At this moment, my house is a mess, more than a mess really, it’s a disgrace. The dishwasher needs emptied, the breakfast dishes are piled in the sink, and the crockpot is sitting out, “soaking” with greasy soapy water. There are two loads of laundry dumped on the couch that need folding and the remains of a pretty awesome pillow fort are strewn all over the floor.
This wouldn’t be a big deal except that a friend just texted me to ask if she can stop by in a few minutes to drop some clothes off for the triplets. How can I say no? We love hand-me-downs.
A few years ago, I would have apologized profusely for the mess as I let me friend in the door. I would have explained, in detail, all the very good reasons I had for the place being a mess. You know what else I would have done? I would have apologized for the “mess” even if my house was clean. I would straighten and scrub before inviting people over and still apologize as my mom friends walked in the door.
I’m not even sure why I was apologizing.
Did I imagine other women kept their house cleaner and neater? Was I worried that they were judging my home? I think it had something to do with me trying to present myself as a person who was in control of the chaos that is my life. Then I think it just turned into a habit.
I’ve decided to stop apologizing. I think you should too.
A few years ago, I took my son over to play at a friend’s house. It was his first time there and my first time meeting the mom. They had just moved in and the mom was in the middle of painting a bedroom. There were kids running through the house jumping over toys and shooting nerf guns at each other. Painting supplies and boxes were scattered throughout the house. But there were no apologies. The mom simply stated, “I’m painting today; I’m so excited about how the room is going to turn out.” In the past two years I’ve been to their house a few times and seen it in many stages: neat as a pin as I’m dropping my son off for a birthday party, happily messy as I’m picking my son up after the party and everything in between. Not once has this mom apologized for the state of the house and why should she?
Aren’t our homes the same? Cluttered and chaotic when we put chores aside to play with our kids, when we decide we need to catch up on our latest Netflix binge, or because illness has hit our homes. Sparkling and smelling fresh after a Saturday scrub down or in preparation for a party. We live here and our space reflects that-our kids, our jobs, our busy lives.
So I’m not going to apologize anymore! I’m just going to live in my home, stop caring what others might think and break my habit of apologizing for the mess!
I always wanted to be a mom, I loved being around children, and I babysat a ton when I was in high school. So, when I had my first child I thought I was well prepared and the transition would be smooth. To put it simply, it was not. It was hard; it still is hard. But you know what got me through those first clueless and sleepless months and continues to carry me? You guessed it, an amazing group of friends, my mom tribe.
Ladies, we need other mommies who get us, women who we can commiserate with, get advice from, share a laugh with. I am fortunate to have a great tribe of moms in my life. If you are still looking for yours, here are my three tips for finding your crew.
I remember very clearly the day a friend confided in me that she struggled with anxiety, something that I also struggle with. I was blown away that this seemingly perfect mom was dealing with something so difficult and something that I knew about first hand. It deepened our friendship and helped me let go of what felt like a giant secret that I needed to keep. This experience taught me that to truly take my relationships to the next level, beyond surface friendships, I needed to be honest and authentic.
Be yourself. If your house is always a mess, don’t pretend like it’s usually clean. If you always run late, don’t act like this is the only time you’ve shown up ½ hour after playdate started. If you feed your kids processed food, don’t pretend that those fruit snacks are organic. If you don’t feel like you have your act together, don’t act like you do. Because here’s the thing, none of us do. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, there are no perfect moms. We all struggle, none of us have our act together even if we look like we do. Share your imperfections, your struggles, your suffering-that’s what makes you who you are.
Put Yourself Out There
If you wanna find your mom tribe, you gotta put yourself out there. I won’t lie here, this is hard for me and I’ve failed at this over the years. I tried to join a playgroup when my triplets were about 2 and I was told there was no room in the group. I was devastated because the group was made up of a bunch of moms I thought I could really get along with. Luckily for me, these moms started inviting me to things and we did get to be friends. This taught me that I can’t passively sit back and wait for cool moms to show up in my life.
