Confessions of a Chronic Over-Explainer
I walked through the park on a chilly morning with a three year-old who refused to wear a jacket. I kept asking him if he wanted it, and he'd get increasingly emphatic with each no. It wasn't long before I realized my concern wasn't for him but for me. I just knew that every person we passed on the path was thinking "What a terrible mother. Not even putting a jacket on her kid." Meanwhile, the jacket was in my purse, ready and waiting.
I promise I'm not a bad mom! See look! Here's the jacket! It's even from Gap Kids!
It's the preschool Halloween party, and you forget to put your kid in a costume. Neighbors stop by, and your son isn't wearing pants. Your daughter eats Target popcorn at 9am, and you get "the look" from other people your entire shopping trip. Your in-laws drop by and see the sink full of the same dirty dishes as when they visited two days ago. You pick up McDonald's for dinner and die when another mom sees you doing it.
You want to give a reason. You want to over-explain. No one knows you were up half the night or that your mom has been in the hospital or that the jacket is actually in your purse. You want everyone to know that you know you don't have it all together and to understand why.
That's why the unshowered mom in line with me at the grocery store with a basket full of frozen burritos explains to me - a complete stranger - that her youngest has a double ear infection and she's just trying to get through the day and she promises that her cart is usually full of broccoli and organic chicken. I get it, but I'm sad she felt like she had to tell me.
When we over-explain, our souls seize up, especially since at the deepest level, we know we're justifying an impossibility. The truth? We will never have it all together.
Still, we walk around with guilt for being a failure, teary-eyed and sleep-deprived, spending what little emotionally energy we have on the opinions of people who might not even know our names. Is that the cost of trying to "have it all together"?
You're a person, not a robot, and your value isn't based on how perfectly you live or how badly you mess up.
You're the same valuable person whether you're at McDonald's or Whole Foods, whether your kid's costume is homemade or you forgot it altogether, whether everyone understands your reasons for not having the jacket or not.
It's time to stop over-explaining ourselves and just be a person. Sure, we all have a little Pam in us, but maybe it's time we let go of what other people think.