When my daughter was a toddler and we were zipping around town running errands, I had a habit of listening to a talk radio show host whose platform centered on giving advice about marriage, parenting, and general adulting. She was conservative but she sounded authoritative and was entertaining, and as a 20-something year old first time mom trying to adjust and seeking to be the-very-best-I-could-be, I listened to her religiously. Then one day, she came out with this little gem: Your house always should be “company ready”. Two working parents, a small house, and a toddler with enough toys to open a pre-school, sure, that was going to happen.
But as much as I hate to admit it, even the absurdity of this advice did not stop me from trying.
It was the age of “having it all” and it did not occur to me that I couldn’t keep house like Martha Stewart, June Cleaver, or my stay-at-home grandmother and also have a career. The idea of “company ready” was haunting – and, although ridiculous, for years it became this nagging little whisper telling me that I could and should do more. And this was before the age of Pinterest.
My point is this: If one line in a talk show had me feeling like I fell short every time a neighbor came over while there were dirty dishes in our sink, imagine the effects of a lifetime of exposure to Barbie dolls, magazine covers, ad campaigns, social media posts, TV shows, and books each selling their own definitions of“perfect” and “success”.
It was no longer just a whisper telling me that I was not enough. It is an internal roar.
And I know that I’m not alone.
By adulthood, most women have become well conditioned to criticize their perceived flaws, and then to search for something – some product or other quick fix – that will bring them closer to “perfect”. We are equally skilled at the comparison game. With the advent of social media “keeping up with the Jones” has taken on a whole new frenzy – our families, careers, vacations, appearances, and even the distances and paces of our runs all are fair game and feed the internal narrative that somehow we aren’t keeping up or that we can/should/must do better.
We are stronger than that.
There is nothing bad about chasing a goal, striving to be the best versions of ourselves, or trying to squeeze every bit of life into each and every day. Go after it! But please, for the love of all that is good and merciful, can we give ourselves – and each other – a little break? Can we be done with the mommy wars? Can we stop looking at ourselves in the mirror and criticizing every little bit or bump or comparing ourselves to size 2, photoshopped models? Can we use our energies to build positivity and strength, and stop using our voices to nit and pick and tear ourselves down?