm certainly supremely blessed compared to many people). I have to work, sometimes a lot. I had to put my daughter in daycare. Money can be tight. And I look at everyone around me and can't help but assume that everyone I see is living the high life, making the best decisions, and pretty much getting everything they want all the time. True? Of course not. But when I'm in a darker mood or feeling sad that I'm a working mom, it sure can feel true.

My response to these feelings is pretty comical and, according to science, depression inducing.

Where other people try to keep up with the Joneses, I try to keep up with the Stay at Homeses. Look, I've never actually been a SAHM. Sure I had the Babby at my side, but I worked until the day before the Babby was born and I got back to work about four days later because an early baby meant I hadn't had any time to work ahead or coordinate anything resembling maternity leave. The Babby and I figured out our own version of work-life balance, and that lasted until an economy-driven freelance slump. It is what it is, and as I said last week or so, I'm done complaining.

working mother guilt

Since then, though, I have so feared being judged as LESS - less of a mom, less of a wife, less successful, less competent, less worthy, less fun, or less nice - that I have busted my rump trying to keep up with all of the many, many SAHMs in my life who literally have seven more hours each weekday than I do to devote to child rearing and homemaking. Because I am absolutely terrified of people looking down on me or feeling sorry for me or otherwise thinking I am just an utterly terrible human being because I have to work and thus cannot spend more of my time taking care of home and family.

Thus my home is probably cleaner and more organized than it was before I went back to working outside of the home to compensate for the time I'm not there. I try harder to make the Babby's life both engaging and educational to compensate for all the fun things we can no longer do outside of weekends that feel all too brief. I'm constantly looking for new things to reupholster, decoupage, or otherwise modify into something cuter or more colorful. I suddenly find myself with more social obligations than ever before. I'm wearing earrings to casual get togethers, as if anyone cares what I look like!

To put it another way, I am trying to create the most photogenic and PR friendly life I can to make up for the fact that there's a lot about my life right now that's not what I think of as photogenic and PR friendly. 

That's what keeping up with the stay at homeses is all about. When I had the time to work on creating the illusion of perfection, I didn't care about perfection. And now that I no longer have the time, I'm a woman semi-obsessed with NOT appearing frazzled and making it look like I can handle everything that comes my way with a smile on my face and a vegan chocolate chip peanut butter cake fresh out of the oven whenever one is called for.

Do any of you other working moms out there ever feel like you need to keep up with your stay at home mom friends? Do you succeed or just end up wearing yourself out?


  1. Jebus, I AM a sahm and I feel like I need to keep up with some of my SAHM friends. And frankly, you blow me out of the water on the home keeping front. I always feel like I need to do /more/ after reading your blog - and that's no criticism, lady.

  2. Eek, Your first two links just go to blogger's home page

  3. @Audrey I guess you could ex out a lot of this post, even the ladies part, and just write something like "Us humans are all kind of looking at each other thinking we probably don't do as much as anyone else is doing!"

    @mkb Oopsie! Will fix.

  4. You know, I think I consider myself a SAHM, but when I think about it, I'm teaching piano/voice and I just spent the boys' nap time frantically editing engagement photos... they're uploading on another computer as I type. But I think that maybe I need to blog more about the bad stuff... just to even things out.

    About a year ago, I spent the last 2 weeks of my 5th pregnancy wetting myself due to a horrible cough/cold. That sucked, I didn't blog about it. Maybe it was too gross?

    And I still haven't taken my kids to Disneyland... too expensive!

    See? We all suck :)

  5. It's funny, I've always thought of you as a working mom! Being a photographer isn't exactly a non-time consuming walk in the park, though I bet it's pretty fun. :)

    I don't think we should all blog about the bad stuff all the time - it's a bad habit I get into, going in the complete opposite direction. In fact, I once had someone ask me a long time ago why my life was so bad because it must be terrible if that's all I write about, ack. But the endless perfection from some blogs is like inspiring at first, then demoralizing... Hopefully I can strike a balance between keeping it real and pity party-o-rama.

  6. (Though judging by the fact that I spilled just about every part of dinner, burnt myself, and have a hit happy toddler today, I'm about ready to throw in the towel, yikes!)

  7. My first year of working after my (depressingly short) maternity leave was like that. I constantly compared myself to the SAHM bloggers I read. I felt like an utter failure as a mom, as a homemaker, as a wife, as a friend, and as a woman.

    But I finally realized that I was slowly killing myself with all that anguish. I *HAVE* to work. So to constantly beat myself up on the stuff that I don't have the time to do? I had to stop. (Honestly, I'm not that great a housekeeper anyway. But blogging made me feel like I should be for a while).

    I stopped reading some of those blogs. I limit my reading of others. But more than anything, I've spent a year drilling into my head "Making crafts doesn't make me an awesome mom. Being an awesome mom makes me an awesome mom."

  8. Remember not to be so hard on yourself. As humans we feel the need to find ourselves in others, and if we can’t we feel that we fall short. Trust in your abilities, know that you are worthy and most importantly remember that you have many gifts and abilities that are important to those around you. And that my friend is all that matters!

  9. I always tell my husband that I may be a SAHM, but I am not a homemaker. my homemaking skills leave a lot to be desired. I clean the necessary areas (bathroom and kitchen). everything else gets a once over. I am not trying to keep up with anyone. I know that will only make me miserable. I know my limits and I draw the line at being Susie Homemaker.

  10. I think cleaning is something you either like a lot or don't like A LOT. I happen to fall into the like camp, mainly because I like immediate results and cleaning gives me immediate results (unlike a lot of work stuff or parenting, etc.).

  11. This was so perfect! I think most people feel that way. I just took some pix of my disaster of a weekend kitchent to work into a "real" post. We don't do dishes or clean much on weekends. I get to do it all (fun) Monday morning. People might think my life is happy happy joy yoy because I tend to live, talk and walk upbeat but it is also a real life - occasional temper fits, misunderstandings and dishes piled high and deep in the sink! I love this post!

  12. I completely understand how you feel about keeping up with the Momses...I work outside of the home part time but still want to give my family a Leave it to Beaver's sooo not easy to do...thanks for the great post!

  13. Too funny. I recently just blogged about not loving seeing blogs that are "perfect everythings"...and the ones that talk about God all the time.

    It makes me sick. Not physically. I will admit I'll try to post some pretty pics, but that isn't my life, nor will I try to portray it that way. I used to want to, however. Now I just want to be me.


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