The posts and comments on Ask Moxie the last couple of days, plus some emails on the side and some comments IRL, have got me thinking about the difference between looking like you have it together and really having it together.
For example, my officemate at work told me recently that she never would have known I had PPD if I hadn't told her. She said I always seem so happy and cheerful (she might have even used the word "chipper"). And I'm sure I usually do... at work. It's home where I crash when I'm feeling depressed or even just down. It's in the privacy of my own home where I melt down and cry or sit on the couch and zone out not looking at anything. It's home where Londo has to make sure I've eating something, makes sure I go to bed, makes sure I'm really honestly alright (or not).
So many of us put on our best show for the outside world. So often parents who are incredibly sleep deprived go out in the world and try to appear like they have it together, when underneath they are "hazy foggers." Since about high school, I personally have develop this habit of dressing extra nice when I'm feeling really bad. For me, it's a way to help me feel better by at least looking nicer than I feel and also to put up a facade so the world doesn't know just how rough I'm doing.
And the facade I put up is often more than just the physical appearance. One of my best friends IMed me after reading a post I wrote recently about how much better I was feeling. She said she didn't realize just how bad I was feeling. She said I kind of mention that I've not been feeling well and when she asks I say I'm fine. I realized that this is because I don't really talk about how bad I'm feeling until I feel better (with everyone except Londo). Once I'm feeling better, then I can share that I was feeling really depressed or whatever I was feeling. But by that time, when people ask how I am or if they can help, I doing better and don't need help.
For me, my depression is tied to the Seasonal Affective Disorder (and recently to the PPD), and therefore come every winter. I guess in my head, people who know this about me should simply know that in the winter I am not doing well. But people forget, and I act fine on the outside. To be honest, I don't know how else to act. I can't have a breakdown at work or when I'm out in public, because it would be putting myself on display. Who's going to want to do that? In most cases, people do act like they've got it somewhat together in public.
So when I see other moms looking like they have it all under control, I rarely believe that they really do. I never assume that everyone else handles this parenting thing just fine, that it's just me who has a hard time. I know that not all babies are as fussy as mine, but I do know that most babies go through sleep regressions, teething, sicknesses, terrible twos/threes, and just general grumpiness. Moms who look perfect and seem to be able to juggle everything with a smile--I think it's great that can look like they have it together! Do they really have it together? Maybe, but probably they are struggling with the same things I am, you are, everyone is. For all I know, I might look as put together as they do--and on occassions I might even feel that together!
But the one thing that makes me sad is when we verbally lie to each other. Now, I understand that people don't want to share their troubles with random strangers. But if someone I know were to look at me and say that being a mom isn't that hard, that they can handle everything, that they really do have it all together, I will believe them. If they are lying, that makes me sad. I guess people do it because they don't want advice or for others to think they can't handle being a parent. I understand that, but if we don't share how hard this can be with each other, how will we ever know that it is normal to struggle? That it's normal to have a baby that doesn't sleep through the night? That it is normal to feel down? That you are not alone in having PPD or other emotional problems?
I'm rambling, I know. But I'm tired, because we are in a bit of a sleep regression. I really am circling around two points:
1. I think it's important we don't judge a book by its cover. Especially when the person we end up judging is ourselves because we don't think we have it together like so-and-so.
2. I think it's equally important that we are honest with each other. We aren't afraid to say, "My child is fussy, she is not sleeping, and this parenting thing isn't easy." The more of us who are honest with each other, who put ourselves out there as not "perfect," the better we will be as a community of people.
Of course, for my second point to work, we have to be less judgemental of other people and be willing to ignore those who are judgemental. They are either lying to you or themselves or simply don't know what it's like to be in your shoes. They are not your target audience. But there might be someone listening, some other parent or soon-to-be parent that hears you and what you say makes all the difference in the world to them.