Putting yourself out there means physically going out, or inviting people over. So log off of the interweb and get out there. (Wait, finish reading this first and then you’ll probably want to share it or pin it of course, then you can get off the interweb!) Join a local moms club, start chatting with the other moms at work, or join a mommy and me class. If you are digging any of those moms, ask them out on a playdate! This is super difficult and can be awkward, but it’s a necessary step to finding your mom tribe.
When You Find Your Mom Tribe – Keep It Going
This part can be difficult especially as kids get older. When my littles were tiny and not in school, I set the schedule, chose where we went, and who we hung out with. Mostly, we hit the park with my amazing friends and their adorable littles. Now that my kids are older, their school and extracurricular activities set the schedule, determine where we go, and who we hang out with. I’m not saying I don’t enjoy the moms in the karate, dance, and gymnastics waiting rooms because I do. But I will say it takes time out of my life, making it more difficult to get together with the original crew.
It can be very easy to let this new life with new people take over, but once you find your mom tribe, the ones that you really get you, the ones that you can really be yourself around, you need to hold on to them. Invest time in those relationships. Because when you need a shoulder to cry on, it might be a little awkward if the shoulder you choose is some random stranger sitting on a bench outside of dance class.
So what about you? Have you found your tribe yet? Or, are you still looking?
First of all, before I start my tirade, I do want to thank you for bagging my groceries. Not many stores have a designated bagger so that’s nice. I also think it’s great that you are working after school instead of staying home and taking drugs and making out with girls or whatever the kids are doing these days. So, good for you! But I do have a few tips for you and I hope you don’t mind if I share them:
Stop Making the Bags So Freakin’ Heavy
You are obviously very gifted in the spacial intelligence category. I can tell that you are a genius at tetris just by looking at the incredible amount of items you are able to fit into my grocery bag. I mean I would have stopped at two cartons of juice, but you were somehow able to also fit eight boxes of mac and cheese, 2 pounds of butter, a bunch of bananas and a pineapple. It’s like you’ve somehow magically changed my reusable bag into a Mary Poppins carpet bag!
When you pick up the bag to add it to my cart, I can see that you have no trouble at all, what with all that fresh testosterone coursing through your veins, but honey, I’m nearly over the hill, pushing a cart full of kids, so please just stop. I cannot lift this ridiculously heavy bag! Just because you can fit all the things in one bag, doesn’t mean you should.
Don’t Give My Kids Stickers
Honestly I feel bad even suggesting this because it’s such a nice gesture on your part. But I have to be frank here. In the big wide world of stickers, yours are the worst. They barely stick and they feature cartoon animals that no one can really recognize. Like, is this green thing with a beak supposed to be a duck or a platypus? Plus, it only just adds to the time I’m trapped in this store with my adorable little monsters. Then, once you finally find the stickers and pull off four unidentifiable creatures, my kids inevitably fight over who gets the pink elephanty hippo-ish looking animal, which in turn causes added referee work for me.
Don’t Accuse Me of Stealing
Yes, it’s true that I snagged my gallons of milk off the conveyor belt before you were able to slap some paid stickers on them and I’m sorry if I overstepped the bagger boundary, but do you really think I stole them? When you pointed to the gallons in my cart, I was a little worried that you were going to remove them and place both in a bag along with an anvil, but then you so politely clarified by telling me that you just wanted to make sure the cashier rung them up. Seriously, dude? I know people steal; but I’m still insulted that you are in fact, accusing me of stealing to my very face. Maybe next time you think someone is stealing, you can ask the cashier in a more discreet manner.
So, there are some tips for you! Other than these very minor improvements, I think you are well on your way to being an excellent grocery store bagger, or perhaps an expert trunk packer/weight lifter.
The middle age woman who literally could not lift most of her bags and had to unpack them to put them in her minivan and who definitely does not steal milk from grocery store.
