Call me narcissist if you must but this blog is all about ME. I have another blog about my kids, whom I love and adore writing about. But I was Nicole a long time before I was mom and I don't intend to give up being Nicole overnight.

You can read all about my kids at Naptime Optional.
Or you can follow along on our Arizona adventure on my 365 project blog.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Just kick me while I'm down, pour salt in that wound

This is one of those posts that is hard to put out onto the interwebs because it's raw and it's personal and it opens me up for judgment. But I often find that when I write in such a personal that instead of the harsh judgments I receive kind empathy. Your words of "I've been there" make me feel less alone on the days I feel most alone. And if what I write makes anybody else out there feel less alone, knowing that I too feel the way they feel, well then putting myself out there is worth it.

Still it's hard though because you never know for sure the response you'll get. And it makes me feel vulnerable to admit to some of these feelings. It's like that Anna Nalick song:
"And I feel like I'm naked in front of the crowd
Cause these words are my diary, screaming out loud
And I know that you'll use them, however you want to"

I've actually been thinking about writing this post for quite some time. I've even started writing it once or twice. But never could really get it all out, finding it difficult to put into words everything I was feeling.

But then last night I felt like I took 3 punches straight to the gut, and that's when I knew it was finally time to sit down and finally get it all out.

I may be mistaken but I think, in general, that women struggle more with feelings of inadequacy. I think we struggle to feel accepted, to feel valued, to feel good enough. We struggle with the need to know our place in this big, vast world, we all yearn to know that we have something to give, that somehow our lives make a difference. We want to be noticed and appreciated.

For me this struggle intensified once I made the choice to be a stay at home mom. I've always been a highly driven individual and was always a top student in school. So I became accustomed to praise and recognition. The same accomplishment followed me into my early career. I had always planned on having a long, highly successful career.

But then this came into my life.

fresh from heaven

And after 1 year of being a working mom, I decided to come home, turning my back on the successful career I had imagined for myself.

Ironically, or maybe not so ironically, my last day of work was also the day I found out that she was on the way.

Zoey and teddy

So while the internal struggle to feel good about myself is always brewing just below the surface once in a while something happens that makes keeping the struggle at bay so much harder.

Like the night I went to my neighborhoodbook group a few weeks ago. I sat there all night thinking about how I have lived here 5 years now and only in the past few months have I been invited to join book group. Yet, there were women sitting in the room who had only moved into the neighborhood in the past year who have already been invited to join. It seems such a small, insignificant detail but it really bothered me all night. Made me feel like just wasn't as cool or fun or intelligent or as likable or as something. Because if I was, they would've been dying to have me in book group 5 years ago!

Or the day I ran into a former co-worker. She asked me "So what have you been up to." And the only answer I could come up with was the highly eloquent, "just being a mom." All the while thinking of all the things I WISHED I could've said. "I went back to school and just got my Master's Degree." or "I just published my first book." or "The Today show just hired me to be a local roving reporter." or "I just got back from a trip to Scotland." Truly just about anything would've been better than my actual answer of "just being a mom." Somehow it just didn't seem like enough.

Last night I got 3 such hits, one right after the other. I didn't even have time to recover from 1 before the next hit.

It started with the evening's church activity. Ironically, it was an activity intended to help the women of our congregation overcome just such feelings. The evening was called "an evening with the stars" and each women in attendance was awarded that spotlighted something unique about that women. It was meant to be an opportunity for us to get to know each other better and to honor each other's achievements. It was a wonderful idea, in theory. But the execution was a little weak.

You see, I clapped along enthusiastically as my friends and fellow women received their awards. But I must admit (and I'm embarrassed to admit!) that I was quite disappointed with my own. You see, I was given an award for boing "Mrs. Tidy Bowl" And I was confused as to why this would be my award. It suddenly felt like despite all the casual kindness shown to me over the years that nobody really knew me. It seemed apparent that they were at a complete loss as to who I really am and decided to give me some random title that they pulled out of a hat. And that hurt almost worse than not getting anything at all.

