I never thought Iâ€™d be seen as the woman who “did it all”. I hate that phrase. Annoyingly enough, I have had more than a few friends and family pay glowing homage to what they think are my supernatural abilities to manage a home, create art, and raise beautiful children. In reality things had a darker side than they were seeing. I had become so performance-based I had lost the ability to enjoy myself. Hereâ€™s the real story of a SuperMom.
Last Monday at the tail end of a dinner party, a friend of mine hiked her cranky 6â€“month old baby up on her hip and said with genuine exasperation, â€œWell Kelly, I donâ€™t know how you do it.â€ I was floored by her comment and it took me a moment to get my bearings. I knew, of course, what she was referring to â€“ a humble but homey dinner party in a modest but tidy home, my recent success in putting out a zine, my sewing, my volunteer work for the Health Department, and my recent switch to cloth diapering my two children. In short, all of the items I struggle with and share with my friends. The fact that my friend would look at me and see a series of successes, a seamless life fully-lived and easily enjoyed, surprised me. I was being elevated to the title of SuperMom.
This episode was easily recognizable because it has been happening to me more and more in the last year. This almost makes sense considering the circumstances of my life lately. About the time my firstborn approached a year and a half, I found I had built a solid base of resources allowing me to enjoy and succeed at life as a housemom â€“ to prepare meals, keep my home ordered, sew for my children and friends, enjoy my child, and tune into my husband. Not surprisingly, this latter development soon got me pregnant. Going through pregnancy and having a newborn while caring for a toddler certainly threw me a curveball in my routine, but with focus and help from friends and family I bounced back rather quickly into the busy life Iâ€™d come to enjoy. Referring to becoming a second-time parent, I told people, â€œI want to enjoy this time, not just survive it.â€ I asked friends and family for help, embraced my labor and birth, and enlisted my husbandâ€™s help in creating time for myself.
All of this has a dark side however. My second labor, birth, and early months with my new baby seemed almost too good to be true. They were. About six weeks into my sonâ€™s life I realized I had arrived in a dark place. To the outside observer, I probably seemed a relatively successful and capable woman. I felt a wreck inside. The most minor glitches in my day would seem insurmountable.
It took a few breakdowns before I realized no one was going to help me, and I needed to figure out a way to get the inner struggle, whatever it was, out into the open. I tentatively, oh so tentatively, suggested to my husband I might need a counselor. It was a tough call to make. What would happen? Would I find out? Or worse, that there was more wrong with me than Iâ€™d even imagined? The thing that made me determined to go was the realization that the only thing keeping me willing to survive was my love for my children. And if things got bad, really bad â€“ and I lost my love for them â€“ what then?
At about the time I started seeing a counselor, the fog began to lift. I began to see my moments of despair as being unreasonable. Life didn’t need to be so overwhelming.
And now I am wondering about my friends and acquaintances who appear to have a solid face to the outside world. I wonder what secret pain they hold, and how easy it would be for them to say to someone, “I am really faltering here. I need help.” For some reason, all the stories about women who need and get help seem to be about someone else. They can’t be about us. And maybe that self-imposed pressure is why it’s so hard for our friends to admit to one another that, for the now, it’s their story.