Friday, February 12, 2010

Under Pressure

We all want to be that woman-whose husband makes googley eyes every time he sees her, whose house is perfectly spotless, and whose children are all perfectly coiffed perfectly well mannered and organized...but let's face it-no one can be everything to every one. You're not going to be able to be a Playmate in the bedroom, Donna Reid in the living room, and June Cleaver in the gym during every PTA meeting. If you are under the impression that you can be all of these things at once, may I respectfully ask that you submit yourself for either genetic testing and/or psychiatric evaluation because the harsh reality is that, unless I missed something, we are all feeling pressure from impossible expectations--and that has some major impacts on our marriages. The truth is that all of these pressures come from inside ourselves, so today I'm going to talk about what these expectations are, how they impact our marriages, and how we can deal with them so that our marriage doesn't suffer from our disillusions of super-humanity.

THE PRESSURE: Being Sexy All The Time
We used to be hot. When we first started dating our husbands we were all sexy singles, dressed to the nines and perfectly manicured. We were fun, flirty, and flashy...and now we smell like Moms (you know that baby pee/spit up/sweat combo) and look like bums because let's face it-we don't have a lot of down time to focus on silly stuff like personal hygiene with all these kids running around! We know that these running pants aren't going to win us any fashion awards or grab hubby's attention any, but we feel kind of stumped as to what we can do.

We feel this pressure because we WANT to be hot. We miss being sexy all the time and long to ditch the sweats for the sweater dresses. The bad news is that's not always practical. The good news is that I have some tips.

When you get dressed for the day put out at least two extra changes of clothing. When you do this you set yourself up so that later when your outfit gets boogers wiped on it/spit up all over it you can just run up stairs and change without having to spend a lot of time messing around. Also, figure out one or two items of clothing that your Hubby especially appreciates and wear those more often. For instance my husband likes it when I wear dresses, so I do my best to wear dresses several days a week. Are they clean? Meh...ish. Are they perfectly put together into a stylized ensemble? No way....but he likes dresses so there they are. Does your husband like pink on you, or love it when you wear neck scarves? Pull em out. You might not look high fashion, or even very clean, but you made an effort and he'll notice!

For more tips for your love life, check out my post on other ways to keep the spark alive.

THE PRESSURE: Household Management Above Reproach
You have kids, right? Well unless you keep them in dog crates your house is going to be dirty. I think it was Phyllis Diller who said "cleaning the house while your children are still young is like shoveling the walk while it's still snowing". Realistically speaking you can OCD over it all you want but it's just not going to be spotless so long as little ones live there. The same goes for organization.

Oh it's good to make an effort of course-that's the only way to stave off total anarchy and filth-but please realize that unless you can add another 6 hours into the day you're just not going to get it all done. Look around you-does it look like a biohazard? Would anyone feel tempted to call the CDC, or a microbiologist? No? Well you're okay then.

Still, despite the "non toxic" policy that I have established some husbands (like mine) still get to be a big grumpy pants when they feel like the house is "too cluttered". How do you help your Hubby feel comfortable without breaking out the blood, sweat, and possibly tears? Keep his areas tidy. Does he go straight for the coffee pot after work? Create an invisible force field around it free of clutter. Put his coffee cup and creamer and stuff right next to the pot and voila! He'll look right over the stack of papers. Does he have a favorite chair? Keep everything off of it, and put his slippers next to it. He'll most likely step over all the toys without thinking if he knows he can sink into HIS chair and HIS slippers on the other end. Give him a special drawer where he can put all of his stuff that no one else in the house is allowed to touch-that way he doesn't have to sift through piles of stuff to find his nail clippers or his drawing pencils.

That is the secret to men as far as I can tell-if he has unhampered access to everything he wants/uses, he will definitely not pressure you so much about organization.

Reality Check:
Say it with me now-We ALL have flaws. I WILL forget something that was important to my child. I WILL lose my temper. I WILL pack the wrong lunch, say the wrong thing, and accidentally encourage bad habits. I WILL want to run away from home sometimes and WILL probably lock myself in the bathroom for some peace...but I DO love my children and I AM a good mother.

Now believe it.

I know that's easier said than done, so feel free to repeat it over and over and over to yourself if you have to. What does this have to do with your marriage, you might ask? Well, if you're busy worrying about being Super Mom you might forget about your role as a wife altogether. I've seen it happen. I've done it myself on occasion. It's easy to get hooked into perfecting your child's five tiered home made birthday cake only to realize hours later that you didn't even kiss your husband goodnight.

It's also all too easy to mentally lump your husband in with your children. BIG no-go on that one. It seems like a small thing-I mean, you take care of him and you take care of them-but lumping him in with the kids will almost always turn into you treating him like one of the kids. Not husband-wife relationship friendly.

So what's the cure for Super Mom-itis? I don't know that there is one. This is a big, society-wide pressure. The best way that I've found to deal with it is just to prioritize. Make a list (either physical or mental) that absolutely MUST be done or else something bad will happen to your family. So eating would be on the list, dusting is off. Packing the kids lunch may be on the list, but packing them rack of lamb with a pudding cup for dessert is definitely off. Then, think about the things that you want to get done, but aren't crucial. If you set small, realistic goals for yourself and feel confident that you have taken care of your families real needs it makes it a little easier to step out of the shadow of the Super Mom idea.

In fact creating and meeting small, realistic goals while meeting your family's basic needs is really the entire idea behind fighting all of these internal pressures. We all want to give our families our best, but don't risk your sanity to do it. A sane wife and mom who only does some stuff is better than a crazy person who does everything but burns out in a day or two. Next time you feel pressure just think-we love our families enough to do everything in moderation.

Besides I'm totally digging that whole funky-cute, sorta-organized, good and yet sane parent thing we have going on.

1 comment:

Helene said...

You have such wisdom on these certain topics. And I think we all KNOW how to do what you're writing about, but sometimes some of us need "permission" to feel okay with it. Like, I want my house to be clean all the time, I want to be there every waking minute for my kids and never yell at my kids...but there's such pressure, as you mentioned, to be perfect and never have flaws (or at least never show them!)

It's comforting to hear other mothers/wives write about their experiences. It makes us feel normal!!

I e-mailed to the other account you gave me but I guess you didn't get that one? It wasn't bounced back to me but I'm gonna attach it here at the bottom of my comment...sorry this has been such a hassle!!

I'm not sure if my original e-mail went through since it bounced back to me in my spam folder so I apologize if you've already received this!

Hi there, I'm sorry I haven't gotten back to you sooner! I keep having problems with some of my e-mails ending up in my spam folder and yours was one of them.

Okay, as far as bubbles vs bath salts, I prefer bubbles. No known allergies.

I looked through some of the books on Barnes and Noble website and one caught my eye in particular since I happen to love mysteries/thrillers/detective type books. It's "When Will There Be Good News" by Kate Atkinson. It came out in paperback in January and I believe it's under $15.00. If not, let me know and and I can pick something else.