MAKEUP: substances used to make someone’s face look more attractive
Growing up, I was fascinated by the mirror in my mother’s bathroom. Not the big mirror, the small round one on the metal stand. If you looked in one side, you were a normally proportioned human being. If you flipped it over you became a giant nose covered in pores or freakishly large eye with clumpy mascara.
In theory, the mirror was there to provide assistance to those of us too near-sighted to apply cosmetics accurately in a standard wall-mounted mirror. In reality, the mirror did more to keep egos in check than it did to keep lipstick within the boundaries of natural lip lines
In my mommy life, I often feel pressure to make a good impression. I meet so many moms that are talented, educated and well-traveled. They are raising their kids with kindness, creativity and love. I want other moms to see me as a good mother, loving spouse, and desirable friend.
I try to make a good impression by carefully applying my motherhood makeup: artful lunches, color-coordinated kids, can-do responses to PTA requests, and true enough answers to “How are you?”
I use motherhood makeup to hide my motherhood pores: impatience, boredom, doubt. And, typically, I feel okay about that. I mean, who really wants to show the world the bed-head, morning-breath version of themselves?
I hear a mom friend confess that she feels like she isn’t measuring up. She feels bad about giving her kids slapped together peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches for five consecutive days, notes the stains on their shirts, admits to feeling guilty about missing the school auction meeting, and confesses that it all just feels like too much.
I try to explain that she is comparing the close-up mirror version of herself to the wall-mirror version of others.
She sees only the healthy lunch, not the snappy lady in the kitchen trying to keep the morning routine on track. She sees only one clean and coordinated outfit, not the heaps of dirty laundry that limited today’s choices to the business casual section in the back of the closet. She sees a mom “doing it all,” not the exhaustion that crowds out space for meaningful conversations between spouses. She sees a mom doing “fine,” but not the mental gymnastics required to convince a brain that “fine” and “frazzled” are synonyms.
Somewhere in the middle of my explanation, I realize that I am part of the problem.
If I only allow others to see me when the pores of impatience, doubt and desperation are sufficiently hidden beneath mommy makeup, I’m no better than a magazine that airbrushes away thighs, love handles and wrinkles before passing the image off as a photograph.