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December 22, 2017
The Holiday Season comes with all kinds of feelings, especially with motherhood. There are warm cozy feelings as we listen to sappy winter classics, wistful feelings as we think about how preciously short the time is that we have with our families… and creepy feelings about Mommy Fraud. Mommy Fraud is that sense that we’re not the mom we should be and that one day everyone will figure it out.
The Holidays are prime time for Mommy Fraud. For most moms I know, there’s a special pressure to be completely organized, to be a gift-giving guru AND to create traditions that bring peace and hope to our homes at all times. It’s like the season has set us up for failure. We even have songs about how idyllic this time is supposed the be. The truth is, I can’t keep up. My guess is you feel sometimes like you can’t either.
Case in point: My Thanksgiving turned out to be way less than idyllic this year. At the dinner table, my 15-month-old grabbed every utensil she could get her hands on. She spilled my mom’s wine in her lap and pushed her feet against the table so hard, she knocked her high chair back, almost hitting her head before I caught the piece of furniture in my arms. My older daughter got so overwhelmed by the crowd and the noise that she ate, in just her underwear, at a pop-up coloring table in the hallway, out of everyone else’s view. She refused to join us all until someone bribed her with dessert and, even then, proceeded to cry through half the meal. It was a disaster (by the way, if you’re looking for help with toddler behavior, sign up for our toddler tantrum guide here).
My husband looked around and chuckled, “We have a parenting course we’d like to sell you on Whitney’s website since we’re such experts if anyone is interested.”
You may not be a doctor. you may not give parenting advice all day long like I do, but you’ve had those moments when you are just not able to meet others’ parenting expectations. The feeling starts early, even before we have our babies, when we don’t feel glowy and beautiful during our pregnancies. It keeps on going – when we’re struggling with how to get our newborns to sleep, our toddlers to potty train or our teens to stop arguing with us.
You can probably already guess why. We live in a society where perfect motherhood is mystified and celebrated. Our social media posts are just a little too glossy and polished. Our celebrities make motherhood seem like a goddess dream. Magazines sell us on the fake assumption that if we get all the right gear and plan it all out, we’ll get an A+ in parenting class. Set that in contrast with the messy reality of our day-to-day lives? We’re bound to be uneasy and a bit ashamed.
Overwhelmed by the Motherhood Goddess Myth herself, New York City mom Margaret Nichols said it well when she spoke about the pressure to do things “just right” in Time Magazine’s cover story on the issue:
With Mommy Fraud all around us (and especially during the Holidays), I’m making a change this year in how I handle what has historically been one of the most stressful times for moms nationwide:
It’s simple, really. My husband and I are fully sharing the holiday planning responsibilities this year.
We’re dividing and conquering. His job is Christmas gift shopping for extended family and friends. I’m offloading the tasks that tend to make this season feel like a really long, expensive checklist. I lovingly passed the baton this year. Ok, actually I told him, “I need a break from all of this, there’s too much, we need a new plan.” And he said, “Sure, no problem.”
It kind of shocked me that he would have taken on the Christmas shopping for the last 13 years of our marriage without so much as a shrug. But it proves my point. Here I was feeling all “woe is me” because my mental overload was at a level ten and he would have been happy this whole time to share the responsibility. I just had to ASK (and expect that even The Holidays could be a co-parenting opportunity). He definitely won’t buy the gifts I would have bought and they may not even come in time, but, in the end, it really doesn’t matter. And, the reduced stress is a breath of fresh air for all of us.
I’m planning a special grandma-granddaughter Holiday Tea. We bought family tickets for the local presentation of The Nutcracker. Though we’ll be away from our own house when Christmas Day arrives, we still made it a point to go to the farm and pick out a very Charlie Brown-esque tree and to decorate it as a family. I now have the bandwidth to figure out family opportunities for community giving and other-centeredness as well.
I’m also using this season to think about all of the other ways I let Mommy Fraud own me, about the ways it owns all of us. About other opportunities to reduce my mental overload so I can be more present for myself and my family. About how, if we could just be real about the fact we don’t know everything or don’t have it all together, we would all be a lot more happy and whole.
Society, your Mommy Guilt, Mommy Shame, they’ll never let you do it make it BECAUSE MOTHERHOOD IS NOT PERFECT. It wasn’t designed to be. Instead, let your kids watch you make choices that bring you joy. Let your parenting failures be your trophies, hard-earned awards you’ve earned from trying to wrangle your imperfect kids and manage your imperfect self. Especially during this season, but through the rest of the year, too, drop the superhero act all together. Let your flawed, unfiltered self, take the lead role.
Want more help with self-care, delegating and prioritizing? Click to learn more about our comprehensive course: The Ultimate Self-Care Survival Guide for Modern Moms.
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