I travel a lot for work. I always have. I used to travel a lot more, but with my new job (as of March) the travel is much more manageable and is mostly concentrated in California.
Regardless, I’ve always had a travel rule. On the flight to wherever I go, I work. On the way home, I spend the flight obtaining some balance. Relaxing. Destressing. Sleeping. Watching TV. Anything but working. I hardly ever chat with the stranger in the seat next to me. But that’s going to change.
This week, I traveled to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, to meet with an expert for a case I am working on. On the way home, I found my way to my seat, ready to relax. I was thinking…man, I could sleep.
Then, I noticed there was not only a child in my row…but a baby. In a car seat. With no parent in sight. Now, I love kids – just not when they are near me on an airplane, right? As I started putting my bag in the overhead bin, I noticed a darling freckled-faced woman with bright red spiraling curls scurrying my way with two more little red-headed boys in tow. If I had considered being grumpy about my ill-fated nap, I was grumpy no longer. This poor woman was traveling with three boys, all who looked to be under five years old, alone.
She buckled her two little boys in seats across the aisle, while the baby screamed next to me. Then she sat down next to the baby and shoved a binkie in his mouth. “Oh My Gosh! My husband was supposed to be in that seat next to my boys and he had to go home early so they are over there alone!”
Her name was Melissa. She was funny and energetic and sweet. She talked about the craziness of having three boys under five – who, by the way, were incredibly well behaved. She talked about the struggles of being a mom of three young kids and her frustration that her biggest critics seem to be other moms.
Why do women have to be so judgmental? She said – aren’t we all just doing our best? I mean really, who among us doesn’t want our own children to have the best of everything. But parenting is a struggle – we can’t be completely on top of everything all of the time. I was reminded of a book I had read by Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection. She talked about how, as women and moms, we often make mistakes or have shortcomings – and we witness others falter as well – late for your son’s play, can’t make it to your daughter’s game due to a work conflict, didn’t remember it was “dress up for this or that” day – whatever. We have a choice to embrace one another (reach out to that fellow mom – let her know you’ve done the same thing – I know I have) or shame her (who are we to give one another those looks of judgment). As women – we all know how hard this mom thing is. Whether you’re a working mom, or a mom who’s always working – we are stronger together than we are alone.
And Michelle’s right. I can remember, when my kids were younger, staying up half the night after working a twelve-hour day to make cookies for my kids’ bake sale – perfectly decorated. I’d like to say I was doing it just for my kids – but I was also doing it so the other mom’s wouldn’t judge me – I didn’t want to be the working mom who had to buy cookies for the bake sale. And I needed my kids’ cookies to look perfect so they would sell – it was very competitive.
I was SO afraid of failure – my own failure, sure, admitting I wasn’t the perfect mom, but also failing my kid – what would it do to her self-esteem to sit at that bake sale and have no one buy her cookies? I didn’t allow myself to consider how much better it would be for her to help me make the cookies. Maybe they’d be imperfect, but they’d be hers – something she could take pride in, something we could accomplish together.
Now that my kids are a bit older (and I’m a bit wiser) I’ve given up trying to be the perfect mom. The reality is that I’m a single, working mom who is doing her very best to raise responsible, humble, compassionate human beings who know they are loved. I am working my ass off to give them the best education I can give them, feed them healthy (even sometimes homemade) foods, teach them morals and what it means to work hard for the things you want and need. I’ve realized that these lessons are much more important than teaching them they have to be perfect.
I’m also teaching them that it’s ok to ask for help. I need help. I have to have help. I have no place for judging other people who need help, too. In fact, the more I need help, the more I am happy to help others.
As women, as mothers, help each other. Embrace each other – our successes and our failures. Hug that fellow mom who just showed up late – you’ve been there. You know how it feels to think you’ve let your kid down. Tell her it’s okay. After all, aren’t we all just doing our best?