Today I have picked August Writing Prompt#16. Do you ever feel pressured to be perfect and have it all together, even when you don’t? Let’s hear about it.
Umm. Yes. And what do you mean “do you ever”? More like always. Doesn’t everyone?
But first, the obligatory tangential commentary. I was really annoyed when Vanilla Ice came out with his Ice Ice Baby song where he sampled from Under Pressure by Queen and David Bowie, because I really liked the Queen/Bowie song and every time that damn Vanilla Ice thing came on that opening riff would fool me into thinking I was going to hear a good song.
I had a cat named Bowie once. He was white and had one blue eye and one brown eye. We named him Bowie because of that. He was a nice cat, but weird. He used to rip through the bag of bread to eat the top of the bread. And at night he would hunt socks. Like take them out of the hamper and toss them around the house while making weird cat noises. And sometimes he even tried to take the socks off your feet. He especially liked nylons. As it turns out, David Bowie, doesn’t actually have two different coloured eyes, he had an injury to one of his eyes resulting in his pupil being permanently dilated, which gives the appearance of two different coloured eyes.
If you like Under Pressure, go listen to it while you read this.
So, pressure to be perfect and have it all together. Absolutely. And truly, I thought everyone felt that way. I mean, there are the rare occasions when I say fuck it and don’t really care for a day or two, but otherwise, yes.
And first let me say that I never, ever, actually have it all together. No matter how organized or prepared or whatever I am, I’m always pretty sure I’m missing something. For example, this past weekend, I totally forgot all of the forms that I needed to bring for my daughter’s camp. I realized this after I got to the town where the camp is, two hours away. In pursuit of not being the only negligent parent with no pre-filled out forms, I thought I’d try to print out the forms from my parents’ house because they live near the camp. That involved a) finding their printer b) hooking up their printer, c) trying to log in to my email from my dad’s completely useless laptop and d) trying find paper. Steps c) and d) were both huge fails.
I have, to some extent, become more accepting that perhaps the world will not end if I don’t have it all together. For example, they had blank forms at camp, and I filled them out during the excessively long waiting period to get all the campers signed in. Actually, I could have filled those forms out at least 100 times during that wait. (Do you say fill out forms, or fill in forms? I’m not sure. Whatever. You know what I mean.) It was insane. So maybe I’ll just chalk that up to the universe telling me that sometimes being totally prepared is bad, because if I’d been totally prepared, I would have had five more minutes of mind numbing boredness during the wait.
Truly, the pressure to be perfect is everywhere. It comes from all kinds of sources. Friends, no matter how well meaning, and their examples of how little Timmy eats a rainbow of fruit and veggies every day while my kids survive on the other rainbow — Skittles. Okay, not really, but they certainly aren’t what you’d call model eaters. Parenting, and I think especially mothering, pressure is the worst. The guilt is non-stop and about everything — are they eating properly, are they developing at the same rate as other kids, are they smart enough, in enough activities, do they play instruments, are they good at sports, do they get good grades, do you do enough things as a family, have enough Instagram worthy moments? It’s exhausting. In my town, on the night that swimming lesson registration opens up (at midnight) for each recreation season you are unable to get through either online or on the phone for hours at a time. People stay up until 3am, just to make sure their kids get into swimming lessons.
And then there’s just you as a woman. What about those wrinkles? Did you work out? Did you eat gluten/sugar/grain/dairy free? Did you lose any weight? What’s up with that zit? Man your hair looks frizzy today? Get 8 hours sleep last night? Do you look fat in that? Did you have too much wine? Not enough wine? I once had a friend ask me why I didn’t go have lip augmentation (I have thin lips). And also why I didn’t do something about the scars around the corners of my mouth. Until she mentioned it, I didn’t even know I had scars. We’re no longer friends.
Work is a whole other story. As a woman in high tech, I am in the minority, and I really feel I have to work twice as hard to advance half as far in my career. Men who have less experience, intelligence and fewer accomplishments are several levels higher than I am. And I’m a sort of single mom on top of everything, so it’s difficult for me to always be able to stay late, or work from home at night.
I think we, as women, just need to start supporting each other more, instead of looking for faults and tearing each other down. Luckily, I see that happening more and more now. I think we used to all see each other as competition — for men, jobs, praise. Now I think we’re starting to see that the more we help each other, the more we’ll be able to accomplish. Case in point — an excerpt from this lovely email my friend received from a female colleague today:
“I also wanted to congratulate you on the awesome job you’re doing juggling a really demanding job, two very special kids and an aging parent. I only have the job and some days I struggle to get myself fed. I think you’re very inspiring.”
I’m almost crying just reading it. How wonderful of her to notice, and acknowledge another person this way. More of this would go a long way.