I grew up with my mom at our school. She worked and yet she made time to volunteer on committees, as room mom, in the office and for school programs. As far back as I can remember, my parents were at every event, coached every sport and supported teachers and administration anyway they could. When my first child went to kindergarten, I wanted to do all the things. I felt this was a right of passage. It was one of the things that I dreamed of doing from the first day of motherhood.
The elementary school my girls attended is our neighborhood school. For years, I watched dads and moms fill the parking lot for events and carnivals and class parties. I was genuinely excited that my time to participate had arrived. I remember going to kindergarten orientation. There were familiar faces and new ones, as well. And there were all the things to volunteer for. All. The. Things.
But a strange thing happened as I walked in that school building. The familiar faces were not the people who knew about the last 4 months. To many of them, I was the together, involved, community participant that had served on church committees and community organizations. By all reasonable data points, I was the picture of willing volunteer lady. If they only knew. I was suddenly thrust into my worst possible nightmare. The mom microscope.
Any attempt to blend into the neutral walls of wallflower-ing disappeared the day that I volunteered to be an assistant room mom. From the jumping off point, you are in the mix with all the key players. The ones that plan the activities. The ones that run the fundraiser. The ones that know the teachers. The ones. I wanted so badly to be successful in this world. But there was nothing about my life in that season that provided a popular conversation starter. When asked about available meeting times or your ability to serve on a committee, there is nothing normal or acceptable about giving the answer of, “Oh, I’m sorry, I have to go see my therapist and make a 12-step meeting.”
But I just could not let it go. In hindsight, things would have been so much easier emotionally if I had let myself off the hook and forced myself to take 2 years of school volunteering reprieve. If you are a young momma, and you have interior work to complete, please take this simple advice. Stay out of the momma drama until you have your feet on the ground and your whole self whole. You can do it! No guilt. No pretending. You don’t have to be a room mom to be a great mom. And if you never find yourself ready, let tht guilt free flag fly. Be there for your kiddo. That is the greatest gift.
I found myself creating an unreasonable pressure on myself to fit in. I wanted to present the exterior of perfection. I wanted every single person in the halls and playground of the school to think that I was great. Just so great. And other than the shame that I was carrying around, the main motivation for this determined forward march was my girls. What would people think if they knew the truth? Would I ever be allowed to chaperone a field trip? Would my girls ever have playdates? Would there ever be a time that people looked at my family and saw us as normal?
These questions kept my mind trapped on a hamster wheel. Every. Single. Time. I went in the school, I painted and dressed and tried to cover up the chaos. I was sure that if anyone found out my crazy that I would be marked with the scarlet letter of D(runk) and my days of being all the things to all of the volunteer teams would be over.
What I didn’t understand, and could not be told at the time, was that this goal was lame. So lame in fact, that the attempts to fit in and fall inline with the masses was one of the worst decisions I could make. And the continued attempts to present the perfect exterior almost cost me my life…again.