Before I met my husband, I dated some amazing women. Some of them are still an important part of my life. We text on a daily basis, talk on the phone at least once a week, and every couple of months we spend a weekend together. They are strong, beautiful, and understand me in a way my husband never will. I’m grateful every day to have them in my life. What’s more, I know the only reason I do is because I’ve learned to treat my female friendships with the same care that I would a romantic relationship. So, I’ve learned to date my friends.
I have a confession to make: I am not a mess. As a mom, this is apparently unusual. Moms who are a mess dominate social media. They have a dedicated hashtag (#hotmessmom) and their meme game is strong. Interestingly, though, when I scroll through their posts, their lives don’t look that different from mine. I have dropped my son off at daycare in my pajamas without brushing my teeth. I have lost my patience and yelled at him during a tantrum. I have worn the same outfit and gone without washing my hair for days. I have counted the hours until bedtime and opened a bottle of wine at 3pm on a snow day. None of this, though, makes me a mess. It makes me human. Which has me wondering, when did we start defining imperfection as “everything’s falling apart”? When did we start billing a rough day (or week) as abject failure?
When I was pregnant, the best advice I got was from a friend who told me to steer clear of parenting books and websites. Her point was that there was no way to plan for what was about to happen to me, and so every parenting technique I highlighted in a book would likely be thrown out the window when baby arrived, anyway. Conceptually, I understood what she was saying. In practice, it sounded impossible. I am an information hoarder by nature, and a chronic over-planner. The idea of “winging it” gives me stress hives.
I am good at a lot of things, ranging from crossword puzzles to packing for a two week trip in a carry-on. Making friends, however, is not one of those things. Don’t get me wrong, I have always had friends. From each phase of my life I have carried forward one or two precious people with whom I’m still close. When I reflect on the depth and quality of these relationships, I feel enormously lucky. When I look at the small number of them, I wonder if something is wrong with me.
My baby turns one today. Later I’ll probably post an adorable picture of him on social media and write something about how I never knew what love was until he came along and what an honor it is to be his mother. All true. This morning, though, I’m thinking about the moment in the hospital when they laid him on my chest for the first time. I looked down at his tiny body and puckered face and thought, “Well this is going to be inconvenient.”
In the past few weeks I’ve had the same conversation with so many friends. The script goes like this: Life has never been better—work is great, marriage is good, the kids are all right, things are fine financially—but I’m feeling depressed, or anxious, or angry and I can’t shake it.
These feelings follow my sweet friends around, turning what should feel like a beautiful life into a joyless existence. These conversations inevitably culminate in the same question: If my life is so good then why do I feel so bad? To which my response is, because you’re paying attention.
I’ve spent most of my life terrified of being ordinary. Not being like everyone else was the driving force behind many of my decisions, big and small, from dying my hair purple in high school to breaking off an engagement to a perfectly nice guy in my twenties. The source of this fear probably goes back to being what people kindly called a “precocious” kid. I read at an early age and was drawn to books that were too old for me in both style and substance. Adults noticed this and told me I was smart. What I heard was, “You’re different.” I took this to heart and “different” became my brand.
The other day I had another mom say to me, “I don’t know how you do it all.” It’s true that I’ve been known to fit a lot into a day. I work, parent, volunteer, write this blog, and waste my fair share of time on social media. You’re in luck, though, because I’m about to reveal the secret to my productivity…
I’m half-assing it. And, now that my secret life hack is out in the open, I’m going to take it one step further and reveal how you, too, can learn to half-ass it in just three easy steps.