A friend of mine called me up to ask about a Norwex gift she wanted to give her cleaning lady. HER CLEANING LADY. I have known this friend for years and it never occurred to me that she had a cleaning lady, but OF COURSE she does. She works fulltime and has for years. She has two kids and has provided loving, intensive care for additional foster kids. She cooks, she works in the church nursery, she goes to parent teacher conferences, she’s a great friend. And she delegates the cleaning to someone else.
But in my mind, she was doing all the things. She was just somehow inherently better at life than I was because she was juggling all the balls so effortlessly. Having this peek into her life made me wonder how other people view me and what I do. And it’s made me take a second look at my other friends who appear to be doing it all.
I’m pretty sure I am creating a FrankenMom in my mind that I’m regularly comparing myself to. I’m taking the fragments of life I see from my friends and compiling them into one magic woman who is doing all of life perfectly. I know one friend who has a beautifully decorated house, another one is making gourmet meals, someone is going to graduate school, while another one is accomplishing things at work that I could only dream about. This one is writing a book, that one is taking her kids to Europe, and I’m constantly in awe of the one who has mastered the mystical art of hair braiding that I’m still fumbling around with. But at the end of the day, I forget those are snippets of their lives. I assume if they are running a marathon, they are also doing everything else with that kind of determination and success. I’m not recognizing that the time and attention it takes to train for a marathon may mean their counter is piled high with clutter and the laundry is still sitting on the couch.
It’s not that I want to take these women down in order to make myself feel better, it’s more that I’ve got to let go of this idea that we’re all working towards some state of motherhood perfection. We are all given the same amount of hours and we have to prioritize where we use our time. I need to be content with the decisions I’m making instead of imagining that everybody else is winning at life while I’m just limping along. I also need to be more mindful of how the picture I present to the world may be misleading.
So many of us have support in order to do what we do. For my friend, it’s a cleaning lady. For other friends, it’s a decorator who helped them achieve that perfect home. Some have husbands who are expert chefs and others have neighbors who handle the carpool. Devoted grandmas can make life easier in innumerable ways. In order for me to work from home with minimal distractions, I’ve been blessed with a number of great nannies (and one exceptional “manny“) over the last three years. And lots of us with relationships that look like storybook marriages are thankful for the help of great counselors who help us work through the tough times that come up.
It’s easy for me to create this mental FrankenMom and then hate her. I imagine she’s judging me for not having my act together or for seeming lazy and unmotivated. I use my own perceptions of other people’s lives to beat myself up and create distance between other women and myself. I pull away from community because I don’t want other people to see the reality of my life because I imagine their reality is better than mine. I feel the pressure to present my own FrankenMom to the world and pretend to be better at juggling all the things than I actually am.
I don’t think any less of my friend for having a cleaning lady. Thankfully, I think it just helps dismantle the FrankenMom I’ve created in my mind and allows me to see her for who she is. It actually allows me to see how our priorities and challenges may be different and we’re all figuring out how to best use the limited time we have. It helps me give grace to her in her struggles and grace to myself when I fail.
I don’t want to be a FrankenMom. I want to be in a community of women who take joy in each other’s strengths and have grace for our weaknesses. I don’t think that means we need to beat ourselves up or lay ourselves emotionally bare in an attempt at “honesty” and I don’t think it means we glory in our failures when we need to be taking steps toward healthy improvements. But we can openly acknowledge those who help us do what we do and talk about the costs of the priority decisions we make.
When we have friends who are more than the FrankenMoms we’ve imagined them to be and when we allow ourselves to stop trying to present our own FrankenMom image to the world, I think that’s where true community starts.