I am mom; hear me roar! I can work or stay home, or both! I can kick butt in the office, be available whenever needed, move up in my field and still coach my kids’ soccer team. I can stay home, teach my kids their ABC’s, take them on educational outings every day, volunteer for the preschool and the moms club and still keep an immaculate house and cook organic meals every night! I mean, I can’t actually do all these things and I know because I’ve tried. Maybe you’re doing all the things too, but I’m guessing that you are feeling overwhelmed and down right scattered.
My list of things I’d like to do as a mom include, but are not limited to:, keep a clean and organized house, volunteer at my kids’ school and at my church, maintain a vegetable garden, clip coupons, meal plan, cook from scratch every night, re-do my entire house to like Joanna Gaines’ farmhouse, work part time while my kids are in school and after they go to bed, build my resume and client list, exercise regularly, make time for myself to relax, read the 18 parenting books on my night stand, spend one on one time with each of my four children, drive each one to their different activities, help them with their homework, but not too much so they can learn to be independent and the list goes on and on.
Thing is, I can do all these, but if I’m honest with myself, I’m not doing any of them well.
There’s been more than a few nights when my kids are eating cereal for dinner because I’m preparing to teach a class to other people’s children. There’s been a lot of Saturdays that I’ve had to ignore my kids’ countless requests for attention because I was clipping coupons, planning a week’s worth of meals cooked from scratch, shopping for groceries for said healthy meals and prepping food all day. There’s been tons of evenings when I’ve snapped at my kids because they weren’t tying their shoes fast enough to get to one of their many after school activities. There have been late nights when I’ve stayed up way past my bedtime to meet a work deadline because the daytime hours were spent trying to get my house into a state of complete order and cleanliness.
This is not the mom I want to be anymore. The one who does everything, but does it all hurriedly and not very well. The kind of mom with a to-do list an arm long and never gets to cross all the items off. The kind of mom who feels completely overwhelmed with unrealistic and unattainable expectations put upon herself.
I know I can do all the things. But I just don’t want to anymore. So I’m not gonna.
I’m going to take my extremely long list of things I “should” be doing as a mom and I’m going to start crossing stuff off. Like a lot of stuff. I’m going to take that bar that I’ve set ridiculously high and I’m going to lower it…by a lot.
Because yes, I am a mom and moms are awesome and we can do all the things. But the best thing I can do right now is choose to do less.
Who’s with me?
I see you Yelly Mom. You gave your two year old a little bag of goldfish because you thought that would stop her from reaching out of the cart to knock stuff off the shelves and it did, but not for long. The calm only lasted until she spilled her goldfish, leaving you with a big crumbly mess and an inconsolable toddler who doesn’t want another bag of goldfish, she wanted that bag of goldfish.
Your five year old, who is exhausted from a long morning at kindergarten, has finally stopped asking you if you can buy him every damn toy he sees and has taken to running ahead, oh wait, now he’s lagging behind, aaaaaand now he’s running off again.
Your kids are miserable and whining and at the end of their rope and you know how they feel. And here comes the frustration out of your mouth-the yelling. In an attempt to control this MESS of a situation, in an attempt to end this shopping disaster as soon as possible, you start yelling at your kids.
There are people in this store who are judging you, some are giving you dirty looks and maybe, the bolder ones, unsolicited advice on how to properly parent your kids. I know what they see. They see you in this one moment, where you have lost your patience and are snapping at your kids.
They didn’t see you in all those moments before. So many moments-from the time you unstrapped your kids from their car seats, got them safely through the parking lot, and found a cart with two seats so they wouldn’t fight over who gets to sit in the cart. They didn’t see all the moments you gently pulled your two year old’s arm away from the packs of diapers that she desperately wants to throw on the floor or all the times you patiently and politely asked your son to stay with you.
I saw you in those moments Yelly Mom, hell, I’ve been you in those moments! I know that you regret yelling at your kids and I know that you are at the end of your rope today. This isn’t your best parenting moment and it is on display in a store full of judging eyes. Please know that I am not judging you, in fact I am praying for you. When I see you in the store, frazzled and stressed, know that I am praying-asking God to fill you with his peace and to give you his patience. I don’t know if it’s going to work and miraculously fix this moment for you or if you need to throw today out and start again fresh tomorrow. But please know that I see you in all your moments, and I’m praying for you.
