My mother, who I had not talked to in several days, called me.
I was just starting dinner when the phone rang. She had surgery this week, and the last time I saw her, she was still in the recovery room. I was happy that she was calling; I wanted to find out how she was feeling.
I turned off the stove as I strained to hear her. She sounded weak — just tired, she assured me — and right on cue, my toddler poured a cup of water all over the floor while my back was turned. My mom was still talking, but I couldn’t hear a word: all three of my kids were running around in the widening pool of water as the tile grew more and more slippery.
“I know this probably isn’t a good time to call,” she said, likely because she could hear muffled sounds of distress as I rummaged for towels and herded my wet children out of the kitchen.
If we’re being honest, no time is a good time to call me.
“I have it under control,” I told her. “Just hang on a minute.”
That is when I saw my 23-month-old daughter get down on all fours and lap up puddles of water like a puppy.
This is an example of what my days have been like lately. As open as I am about many parts of my life, there are some things I don’t talk about at all. I think most people are like that. Being a woman is complicated, right? I’ll wait while you nod your head in agreement.
I have been stewing for awhile over how quickly women jump to tear each other apart, because quite frankly I am over it.
We all bear an insanely heavy load; each one of us wade through life loaded down with stuff. It doesn’t matter how “together” or “perfect” a woman seems — good or bad, SHE’S GOT STUFF.
Yet, for reasons I am unable to fully comprehend, even though we are all doing the best we can, even though we are all struggling with our stuff, even though we are supposed to build each other up instead of tear each other down, even though ALL OF THIS, women still get shredded up over absolutely anything and it’s generally at the hand of other women.
I know because it happened to me recently. Want to know why?
Because I’m a good housekeeper.
Let me explain: I cope with the chaos of my life by following behind my family and cleaning up their mess (or asking them to clean up after themselves). Yes, it’s exhausting. Yes, it’s pointless, because the messes never cease. I don’t do it because it makes sense. I do it because if my house was a wreck to match my wreck of a life, then I would have a nervous breakdown.
Everyone who knows and loves me accepts this. They are all aboard the OCD train, because no one wants to see me lose my shit. Keeping order makes me feel like things aren’t so terrifying. I can’t stop someone I love from getting sick, but I CAN keep the bathroom from smelling like pee.
I can do that.
It makes me feel better.
Recently, a friend came to my house. Later on, she posted something on Facebook about how clean it is over here. She didn’t name me — she just said, in jest, that her friend who claimed to have a messy house in fact has an abnormally clean one. AND her kid’s beds were made. AND she answered the door in an apron. Triple sin.
My friend probably didn’t realize that every person in her friend list seemed to be sitting around on social media on a Saturday night with nothing better to do than to tear apart an unnamed woman for keeping a clean home. She did not intend for it to be a bash-fest at all — she was actually trying to poke fun at herself for having a messy home — but that’s what happened, because people suck. Women are criticized and judged for having a messy home, a clean home, for their parenting choices and their career choices, and for how they spend their time — which is no one else’s to spend.
We are blasted for being too fat, too thin, too vain, or for “letting ourselves go.” We are judged from the time we get up until the time we go to bed. There is never a time, ever, when everyone is happy with what I’m doing. My children, husband, mother, neighbors, and self are never all happy at the same time for a choice I make at any given time. Even when I do something like drink that third cup of coffee, I do so knowing that if my mother was there she would say “That’s not good for you.” My husband would say “That’s why you can’t sleep at night.”
But my kids don’t care if I do it. None of them will throw a fit … so it’s a win. I’m having that third cup.
While I accept that this is how the world works, that you really and truly cannot make everyone happy, it is still wearing on the spirit. And even when you don’t know the people who are criticizing you, as was the case with the Facebook situation, it still hurts. I stood in my clean kitchen wearing my clean apron reading the comments from total strangers who don’t know me or my situation, and I swear … if I could have reached into my phone and bitch slapped some of them, I would have.
I have opinions. I am guilty of making snap judgments of others. There are things I totally disagree with, and things that make me uncomfortable.
I have stuff. You have stuff. We’re all struggling. So why can’t we cut each other some slack?
By far, the biggest sin is tearing another woman down.
The truth is, I’m not a good housekeeper. I have a stressful life and I cope with it by cleaning. I’m sure there is a name for my disorder, which you only know about because I took the time to tell you.
I recently wrote a letter to my daughter telling her that other women will try to tear her apart. I dread that day. In the meantime, at 35 years old, I had to look at myself in the mirror and command myself to SHAKE IT OFF BECAUSE I AM AWESOME AND I DO NOT HAVE TO APOLOGIZE FOR MY AWESOMENESS.
Now go forth and be awesome … and cut a bitch some slack.
(If you liked this post, then you will LOVE I Still Just Want To Pee Alone! Click here to find out more!)