I’m Not Wonder Woman
This past Mother’s Day, our pastor shared a message titled “Moms are Super Heroes.” As I sat there, I felt the urge to sink lower and lower in my seat. She described the mom who jumps and runs the moment her child cries for her, the mom who lifts a car when her child is trapped, the mom who can make dinner from scratch and teach her 2-year-old to read while simultaneously ordering groceries and rescuing the neighbor’s cat from a tree.
This is not me. If hot mess was a super power, I’d be Wonder Woman. It’s too bad, because I love Wonder Woman. Granted, I haven’t seen the new movie yet, partly because I am the hot mess mom! I want to see it and my husband planned a date for me around faulty information that I provided regarding its release date. As a result, we had Froyo, which is also nice. Second try: I got dinner on the table for the kids, and my husband planned a nice dinner out for the two of us. I scoped out the theaters where it was showing and showtimes and planned all the details so we would make it on time. We had time to kill! We got to the theater only to find it sold out.
As a kid, I had Wonder Woman underoos. I had the Wonder Woman swimsuit. My costumes were often Wonder Woman, and I have the 80s snapshots to prove it. Ironically, my other favorite costume was Pippi Longstocking, with whom I might have more in common. I loved dressing up like Wonder Woman and feeling strong and put together and able to leap tall buildings in a single bound… but I can’t even get my superhero metaphors right!
No, I am the mom who rarely has dinner planned more than an hour before I have to serve it. I’m the mom whose kid follows the dog into the woods only to have the police show up later because someone reported him. I’m the mom who forgets sunscreen at the beach. When my kids cry, I just try to decipher whether I need to get up again or if it’s just a toy they’re fighting over. And, you know what? I feel awful about my mothering skills, or lack thereof.
I am my own worst critic. I get down on myself when I have a hot mess day, all on my own. I feel awful and envious and ashamed and frustrated and depressed when I look at my reality and even worse when I compare it to your Facebook or Pinterest life.
I know that when I share things on Facebook, I usually am sharing the highlights of my days… the good stuff that I want Facebook to remind me of next year on the same day, so I can smile and be reminded I am not a total mom-disaster. I know you do too, right? At least that’s what I tell myself. I don’t share all the bad things, the hard things, my failures – not openly on something as public as social media, and I expect you don’t either. Yet, still, I often feel inferior to all other moms in the world.
In the moment, though, my thoughts run more like this:
“Poetry tea time? How on earth did she get her boys to sit still for poetry? My boys would have thrown the cup. At the glass sliding door. Breaking both the door and the cup. Then someone would have stepped on the broken china. Screaming would ensue. ‘Blood! There’s blood!’ Does that count as poetry? Maybe I should be doing poetry tea time! Maybe the tea makes them slow down. Maybe. Wait. I probably couldn’t get the tea made without someone fighting and me screaming at them and then, who wants to drink tea anymore? Nature journaling? Well, at least my oldest likes to photograph it. I can’t imagine what Caleb would do, oh forget Caleb, Micah would start killing bugs inside a notebook. That’d be nice. Look how nice her hair looks. How does she have time to get ready so nice every morning. She has the best clothes. Mine are all stained and holey. Oh shoot my coffee is cold.”
I look at your marriage and think, “wow, I wish my husband and I communicated so well!” I look at your car and think, “wow, that’s clean!” I compare and compare and become more and more self critical. I look at other moms, other families, other couples and I think they’ve got it all.
And then one day, the truth comes out.
You’ve been looking at me and thinking “wow, she has it all together!” “I wish I could be as organized as she is!” “Her kids’ birthday parties are so amazing!” You’ve looked at my marriage and thought, “I wish my marriage was as happy as hers!”
And when it all comes out, I laugh a little and my mouth gapes open a lot. I am stunned. I discover you and your husband have been struggling for 10 years. I discover you scream at your kids as much as I do. I discover you’re unhappy. I discover you feel as inferior and alone as I do.
All this comparison and Face-bragging we do has accomplished one terrible thing. They may call it social media, but, instead, it creates a very real, very strong, very unavoidable sense of isolation. By always sharing the best stuff, we create an image and our friends create images too, and then we fail to really know each other. We avoid the real stuff, and we find ourselves more alone than ever. We avoid depth in our friendships and we, women, especially, are left more alone than ever before.
Now, I don’t condone complaining all the time or publicly humiliating your spouse or airing grievances on social media. That isn’t the place. But maybe we should learn to dig deeper with our friends. We need to take off the Wonder Woman costumes, ladies. We need to start being real. Lay down the shield. Stop guarding all your imperfections. Be real with one another and find real community, real friendship, real support. Let’s battle together with our messy buns and the coffee stains on our t-shirts. Let’s comfort each other and pray for each other when our marriages hurt, when the struggles in life are bigger than us. I need you. We’re better together.
Alone we’ve got an image of the super mom life, but together, there’s authentic strength.