As soon as I heard about this challenge, I knew I wanted to participate! The main reason I blog and write about parenting is to lift other mommies up! To let them know that it’s hard, but we are all feeling the struggle. Not one of us is perfect! Let’s celebrate our strengths and stop focusing on what we don’t do well or what we feel like we should be doing better.
Thanks you so much to Kayla O’Neill at Parenting Expert Mom for tagging me in this challenge.
I’m tagging Kaity Stuckert at Beeautiful Blessings, Catherine Murton at Kid & Kin, Rebecca Lyn Miller at Mommy Takes 5, and Madelyn Harrah at Happy Hippy Homemaker.
Show us what you’ve got ladies!
1. I KNOW THAT PERFECTION IS A MYTH: I used to think that being the perfect mom was attainable. Now I know it’s a myth. Once I got to know the moms in community, the ones that seemed perfect, the ones that seemed like they had it all together, I learned that they had the same struggles and insecurities that I did. It was like a weight lifted off my shoulders. I no longer felt the need to try to be a certain way and I stopped caring what other people thought of my abilities as a mom.
2. I’M LOUD AND CRAZY: My house is never quiet! We are a big, loud family! We sing and dance and sock-ice skate in the kitchen. We make up our own songs and belt the words out. We chase each other around the house and smack talk when we play UNO and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I hope my children remember our house as loud and fun!
3. I APOLOGIZE: I make a lot of mistakes. I holler at my kids. I forget to wash their karate suit. I get them to school late. But I always apologize. I know I’m not a perfect mom and I want my kids to know that too. I want them to learn that sometimes we mess up: we forget things, we’re mean, we hurt people’s feelings. I want them to be gentle with themselves when they make a mistake and to see the importance of apologizing when you do.
4. I VALUE KINDNESS OVER INTELLIGENCE: Now that my kids are in school, it’s obvious that some have an easier time with schoolwork. While we celebrate all achievements in our home, I am more impressed when my children act kind and generous and loving to one another than when they bring home an A.
5. I GIVE MY CHILDREN ONE ON ONE TIME: With four siblings, I’m sure my kids sometimes feel a little lost in the shuffle, so we go on dates to the arcade or to play mini golf. It’s sometimes hard to fit into our busy schedule but it’s worth it to reconnect with each child and to show them how much I love them!
6. I PUT MY HUSBAND FIRST: Hard as it may be with 4 little kids, I try to make my husband and our marriage a priority. Someday these kids will be grown and gone and it will just be me and hubby left. I don’t want him and our relationship to get lost in the chaos. I also want to teach my children what a good relationship showing them.
7. I MAKE THEM DO CHORES: My school age kids have daily chores and Saturday chores. When the kids sweep and wipe the table, it’s not as clean as when I do it (not even close-sometimes it even looks worse!) I’m not trying to teach them how to be expert cleaners, I’m trying to teach them that this is what we do in a family – we take care of our things and we help each other out.
8. I DON’T LET THEM QUIT: When my kids want to join sport or play and instrument I don’t let them quit. If they sign up a season of soccer and decide they don’t like it after two practices, we still go to soccer until the end of the season. I hope this is teaching them to be faithful to their obligations and to be thoughtful about what activities they sign up for.
9. I TAKE CARE OF MYSELF: Over the years I’ve learned that I need to take care of myself to be a good mom-that sometimes the best thing for the whole family is for mom to leave on Saturday morning and not come back until dinnertime. For most families I know, the mom sets the tone for the house. Taking time for myself and coming back refreshed sets a nicer tone than staying in the house and feeling resentful.
10. I TELL MY CHILDREN THAT I LOVE THEM: It may seem small, but it’s important and I do it all day long accompanied with lots of hugs for as long as they let me!
Now it’s time for you to toot your horn! How are you rocking motherhood?
