I sat on my bed, wrapped in my cocoon of down comforter and pillows, relishing the feeling of the soft satiny sheets against my skin. I watched him ready for the end of the long, long day as we talked. Lamplight illuminated the crisp white of the duvet, highlighting his rugged and familiar features. It is our routine. My comfortable. The pattern. I was sharing my frustrations with the day. Frustrations with the kids. The myriad disappointments in myself and my failure to handle it all properly, just that day.
"Stephanie said it yesterday. Ginger said it. April said it. They are right."
Utter confusion. "Said what?"
"That you're supermom. You are. You need to stop giving yourself such a hard time."
I hate that, you know. I hate it when people say that to me. I know they mean well, intend it as a compliment. But that isn't how I take it. It causes fiery rage to build up inside my chest, swirling inside my shoulders with no where to go. Then the burn dissolves into a feeling of defeat. That is the last thing I want people to think of me. The last feeling I want to invoke in others when I'm around them. My reaction probably seems disproportionate to you, without the backstory.
It's all such an illusion. Oh, how Satan uses that ugly comparison to rob us of joy, to rob us of companionship, to rob us of energy. I'm not a supermom. I'm just like everyone else, with success and failure. every single day.
I've tried to dissuade the illusion, in my case, before when I wrote "What I Choose Not to Do". But a year and a half later, it feels that nothing has changed. The same echoes follow me. Rather than inspiring and encouraging others to live fully, joyfully, excitedly, while richly enjoying the world God has gifted us... I've discouraged. I've made others feel less than. Inferior. Not good enough. Not a good enough mom. Not a good enough wife. Not a good enough cook. Not a good enough homemaker. Not a good enough photographer. Not a good enough "fill in the blank".
I value authenticity so much. I choose to be vulnerable. I choose to bare my soul. I try really hard to share both my failures as well as my successes, with anyone I encounter. I pray that God uses me to shine His love and Jesus through me.
But sometimes I just feel defeated. Perhaps that is only Satan's whispers, to discourage me in this mission of inspiring others to live LIFE and not run down the hamster wheel of drudgery. I try, and yet each step feels like trying to walk up a hill of sand, with each step moved by such effort but making no forward progress.
You view from the outside and call me supermom. You don't see my failures.
In college, I learned about the impostor syndrome. Our phenomenal "Intro to Chemical Engineering Principles" professor told us about it, and we all sat there stupefied. The private workings of our inner selves was just laid bare before every else, and yet, apparently every single one of us also felt the very same way. I believe it is quite common for those who pursue advanced degrees in any field. Impostor Syndrome is where you feel like the things you've accomplished, and are able to accomplish, are not because of your own ability but just sheer luck or coincidence. You operate at the verge of fear, wondering at which point the bubble will burst and everyone will see you for the lack that you are. You are an impostor, a fraud, and others think much more highly of you than you warrant. Dr. Richard Felder introduced the concept to me, and its impact was huge on my heart. But I always associated it with engineering. Academia. Never motherhood... homemaking... life in general.
After college, life went on. I was an Engineer, and I failed at that. Miserably. There was no pretending I felt a fraud. I was a fraud! I had made it through college, quite successfully, only to find I made a horrible engineer. It was public and known. It was embarrassing. Eventually, I resigned from the corporate life and thought I'd left the Impostor Syndrome behind. I continued to live, being a wife, then a mom, all while pursuing other things that interested my creative soul. I love to live life in community, and share the things I find that bring me joy. I do. I just love to share. And I have, and I do, often.
It is only recently that I made the connection of the Impostor Syndrome to my thirsty-something life as a wife, mother, homemaker, artist. The Impostor Syndrome is rampant! Comparison is rampant. Jealousy is rampant. It is driving wedges between people, destroying friendships and companionships, and generating hoards of women who are isolated and lonely. It must stop!
You call me supermom, but you don't see my failures. Not because I hide them, but by the sheer fact that you aren't there. You aren't present for the mistakes in the moments of everyday life. Just like you, I am tempted to feel like I'm not enough, waiting until someone figures that out.
