I have a very good friend who is one of “Those Moms.” You never want to eat before going to a Tupperware party at her house because you know she will put out a beautiful finger food feast, complete with matching seasonal plates and napkins (and all made from scratch in her kitchen beforehand—which is now spotless—no hiding dirty dishes in the stove for her!). Other moms will bring a box of crackers for a preschool snack; she will bring homemade peanut butter cookie mice, with peanuts for ears and licorice whips for tails. Her house is always clean and neat, with everything in its place. Her children are well-groomed when out in public. She speaks to them in soft voices—even when she is frustrated with them.
Now, I share these things not to invite put-downs or criticism upon my friend. She has been one of my favorite people for well over a decade. I share her attributes with you because I believe there is balance in the universe, a need for opposition in all things. She is one of “Those Moms” because I am not.
My house is always seems to be cluttered, my daughter sometimes has, shall we say, eclectic taste in clothes, my son often looks like he needs a haircut (he has strong dueling cowlicks on the back of his head that make his hair impossible to comb), and while I enjoy baking, I am usually the Mom who just remembered as she left the house that morning that it was her turn to bring the snack and so runs back into the house and grabs a box of cereal (because it was the only suitable thing I could bring that was unopened and the school won’t cook macaroni and cheese—the only other edible thing left in my pantry). When something like this happens, I am also usually muttering “safe” (and maybe not-so-safe--depending on how stressed I am) swear words under my breath (Hock-key Puck! is a favorite…). At a recent women’s group meeting to discuss ways to cope with stress, other women spoke of exercise, listening to classical music, and writing in their journals as a their way to relieve stress. I raised my hand and said without shame, “I eat chocolate, and yell at my kids when I’m stressed!” Based on the supportive reaction that rippled through the room like a wave on the ocean, it was obvious that I was not alone.
Now, while my home (and sometimes my parenting) is not magazine perfect, it is comfortable. It’s like that one old shirt that you know you should get rid of, but just can’t because when you wear it, you feel most like yourself. My home is like that. I will not make excuses for myself; I am what I am, and my house is what it is—a place where anyone can come and feel welcome and safe, where they know that they can just be themselves. It’s a place where ideas and opinions are validated, even if they aren’t agreed with. A place where cousins can come and crash on their way to someplace else—even if I haven’t seen them for over fifteen years—and feel right at home. I like it like that.
Too often in this life we compare what we perceive to be our worst to what we perceive to be another’s best. The time has come to stop making excuses for our shortcomings and to learn to be happy being who we are. There will always be someone whose strengths and talents differ from yours—and that’s okay. It's like that for a reason. Your goal should be to discover and celebrate your strengths; instead of concentrating on your weaknesses. Because no matter what, somehow, there will be balance in the universe, and it’s okay to be on whatever side of the scale you are on.
And that’s the other side.