If you are one of my mom friends and you notice me getting quiet during a discussion, you know something is very, very wrong. Because if you know me, you know I love to talk and it’s hard to get me to shut up. Add in a glass of wine or two at one of our moms nights in and I’ll probably dominate all the conversations. Except for the ones that this triplet mom just can join in. Like the ones below:
Conversations about what it’s like to go from having one kid to two kids – or two to three – or even three to four
Because I have no idea. I have four kids, yes, but I went from having one to four! Who else does that? Even in my multiples club, I think there are only a few of us that did that. So when you all start talking about which was harder, to go from having one kid to two or from two kids to three, I’ll just sit over here, sip my wine, much on the delicious snacks and wait for the next topic to jump in on.
Conversations about the differences in your pregnancies
Because most of you had your babies the normal way: One. At. A.Time. Like normal people do. So you’ll all talk about how you carried higher with your boys or had more heartburn with each successive pregnancy and I’ll just sit there. Because I do know that I carried bigger with my second pregnancy but that’s just because there was a full litter in there! Other than that, not much I can offer to this either. So, I’ll just be over here. What is that, crab dip? Lovely, I’ll have some of that.
Conversations about the baby days
Because I’m a little worried about seeming like a show off. Because you’ll all be talking about reflux, colic, the witching hour, teething, mastitis, and all kinds of fun stuff. And I’ll be like, yeah we did that times three! And you’ll all look at me like, show off! Or like I’m supermom Or both! My baby days stories are un-relatable. So, I’ll just be over here. Is that cabernet? I think I’ll try that next.
Conversations about deliveries
Because there was a team of people, people! Yes, some of my girlfriends have had emergency c sections and some have had babies early. So I can talk about the surgery, the recovery and that sort of thing. But do you know how many people were in my delivery room? 12! A dozen people, not counting the babies. My OB, her student, (teaching hospital) two anesthesiologists, a NICU nurse for each baby, two NICU doctors, my nurse, my husband and me. And then when the babies were delivered, they were whisked away to spend their first 4 weeks of life in a isolettes. So, I’ll just be here with this plate of mini eclairs…and another glass of that delicious cabernet.
So what I’m saying here is ladies, if we don’t talk about something else at this moms night in, I’m about to get real full and real drunk!
But seriously, I actually do participate in all these conversations with my close friends. All of our experiences are different – I have friends that had babies born early, HELLP syndrome, emergency c-sections, unmedicated deliveries – I have friends who had hyperemesis with all their pregnancies, who have children with special needs, kiddos born 15 months apart, kids with FPIES and other food allergies. We have all had difficulties as moms and I’m more than willing to share my experiences with my closest, bestest friends.
But I do shy away from these conversations with people I don’t know very well – because I don’t want to come off like I’m a show off or a supermom just because I’m a triplet mom.
What about you? Are there any mom conversations you feel like you can’t participate in?
I have a big family and I came from a big family. It’s not quiet in my home. It wasn’t quiet in my home growing up. When I was a kid the TV would be on in one room, maybe a radio on in another, a wrestling match that almost always ended with a broken lamp, and maybe a fight or two – all going on at the same time. And I loved it!
Second Generation Chaos
There’s a little less wrestling and a lot less TV in my house, but the noise and chaos remain. We have a school age son learning to play the violin. We have triplets worn out by their first year in kindergarten who occasionally melt down in tears. We have a mom who whistles and sings and dad who shares his loud music collection. There’s fighting, yelling, and more than one conversation happening at once. Our nearly dead clothes dryer squeaks so loud you start looking for the earplugs and sometimes there’s food burning on the stove, setting off the smoke detector.
And it’s not just noise -it’s a little bit lack of organization and schedule. I don’t know if it’s me or being raised by hippie parents, but my body does not want to be on a schedule – I feel a physical aversion to it. I’m like a toddler who doesn’t want to go to bed on time, even though she needs the sleep. My brain throws itself down on the floor in a complete tantrum, “I don’t wanna do the same thing at the same time every day!”
