Remember a while back when I reviewed Moms’ Night Out? I went to see it again, this time with my mother-in-law, who’d had a very stressful day and needed a good laugh. I’m so glad she went with me, because we don’t see each other as often as I’d like and we had a ton of fun. We definitely need to do things like this more often.
Anyway, as we watched the movie, I got to thinking (a dangerous pastime, I know) about why I related so much to Allyson. I mean, I’ve been there – I stayed home with Bubbles till he was two and now that I only work part-time, I’m home alone with Cricket and Thumper two or three days a week.
It’s hard! It’s so hard. Like Allyson, I wanted to be a mom. Of course, I also wanted to be a world-famous author, but let’s just take this one dream at a time. Her reasons for wanting to be a mom are never mentioned – it’s simply her dream, and she’s lucky enough to be living it.
As for me, I think I wanted to be a mom so that I could do what my mom never had the chance to do: be there for my kids as they grow up and meet my grandkids someday. I want to give them a better childhood than what I had. And so far, I hope I’ve done that. Granted, I won’t be meeting any grandkids for some time – at least, I’d better not be – but I have tried to give them love and support and stability and all those other good things that I perceived to be largely missing from my life after my mom died.
(Note: Yes, I still had my family’s love and support, but it didn’t always feel like it when I was in the midst of my teen years. If you’ve ever been a teenager, I’m sure you can relate.)
I have four beautiful, wonderful children. I have a fantastic and loving husband. I have a nice house, a good job, great friends…and I still struggle to be happy. Why?
Because, like Allyson, I feel like I’m never enough. No matter what I do or give, no matter how well I do it, someone else is always doing more, giving more, doing it better, and I can’t keep up. There’s just not enough of me to go around. I need to be there for my family, for my readers, for my day job, for my writing job. I have home chores and writing chores and work chores and there are only 24 hours in a day.
While the internet has allowed me to find a readership, like the one Allyson sought, and make new friends, I wonder how much it has actually improved people’s lives. We don’t interact in the same ways we used to – every time I go out to eat, I see families out, phones in hand, reading blogs or Facebooking or checking the sports scores. Yes, I’m guilty of the same behavior at times, but I try not to be. I want my kids to remember my smile, my voice, the way I snuggle them when they’re sick and/or tired, and the times we spend together, not the way my phone is glued to my hand.
Have you ever noticed how Facebook makes other families seem perfect compared to yours? Or how Pinterest has turned every woman you know into Martha Stewart? We’re bombarded with messages saying that perfect is possible if we just listen to the “experts.” Thanks to selective posting, our friends appear to be living better, more fulfilling lives, with well-behaved, genius children, and houses that should be featured in Better Homes and Gardens.
These comparisons are killing us. The pressure to be the perfect wife/mother/sister/daughter-in-law/friend is crippling, at least for me. Near the end of the movie, Bones tells Allyson that she is exactly the sort of mother her kids need, that she should just be herself and God will take care of the rest, because she is enough. It’s my favorite scene in the movie (which is saying something, because there are a lot of really great scenes) because it’s as if he’s speaking directly to me, telling me just what I needed – desperately – to hear:
I am enough.
When you stop and look at your Facebook feed, it’s easy to think the grass is greener elsewhere and that if you do as your friends do, then you, too, can have a perfect life. But Facebook doesn’t show the mess behind the scenes. Perfection is an illusion. Being happy all the time is a fantasy, and one we should probably let go of. The more we chase after it, the faster it slips away.
Since I first saw this movie, I’ve been trying to be more gracious with myself. I’ve been spending more time away from the computer, and I think I’m happier. Without so many other people to whom I can compare myself, I feel better about the decisions I make. Heck, I’ve been making more decisions!
We swim in a sea of opportunities each day. With so many choices, it’s easy to be overwhelmed, to stay tucked away in your comfort zone. But is that really the best place? It’s not for Allyson, and I’m sure it’s not for me, either.
At one point in the movie, Sean tells Allyson that she needs to do something for herself, which turns into a metaphor about flight attendants and oxygen masks. “Help yourself so that you can help others,” he tells her, but it’s a concept she clearly has trouble with because when she goes to leave, she tells him she’s feeling guilty again.
I do the same thing. I’m terrible at taking time for myself and by the time I do, I’m usually at the same point as Allyson at the beginning of the movie – ready to hide in a closet with a bag of chocolate and an eagle cam (there’s one set up a few hours north of me and it’s pretty neat).
One of the things I wanted to do as a mother was to model healthy behavior for my kids, but clearly I’m not when I feel guilty all the time about things I’ve left undone. It’s not healthy to be as uptight as I am – I am so unable to relax that when I went to the chiropractor for the first time and he told me to relax my shoulders, I felt them tense up even more than they already were.
It’s not healthy to feel guilty about taking some much-needed time for myself, yet I feel that way every single time I ask my husband to give me half an hour of peace and quiet away from the kids.
Magazines and TV shows have been feeding us the line that we can have it all for years now, but at what price? We only get so much time each day to go to work, see our kids, hang out with our spouses, and do the million and one other things we’re responsible for. All those magazines are wrong – we can’t do it all, at least not forever. We – I – have to learn to ask for help. After years of being afraid to ask for anything, asking for help is like a trip to the dentist – painful but necessary.
This movie spoke to me. I’ve been in Allyson’s shoes. She articulated perfectly my own emotions on so many occasions and, in the midst of one of the most stressful seasons of my recent life, this movie reminded me that I’m not alone, that there are others who feel the same way I do, and that – somehow – everything will work out the way it was meant to in the end.
And I am enough.
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