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“Real mom” is really a poor choice of words though.
I’m no more or less real than the mom who keeps a tidy home, the mom who rises early each morning, the mom who never gets behind on laundry, or the mom who exercises every day.
I used to think that those moms weren’t being honest with the world, hence the phrase “real mom.” But it turns out that some of these moms actually exist. I’m friends with a few of them, and we’ve talked about some of these things.
While the phrases “real mom” or “keepin it real” may not be the best choice of words, they are true to the extent that here, on my blog, I show you my reality of mothering through chronic illness and family stress.
A good friend of mine recently posted on her blog a humorous, satirical post called “Things No One Really Wants to See on Facebook” and one of the things on that list was this:
“9. A picture of your messy house and how you are just keepin’ it real, yo. No, you are not. You are just showing everyone that you have more time to take picture and post status updates about your messy house than actually cleaning it up, yo.”
Her innocent comment, meant as a joke, stung a bit. My mind instantly went to pictures I’ve posted on social media of my unfolded laundry.
Finally, I took the risk of messaging her and sharing my experience, defending my reasons for the over-sharing:
What you don’t realize is that it takes a lot less energy and pain to Instagram my laundry than it does to fold it.
You also don’t realize that most times, folding laundry or cleaning my kitchen is painful. Whether I’m sitting or standing, my body starts aching long before I see the bottom of the basket or the sink. Sometimes, turning my husband’s boot socks right side out physically hurts my skin.
This is my reality.
So when the laundry sitting in the corner of the dining room or the dirty dishes clogging the sink mock me, the guilt threatens to overwhelm me, and I feel so alone in my mess? I reach out to the online community – for encouragement, reassurance, and grace – just hoping that maybe someone else has a pile of laundry or a mound of dishes staring at them too.
She so graciously explained her post as satire and apologized for how it hurt me. We opened a dialogue about what mothering with chronic illness looks like. Our friendship was definitely worth that risk.
Sharing my mess, sharing my “real,” isn’t because I like drama, take pride in laziness, or hate being a mom.
I don’t really want this to be my reality. But it is, so I am trying to rest in grace while trying to navigate mothering through my limitations and feel less alone in the process.
So it’s really hard to read things like this post “The Real Mom Myth” that make an awful lot of assumptions about these moms who are vulnerable online by sharing their realities.
We can pout all day and claim that we can’t get our housework done and take care of our kids. We can also convince ourselves that making a home-made meal for our families is just too much work. But, I guarantee you, you wouldn’t convince the mother of Proverbs 31 that. In fact, she would say the opposite.
She woke up before her family and made breakfast. She chose not to be idle, lazy or a time-waster. She chose to speak with her husband, children, friends and neighbors with kindness. She chose to make herself coverings of tapestry and be dressed in silk and purple — not sweat pants for days on end. She knew her husband had to look at her every single day, and she chose to be beautiful for him.
Moms, be honest and stop believing the “real-mom” myths! You do have time to invest in getting a shower, getting dressed, cleaning the house, playing with your kids and yes — even cooking! If you feel pressed for time, try cutting back on your internet or TV time first. Then, consider waking up a little earlier or staying up a little later. Those simple changes will help you realize the time you do have available.
I encourage you to read Proverbs 31 and see what a “real Mom” should be. (Portions, emphasis mine.)
The author here assumes that if we say we can’t get our housework done or take care of our kids or that cooking “is just too much work” that it’s a “claim” – a false one that demonstrates unChristian attitude.
Ma’am? Do you realize that for some women, this IS their reality?
I wear pajama pants or soft cotton stretch pants when I’m at home. I do so because it can physically irritate me to wear the coarse waistband of jeans for extended periods of time.
So yes, I choose physical comfort and lack of pain over always looking put-together or attractive for my husband.
This author seems to think that if moms just make “simple changes” like getting up a littler early, staying up a little later, and spending less time online then everything would be better for them. But that is a gross oversimplification for most moms. Many moms, like myself, physically can’t do those things on a regular basis for varying reasons.
For me, the issue isn’t time – it’s energy. I run on exhaustion. So yes, do I technically have time to fold the laundry or do the dishes or cook dinner every night? Sure. But do I have the energy and physical fortitude to do so? A lot of times the answer to that question is no.
She seems to think that modeling our 21st century lives after that of a woman, (if she actually was a real living person instead of an ideal that a father was sharing with his son, which is debatable) – who had a maid staff to help her do all of those things. Most moms these days are considered LUCKY if they have a mom, mother-in-law, or sister nearby to help – let alone a maid staff!
Here is my comment response to her post, which she chose not to publish, (as is her right):
Not every mom has the physical capability to improve their mothering just by “waking up a little earlier or staying up a little later.” Some moms have real-life extenuating circumstances such as chronic illness, children with special needs and/or extenuating needs (such as not sleeping through the night for 19 months), husbands with PTSD symptoms, deployed husbands, and the list goes on. At certain times in my 3 1/2 years of mothering – I have dealt with ALL of these. So yes. My laundry is rarely done, my floor is usually dirty, and Netflix is on more than I’d like. And yes. I am PROUD to share that with my blog readers and social media followers because that is what real life looks like for me and I’m not going to pretend to be something I’m not. I am still a good mom in spite of these things and I believe that other moms can be too – which is why I share.
If other moms are capable of exercising every day, getting up early every day, staying up late to do housework, keeping things neat and tidy, and being around their kids 24/7 and still have a smile on their face – they are no less of a “real mom” for that. But that’s not my reality and never will be no matter how much self-discipline I’m able to develop in myself.
I really love what my friend Katie, a mom of a boy with autism, had to say on the subject:
I am a “real” mom, but I am not ‘idle, lazy, or a time waster.’ I have a chronic illness, a son who has autism, a baby daughter, and a husband who works long hours to provide for our family. I am often tired, wear sweats, and have a messy house, but my husband and I love each other very much and we both love and care for our two precious children with all our hearts. Rather than dividing into “fake” and “real” shouldn’t we encourage one another as moms no matter our circumstances or appearances?”
And oh how I love that last sentence, because it really does touch on the heart of what I am trying to say. The author of the “Real Mom Myth” post has a really good point that I think gets overshadowed by her judgment.
Moms who are able to live a life resembling that of the Proverbs 31 woman and do it well are just as real as the moms who can’t. And I’ll admit, I have not always given them that respect.
At the end of last year, a friend of mine who just has that kind of a home told me that she felt judged by me, that she felt that I hold her in contempt because she is able to keep a clean home and make her bed every day. And that hit me hard because that’s the last thing I want to do to my friends.
Do I judge her? No. Do I hold her in contempt? No. Do I find her unrelateable sometimes, when I’m surrounded by a mess and am so overwhelmed with the fact that don’t have the physical capability to fix it? Admittedly, yes. But she is a real mom. Just like I am.
We are all in this together ladies. I know for me? I’m going to keep sharing my mess – my reality – because that’s who I am and I’m not going to hide it. But I’m also going to show more respect to the moms who can keep their homes together in a way that I can’t.