My Calm Friends Have Peaceful Homes
I’ve had the privilege of visiting my calmer friends’ homes, where there is less yelling and more patience. The space is cleaner, neater, more organized. A load of whites is done every Wednesday. The vacuum is run every day. There’s no faint scent of “litter that should have been emptied yesterday.” It’s so nice to walk into a space like that. And not just the neat part, but the calm part. Some of my friends just exude peace and to be near them is like stepping a sweet scent. I feel calmer when I’m near them, just being around them helps keep my crazy at bay. Now, I’m not saying these women are perfect. I know there are no perfect moms.
I used to think this was my goal – the calm, neat home. To curb my temper. To clean up the house. To run a load of whites every Wednesday. To get my act together. But now I know better. My calmer counterparts are not my goal. They are not me. It’s in their nature to be calmer and more peaceful. That is one of the reasons I love them and love to be around them. But, calm and peaceful is not my default setting.
My New Goal: Embrace the Chaos
So instead of trying to be something that I’m not, I’m going to start embracing who I am, to appreciate my nature.
What that means is yes, our house is filled with noise and chaos, but that’s not a bad thing. The noise comes from dance parties, sock skating, tickle fights, and attack hugs. The chaos that begins with a burned dinner ends in a pizza party. Embracing the chaos means throwing out the schedule to play my violin along with my son, staying up late on a school night to let the kids watch the Princess Bride, and throwing a birthday party for our guinea pig. These are great times for our family: loud, joyful times. And they’ll be great memories for my children.
Already I’m more content at home, now that I have given up trying to be something that I’m not and trying to make our family like someone else’s. Now we have the freedom to be our amazing, loud, crazy big family.
It’s a beautiful sunny day. It’s autumn. The leaves are at their peak in bright colors. The weather is cool and sunny. And here come the perfect moms walking out of school.
I pass them as I’m walking in. They’ve dropped their kids off already. On time, of course. They are laughing and smiling and talking on their way out. They are younger than me and beautiful. Shiny long hair, no gray yet. Wearing hip, casual clothes effortlessly. They could be in a magazine, with a caption, “How to be the Perfect Stay at Home Mom!” These ladies are killin’ it!
First-time-mom-me would hate them. She’d be jealous of these perfect moms because they are beautiful, they are fit, they are wearing expensive clothes, they seem like they have it all together. They’ve formed a bond with each other where I always felt a little out of step. And first-time-mom-me, well, I didn’t feel like I had it all together. And I felt like I should. Like it was obtainable. Like those women were the models for it and I had to achieve that before I could enter into the perfect mom club.
Well, current me knows different.
Current me knows this: Shiny long blond hair mommy, she just found out she needs a hysterectomy and her heart is aching at thought of not being able to carry another child. Designer jeans lady, her father is at home on hospice care. Yesterday the nurses told her it was going to be very soon. Cute work-out clothes mom, well, the teacher thinks something is “going on” with her son and she recommends taking him to a behavioral therapist for his “strange” behavior. And that mommy holding the perfect looking 2 year old, her husband had an affair. She wants to get as far away from him as possible, but when she looks at her kids, she’s not so sure she can.
Of course I don’t actually know these women. But I do know that there are no perfect moms. I have met some amazing women in my 9 year career in mothering and not one of these moms didn’t have some battle going on in their lives. I know the perfect mom is a myth.
So even though I don’t know these moms, I know these moms. I know that they are taking care of their aging parents, that their child hasn’t slept through the night – ever, that they are recovering alcoholics, that they are late on their mortgage, that they haven’t spoken to their sister in three years, that they had several miscarriages, that their son has a developmental delay, that their daughter has cerebral palsy, that they fight with their husband every day, that they are dealing with depression.
There is so much behind the looks, the designer clothes, the manicure, the salon hair, the handsome husband, the pretty house.
As current me walks past these women, I am happy for their smiling, happy for their laughing. I know there’s pain behind it. I’m glad they have each other. I smile at them, wave to the 2 year old, and walk my kids into school.