The following post originally appeared in The Careerist on October 28, 2010.
Halloween is coming, and I am in utter panic. My 9-year-old tells me that she wants to be a giant leaf this year. She also insists that the costume be homemade--not some store-bought thing. Much too common. "They're more interesting when you make them," she says.
Yes, I've always made her costumes. For the last two years, she was a chess piece (a rook, then a bishop); before that, she was an apple with the "Very Hungry Caterpillar" crawling on her shoulder.
Too bad for me that I've inculcated her with the silly idea that items made from scratch are superior. This extends to food (she also insists on homemade cupcakes). Truly, I have no one to blame for the pickle I'm in, except myself.
So I am standing here looking at a large swath of green felt and wondering how I'm going to fashion it into a leaf (with veins, no less!). Meanwhile, I've got a blog to do.
But I know I'm not the only mother feeling the heat. They might not be sweating about what costume to sew, but they feel the constant pressure of striving to be "above-average"--maybe even an "A"--in the motherhood category. All while working a full-time job. It's become the malady among the moms I know.
Some women have found the stress of meeting a high standard at home and work too much, and have opted to dump the job. And some of those former professionals, as I've blogged in the past, are channeling their professionalism into über-momdom.
But there's another version: über-moms who also hold high-powered jobs. I'm talking about women who have multiple kids (three or more), are partners in law firms or financial institutions, serve as class moms, and show up at every school function bearing armfuls of homemade delectables.
One woman who fits that description is a partner at a super-elite firm. I see her at school either cooking away in the cafeteria kitchen for some event, or backstage ironing and mending for a performance. She rushes in from the office, drops her briefcase, and gets right to work. An $800-an-hour-plus partner doing minimum wage work.
But she'd probably tell you that it's for her darlings, that she derives pleasure from slaving away at the school. Honestly, though, I think she looks a bit tired.
Sometimes, I think, women make this juggling act even harder than it has to be. Why do we overdo things? Are we trying to live up to some maternal ideal based on June Cleaver? Is it residual guilt about working? Or is there a subtle competition for superwomandom going on?
My resolution: I will try not to badmouth store-bought goods. Ding-Dongs can be quite yummy, I've heard.
But right now, I have to tackle this mass of green felt and create one fabulous leaf.
Postscript: This year, my daughter wants to be a watermelon, so I've been busy cutting and sewing pink, green, and black felt pieces into a giant wedge of the fruit. Pity, Hurrican Sandy struck last night, and we live in a part of New York City with no power; hence, Trick or Treating will likely be cancelled. The good news is that the costume might keep until next year.