You didn't see how I yelled at them and lost my cool when they made a mistake. You didn't see how I didn't feel like cleaning up and left the cutting board with watermelon juice and rinds on the counter, along with the remnants of lunch, and awoke to an army of ants having a field day in the kitchen. You didn't see how I didn't do the laundry for a week and how my husband had to wear the crummy, worn out underwear from the bottom of the drawer (and never said one word to me about it). You didn't see how the pile of undone household paperwork now surpasses my own height. You didn't see how I let them go to bed having just brushed their own teeth themselves, rather than me going behind to make sure, because I just didn't feel like doing it that night. You don't see my impatience at their own 4 and 6 year old lack of perfection. You didn't see how I've let them watch way too much tv so I could have some time to myself. You didn't see the cobwebs that adorn every corner on my home because I've not dusted in... well, ever. You didn't see the tears I cry way more often that I care to confess, over ten million and one things that aren't like I expected. You didn't see how I've not come under-budget in our Grocery/Household budget EVER in the last 12 years of our marriage. You didn't see that my house never looks neat and clean, but rather like a tornado has come through. You didn't see the point where my sanity snapped because my house is always a cluttered mess and that makes me crazy. You didn't see how I lost my temper. You didn't see my poor, selfish attitude in my heart even when I do the 'right' things. You don't see my exasperation at not being able to do everything I feel pressured to do. You don't see the ugliness in my heart.
Last Tuesday was an incredibly frustrating day for me. The drama that came out of the Little Lady was just too much for me to handle. I failed, horribly. I tried, so hard, but oh how mightily I failed. I grew up in a home where emotions were not tolerated. Drama was tamped down upon eruption, period. Crying over something not going your way was unacceptable. I never, ever wanted to do that to my children. Their emotions were to be theirs, right or wrong. I do believe emotions can be wrong, but that doesn't negate the impact of their feeling. My plan was to let them have their irrational emotions. Not to bend or sway to them, but to allow them to feel the injustice from their point of view. God has surely given me much practice in this philosophy with the Little Lady. Oh my, how much drama has taken place in her nearly five short years.
The torrent of tears generated by completely ridiculous things was fierce last Tuesday. After spending nearly two whole weeks with another person for 24 hours a day, my introvert self was operating on a live wire. The reserve from which I draw to deal with these situations was tapped dry. Bone dry. At some point, I snapped, and she saw it. Which only makes it way, way worse for her... and me. We endured the remainder of the day some how, with many, many failings on my part. At the close of the day, she sat on her bed ready for me to approach to read the bedtime story. Her big eyes become misty and she looks up at me. She says,
"Momma, I'm sorry I caused you so much trouble today."
Nearly seven days later and my eyes still prick with tears when I think of this. I failed her. Lord God, forgive me. I failed her.
She did - cause me trouble that day. She was an emotional basket-case and I just couldn't handle it. I was short, hateful, rude, selfish, intolerant.... everything I'd not want her to be. Everything. There was no grace. The next morning, I came across this quote and literally felt my heart pierced in two.
"The attitude you have as a parent is what your kids will learn from, more than what you tell them. They don't remember what you try to teach them. They remember what you are."
- Jim Henson
What have I taught them, with my own attitudes and impatience and shortcomings? I can tell them about how I want their character to be, but what have I taught them with how I handle frustrations and adversity? I've taught them everything I don't want to teach them.
I share all this because I don't want you to see me as Supermom. I'm not. I'm so not. I do like to do things, and I like to share them with others. I love photography and I love to share that with others. I love life and I want my kids to have an amazing childhood, and I want to share that with others - inspire others to BE and PLAY with their family more. The time we have with them is so, so short, though it feels so long in the moment. I want to inspire others to be more intentional with their time. I want to inspire people to be real and authentic and parent their children in the ways of character, rather than appearance.
But I never, ever want to make others feel that what they already are is not enough.
Stop comparing. Stop gazing at someone else's green grass. You don't know. You don't know their struggles. You can't know their heart. We are all on equal ground. We all have the same amount of time as everyone else. We've all been given different talents and abilities. Let's share and encourage each other with that, not shame and isolate. I suffer from the same fears as you. The Impostor Syndrome calls my name and silently whispers doubt into my heart daily. Let's fight that pesky dude together. Let's work together to find the true Source that collects all our failure and triumphs through it. This ache, this void, the places where we fail? They all point to something. Do you know what that is?
I shot these with my Nikon D800
Nikon 85mm f1.8
Nikon 50mm 1.4D
Sigma 30mm f1.4