I went through many phases of my life trying to keep up with those around me. In elementary school, it was all about having the cool sneakers. Early on, Kangaroos were the way to go. They had a pocket in the side and everything! Then it was on to the Reebok high tops with the double velcro at the top. They had to be all white. Remember those? You could get them in the J.C. Penney catalog. Surprisingly, I actually had both of those pairs of shoes. The shoe craze I was never allowed to participate in was jelly shoes. My mom was strongly opposed, and looking back, I can't really imagine that wearing jelly bracelets on your feet was all that comfortable. I don't know for sure; maybe it was like a foot massage all day long.
In high school, it was clothes and how much freedom your parents would give you. I did okay with pegged pants and ugly sweaters (think early 90's), but going to parties was something other people did. I could have been running sprints, but I was not going to be able to keep up in high school.
Skip ahead to adulthood and parenting.
Once you have children, the keeping up becomes more about women trying to keep up with other women. Why can't I manage my house the way she does? How does she possibly put a home-cooked, nutritious meal on the table every single night? Why aren't my children as well behaved as hers? Why am I tired ALL THE TIME and she looks like she could run a marathon? The comparisons are endless and quite frankly, exhausting.
I don't believe this is based on the need to compete with others or the need to outshine other women in any way. Well, I suppose it is for some people, but for most I think it's simply about our perception of how well everyone else is doing. I know I'm constantly excusing myself for the way my house looks if someone stops by unexpectedly. Or why there are dishes in the sink two hours after a meal was finished. I put so much pressure on myself to keep up. But who am I keeping up with? It seems that the more people I meet, the more I find they are most often, just like me.
We all struggle to meet expectations that we don't even know who set. Maybe our mothers or grandmothers. Or perhaps June Cleaver on TV. I can't tell you how many times I've tried to put a meal plan together, but either schedules or appetites throw it out the window. My kids eat about 5 different foods. It's pretty hard to mix that up. I end up with leftovers of leftovers because Roman and I only want to eat the same meal so many times in a row. I'm also always on top of my kids in public. In turn, I'm probably way too lax at home. Wouldn't it just be easier to live somewhere in the middle?
Do you find that you're willing to talk about this, but not let anyone actually see it? You can be dropping off at school, at a sports practice, or just about anyplace else you see your friends. You find yourself saying how "your house is always a disaster too" and "don't feel bad, my kids eat hot dogs at least 3 times a week". But yet, if you know that same person is coming over, you clean your house and try to make sure you have a balanced meal planned for that night. I know I can't be the only one caught up in this.
No, I'm not saying that my house is ridiculously dirty; it's not. We like to call it "lived-in". And I do try to feed my kids food with nutritional value. But I am no super mom for sure. I get tired. I get lazy. I get overwhelmed by everything that needs to get done. Why do I spend any of my precious energy worried about what other people can or cannot do?
In reality, everyone struggles with these same insecurities and worries. Keeping up with our own families is plenty of work and the people who matter most in our lives don't particularly care about the cleanliness and food options available at someone else's house. As long as I keep up with loving and caring for my husband, children and myself, I am a success.
We are all in this together, doing the best we can. And that should be enough.