I was reading a collection of articles from the Oprah magazine yesterday. One of the articles was an interview Oprah did with a mother of nine kids. What struck me about the article wasn’t how the woman did it, or how she managed to find any time for herself, or how she kept her figure. No, I was struck that there was no mention of the woman’s support network. The woman said how great her husband was, but she didn’t mention the support or help she got from family members, friends, community or church groups. Maybe during the course of the interview this woman gushed at length about how awesome her mother has been about helping, or how much she appreciates the local mom’s group, but those comments didn’t make it into the final interview, and I have my suspicions about why that is.
We are living in a time of epidemic perfection. Unless you are a reality TV star, you are supposed to exude confidence, poise, contentment, and self-possession. Absolutely no negativity allowed. In short, you are supposed to be perfect. Oh sure, everybody knows you’re not, but there is no excuse for not keeping up the pretense. This seems especially true for women. My own peer group being moms (and there was a time I’d have cringed at the thought of ever writing that sentence) I see it mostly in that group. Our children are perfect. Our husbands are perfect. Our dinners are perfect. Our homes are perfect. Our sex lives are perfect. It’s just us Stepfords here, hanging out, being perfect. Well ladies, I’m about to crash the party.
I have been laboring under a semi-serious depression for about six months now. You cannot imagine how hard it was for me to write that sentence. For twenty years now, I have styled myself as the epitome of independence. I was like the terminator of achievement. Give me a goal and watch me obliterate it. I eat goals for breakfast. Grrrr. When I lost my sight, I heard nothing but “can’t.” You can’t do this. She’ll never do that. So I, unwittingly, set out to prove the world wrong. I’ve only recently realized that the world really doesn’t care what I do. But still, old habits die hard. I carried this perfection mania into my life as a mother. I would not only manage to be a mother, and a blind mother at that, I was going to be the best mother ever. I would know everything and do everything. Sleep was for wusses. Honestly, I don’t think I fooled anybody, but that didn’t stop me trying. My delicate house of cards started to slant, then crash right about the time Sprout turned two. He needed to be around other kids. He needed new experiences. I couldn’t give him that. I couldn’t drive him to play groups. I couldn’t take him on educational outings. I couldn’t even play match-the-color games with him. Depression doesn’t often jump out at you from behind doors or ambush you in dark alleys. It creeps in when you’re safe behind locked doors. It’s like a slow drip, eating away at your defenses little by little. That’s the way it was for me. I was trucking along, Ms. Perfection atop my homemade parade float, waving to the crowd. Yes, it’s me, managing to do it all and love it. Then we hit heavy traffic. My float stalled. Then the rains came. Then I was just trying to hide from onlookers underneath the ruins of the tissue-thin facade I’d built.
This is the part where I tell you what turned it all around for me, where I recount the story that brought me to the point of self love. Except I’m not there yet. Every day is a struggle with my own emotions, with my feelings of inadequacy, with my guilt over not being over-the-moon joyous at this awesome life I have. Because don’t get me wrong, mine is an awesome life. It is possible to know that on a cerebral level and not feel it in the soul.
Continuing with the honesty, I started this blog as a way to show everybody that a blind woman could do it all. I wanted to share my struggles, but more honestly still, I wanted to share my triumphs. Triumphs were what I was used to. But I’m tired of faking it. I’m tired of this perfection game that nobody, not me, not you, not any of the moms who appear to have it all wins. I’ve had to reassess who I am these last few months, and frankly, I’m still not sure I know. But then, I’m not sure we ever know. The very act of self examination changes who we are. All we can ever hope for, all we should strive for, is self acceptance. That means acceptance of our lives, our weaknesses, and our own emotions. It’s okay not to be perfect. It’s okay.
I write this for myself. It’s something I needed to say. But I hope other women will benefit from it too. It’s not my place to tell you you’re not perfect. Hell, up until a few months ago I thought you were. But I’ve taken a long look at my own charade, and I think I see the signs of similar pantomimes in yours.
I think it must have been the Mommy Wars, the stay at home moms vs. the outside the home moms, that forced women to feel like they had to choose sides in a battle that most of us think is ridiculous and care not a wit about, but having chosen a side, we had to play hard for our team lest we be blamed for the loss. Whether your work is primarily inside the home or you spend much of your day outside your home, raising kids is hard work, physically and emotionally. I don’t know everything, but one thing I do know is that nobody raises a kid alone, and you sure as shit don’t raise nine alone. If that’s your propaganda, you’re hurting yourself, but more importantly, you’re hurting your daughters.