Because my toilets are not the cleanest thing in my house, I'll be the first to admit. I hate cleaning the bathrooms and I put them off as long as I possibly can. Vacuuming on the other hand I am fanatical about. It my favorite chore and so I do it often. Dyson Diva would've been an appropriate title. Or Flickr Fanatic. Or Blogging Babe. Or Crock Pot Queen.

The point is, to somebody how REALLY knows me there are about a million other titles that would've been more appropriate than Mrs. Tidy Bowl. And it was such a stupid, insignificant thing to be upset over but it unnerved me just the same.

So what do I do? Go home and watch the Olympics. And if seeing 16 year olds win gold medals, or seeing Michal Phelps make Olympic history by getting his 11th Gold Medal doesn't make you feel just a little insignificant, well then you're just not normal. (oh wait, perhaps I'm the not normal one....there's something to think about)

Once Prime time coverage of the Olympics ended and the local news began I was greeted from Bejing by the smiling face of a girl I went to school with. A girl who was a year behind me. I was the TA for her Newscast class. And SHE was in Bejing reporting on the Olympics, and I was sitting at home eating chocolate and feeling sorry for myself. It was too much for one night and stole away to the upstairs bathroom to cry.

I had recovered a bit by this morning, no longer feeling the need to cry. But the internal struggle still brews just beneath the surface. Maybe it always will.

In the meantime, I hope and pray none of the neighborhood women come by today and ask to see my toilet....because I'm afraid they will be highly disappointed.


Principessa said...

Nicole, you are the greatest sister a girl could ask for! Seriously. You are one of my heros, and I'm not just saying that. I have always looked up to and wanted to be like you. You're not just a stay at home mom, you're a wonderful mother to three beautiful children who think the world of you. You truly are an amazing woman and I feel so blessed to have you as a sister. :)

Ryan said...

Yeah if they were insistent on giving you a cleaning related title, they really should have tied into your closet laundry addiction.

Anonymous said...

You need to read The Mommy Brain--mostly because it emphasizes over and over how society doesn't value moms.
Lately, my struggle has been that 30 years of functioning one way, effectively, has been the bane of my existence and failure the past two years. I'm learning how to be a mom and not a "single"/pre-kids person and it is SO hard for me being such a task list oriented person.
I guess my blog is so "chipper" because I'm trying to remember the good moments and not let the frustrations get me down. That's the hardest part of all, since no one (especially NOT the kids) pay any attention to what we are doing/giving each day. And that's definitely NOT a dividend we'll see until they are grown up, possibly not until they have kids of their own. Not reassuring.....

orangemily said...

In the eternal scheme of things I think you're making a bigger difference than a reporter in China.
It's too bad your ward doesn't recognize your wonderful talents and personality because they are in abundance!

Andria said...

My dear, sweet cousin, I promise you, you're not the only one who feels unappreciated or that you have not done what you thought you would do with your life. Yeah, I'm teaching, which is something I wanted to do since I was in high school, but it took me forever to get here, and now I'm almost 32 with three kids and we still live in an apartment. That little fact makes me feel so inadequate a lot of times. Everytime I stumble over something because I don't have enough room to even have a baby swing in my front room, I scream about having to live in an apartment.

And so many of the young mothers in my ward (even younger than I am), have houses and get to stay at home with their kids. And when people say, "It must be hard to leave the baby," when they find out that I'm going back to work, I feel awful, because it really isn't that hard. And I think I must look like a bad mother because I'm not sad to leave my children with someone else and go take care of other people's children all day long.

So, yes, I've been there too, just in a different way. And I love you and I think we all (yes, I totally am including myself in this) need to stop worrying about how other people see us, or don't see us, and just be happy with the fact that we're doing the best we can at the moment, give our own situations.

Okay, I'll stop ranting now. I love you!

Megs said...

Hear, Hear, Andria!!!

Well said. You are an awesome mother to your kids. I wish that I could be like you. I look at my self and think: "You could be doing so much better!" Anyway I know how you feel. Though I never really did have any ambtions and I am just glad that I got my two year degree before baby number one came along. I would like to go back but I don't know what I would do. So I am stuck with my kids wishing I was a better mom.

An Ordinary Mom said...

