When You Think You’ve Got it Together, but Nope

I didn’t write the book on “the new mom feeling of failure”. It’s not a new concept by any means, but the past few months I’ve been extremely hard on myself. Like, way worse than normal and should be acceptable.

I basically feel like an epic mess in every aspect of life and motherhood. Dog hair is pillaging my floors and triggering my daughter’s allergies. Dirty dishes keep randomly appearing in my sink as if being beamed down from space. Grocery shopping, cooking and meal planning feel impossible and even the most minuscule of tasks seem like mountainous struggles.

There are weeks where I feel like I’ve found a system, or at least a rhythm that makes things feel manageable and keeps me from relentlessly battering myself with self-deprecating thoughts. But alas, the rhythm is always disrupted and the cycle of inefficiency remains.

I have zero time to do what needs to be done let alone time for self care, so most work days I end up doing the bare minimum as far as hair and skin care that is required to, let’s say, not completely terrify anyone who may look at me that day (or at least maintain some semblance of professionalism). Clothing choices are usually dictated by whether or not I had time to shave my armpits or legs recently.

It’s been probably almost a year since I’ve had what I’d consider a “rocking it” day. You know, when your hair is doing what you want it to, your dark eye circles are faint enough that you don’t require a truckload of makeup, and you’ve got that outfit on that just makes you feel like a powerhouse who can do anything?

I didn’t expect today to be that day for me. My alarm went off at 5am as always, and thanks to my daughter’s recent desire to sleep til 7am (don’t ask me how), I continued to hit the snooze button until 6:45, leaving me rushing as always to get ready for the day and finish the things I was way too exhausted for last night. I can thank my inability to keep up on laundry for forcing me to dig out a very old but kick-ass dress from the depths of my closet and throw it on, astonished that it even fit.

I quickly got Stella dressed, made her bottles, packed a reasonable lunch for myself, and grabbed some jewelry as I headed out the door—car seat in one hand, three bags in the other, but armed with a cute dress and booties and confidence that could kill. For the first time in a long time, I felt put together. It felt GREAT.

The compliments started to roll in at daycare drop-off. Stella’s care provider told me what a beautiful dress I had on and that I looked fantastic. When I got to work, a co-worker lovingly and jokingly told me “I make her sick”, because of my “figure” (if you can really call it that). It was a welcome change to have one day where I felt like I had fooled people into thinking I’d tried, or that me and my life aren’t both total, unorganized disasters.

I went to the gym on my lunch as usual, and when I got back I got myself dressed and went to grab my earrings off my desk to put them back in my ears. Except all I saw were one lime green one, and one gold one.

After a moment of confusion wondering what happened to my other earrings, I quickly realized that this was in fact the pair that I’d grabbed on my rush out the door and that I’d been wearing for the entire first half of the day.

I’d already been in multiple meetings with my boss and had long talks with other co-workers who undoubtedly noticed the mismatch with my short hair tucked behind my ears, and were likely repressing the desire to ask me if this was some kind of new trend I was trying out. I was instantly filled with humiliation, immediately followed by laughing so hard I had tears in my eyes—and I realized something:

This. Is. Me.

I am the girl who never really has it all together.

I can lie to myself and say that being a mom is what has lead my life (and home) to be so disorganized and jumbled. And while that may have thrown a wrench in the mix and made things a little more difficult (and me a little more tired), I can hardly remember a day prior to Stella where I didn’t hit snooze 20 times and didn’t feel rushed in the morning. I’ve never actually enjoyed grocery shopping or cooking or washing dishes, and never did it much even when I did have more time. In fact, I’m actually pretty lazy when it comes to anything that’s not fun, and I really just do it because I have to (not without complaining to myself and probably my poor husband more than an adult rightfully should).

I’m a serial procrastinator who graduated college magna cume laude by staying up all night to finish my senior thesis 10 minutes before it was due because the night before I drove three hours to Poughkeepsie and back for a concert I didn’t want to miss.

There’s a “catch-all” room in our house where everything that’s basically clutter gets thrown right before company comes over. It’s part office, part workout room, and filled with stuff I can’t even name without going in there to look, which probably means I don’t need any of it.

I don’t fold my underwear and I firmly believe life is too short to find matching socks. Two of somewhat the same color is good enough for me.

I’ve ironed maybe five times in my entire life because I discovered at a very young age that throwing wrinkled clothing into the dryer with a damp rag for a few minutes, then putting it on immediately to let the wrinkles fall out works just as well, if not better (in my humble, undomesticated opinion.)

And, I’m perfectly content to eat an entire box of Stove Top stuffing if I don’t feel like cooking, but I do manage to feed my daughter clean, nutritious food for every meal.

“Fake it till you make it” has clearly been an undeclared life mantra of mine, but it’s not exactly the most ideal and efficient way of living. Sure it’s worked out for me so far, and maybe I’ve even done a bang-up job at hiding this truth.

But I’ve always been the kind of person who wants to do better and be better, so constantly chiding myself for my shortcomings is my best attempt at forcing productive change. Because I’m far from where I want to be or who I want to be, and if I stop trying to get there then what’s the point?

I do know people who iron their leggings and color code their sock drawers. I don’t know if even these people have it completely together, or if there’s anyone out there who really does, but if there is I am not one of them, and probably never will be. Maybe that’s OK. Maybe the closest I will ever get is a day where I’m halfway “rocking it”, three quarters of a clean house, and two days a week of planned meals.

And as I place my lime green and gold earrings back into the mish-mash of metal I pulled them from, I’m at peace (at least for now) with the successful but mess of a person I’ve become.