I think we all struggle with feelings of inadequacies and wanting to fit in and worrying too much about what other people might think. I know I am right now, especially as I am trying to adjust to having our third child while having an extremely active 3 year old and while also dealing with some major setbacks in my husband's schooling ... we have been married 10 years and he is still in school (pursuing graduate work) and we are still in an apartment.

Thanks for being so honest and for helping us all relate to each other.


Squirty Wart said...

Oh, Nicole,

BIG HUG,5232,23-1-775-40,00.html

We all struggle with feelings of being less than what we are. Being a mom with a career has it's trials as well... Add to that my lack of a desire to have anymore children that I am responsible for; makes me feel far worse than I already did because my son is in day care all day. And I feel like I failed miserably with teenage daughters.

This also comes from someone who has 2 therapists and have had for the past 2 years. I am on my 2nd anti-depressant in the past year just so I can function.

My point is, you are not alone! I don't criticize you for feeling down or even for having a desire to want a career. I can empathize with that wanting to be with other adults and have grown-up conversations (did the working from home thing till The Little Man was 5) and to have that success.

Success only matters if you feel like it is a success. I look at you and how good you are with your children and how happy you make my brother. You are perfect for him. And I know he adores you!

I must admit that I am jealous of your perfection (in my eyes)... Your will power, determination, ability to have children, ability and self control to manage money from the beginning, to have a firm unwavering testimony and having served a mission instead of rebelling, to have a body that I would give anything for, and the list goes on.

I think you are wonderful! You are an example to me and make me want to be better. You are doing what is the most righteous and you will be blessed for it. You are worth more to the plan that we all fought for in Heaven before we came to this Earth than any career would have you worth. What you are doing now will positively impact generations!

Have you read your PB lately?

You may not feel the impact of the successes you are having right now for many years to come. The feelings of praise that you get from doing well at a career are instantaneous, unlike motherhood. But when it comes to measuring your overall success in this life, you have a lot to be proud of!

I love you, Nicole. Don't beat yourself up. As far as people not noticing you or really taking the time and getting to know you? That is their loss... I know it has been mine...

My therapist told me of a saying this week that I am grasping hold of.... "Don't believe everything you think..." ;)

I hope I have not offended you with anything I have said in this. I truly want you to know that I think you are amazing! Even if you were to decide to put all your kids in day care tomorrow and go after your career, I would still think you are awesome and worth looking up to.

Hope you will start feeling better soon!

Kristin said...

Hang in there Sister Frister. I think that the biggest challenge of being a mom is learning to sacrifice some of our most favorite things for our little ones. I have to keep telling myself that this time at home as a mom will be worth more than anything else I could ever be doing. You are more than any of those silly survived Oroville! That deserves a gold medal for sure!

Anndrea said...

At the risk of sounding ignorant because I don't really know alot about your past talents but it seems to me that you can be a mom and still have success in areas other than motherhood. I tell people all the time about your blog and how you could write about anything and make it interesting so why don't you use that talent and write a book or for a newspaper or magazine or something and still be able to stay at home and enjoy being a mother. Just because you are a mom doesn't mean you have to lose your identity and talents. At that education week I wrote about Merilee Boyack told a story about a violin prodigy who once she had kids she didn't pick up an instrument again and how sad it was that her kids never knew her talents becasue she always thought once you are a mom that is all you can be. I know that staying at home as a mom is the best and most important thing a woman can do and I have a great testimony of the blessings of being a stay-at-home mom and following the prohets' counsel however, it isn't fair to yourself or to your family to lose yourself in the process. Again sorry if I don't know what I am talking about.

HeidiPie said...

I don't know what to say. I'm sorry, this happened to you, even more sorry that I am reading it a few days later than the rest of the world. =) I totally know how you feel about being sad and being left out, and knowing at the same time...why should I care? And still caring...even though you try not to. My only words of 5:44 in the morning (on one hour of sleep) are "little by little" that's how we get things done. And, also, I guess, if you feel really strongly about writing still, you should look into it. Do stuff that is you, that makes you happy. I know you write your blog, it's wonderful, but have you ever sent your stuff into parenting magazines...stories to make money? You'd be really good at it. Or maybe something along those lines that you could do from home. And if not, maybe it's meant to be for a different season of your life. Anyways, love you!