Two Poles: Ideal Christie and Real World Christie

There are at least 2 people competing inside me all the time: the Ideal Christie and Real-World Christie.  They represent two poles I bounce between as I navigate every single role in my life, including wife, mom, daughter, sister, friend, customer, etc..  All that bouncing is hard on a woman; it makes me want a sports bra for my psyche.

I suspect that everyone confronts the battle of the ideal and the actual within themselves.

I have noticed that Ideal Christie is much more likely to show up if there is an audience (besides my children).

My Two Selves Apart, image courtesy of www.elfwood.com

My Two Selves Apart, image courtesy of http://www.elfwood.com

For example, Jeff just left on a golfing trip with his father and brother.  I am so proud of all three of the Ellis men for getting themselves to Oregon for a dream golf vacation.  Ideal Christie-Wife drives Jeff to the airport and sends supportive texts like “We’re doing great here– Enjoy that coastal sunset, OXOXO.”  She refuses to act put out or annoyed in front of others because she knows that Jeff deserves this joy in his life.

But.

There is also Real World Christie-Wife, who is tempted to go all Joan-Of-Arc martyr-y about parenting solo for a few days.  You know, a few sighs as I reflect on my heroism and the 4 straight nights I will do the bedtime routine by myself.  (Again, still waiting for the Pulitzer Committee to include a parenting category.)  Real World Christie-Wife tallies how many days away he’s had versus how many days away I have had since our children were born.

And, the disparity between who I am and who I want to be is even worse with parenting.  God, these two poles conspire to drop ropes for me to hang myself all the time.  Ideal Christie-Mother isn’t some crazy bitch from Stepford with good housekeeping skills.  In fact, my aspirations don’t really extend to my physical space at all, because I am consumed with the emotional space.  My Ideal Christie-Mother is P-R-E-S-E-N-T emotionally to herself and her children; she is available for joy and connection.

I know it’s unrealistic to expect emotional presence all the time, but I still strive for it.  And I have moments, hours, and stretches of time where my head, heart and soul are present and joyful as I parent my children.

But in times of stress (say, dinner time or when Sadie crushes Graham crackers on Simon’s head right after I clean the floor), Ideal Christie-Mother can only show up if someone else is watching.  Like that time at the gym snack bar when Sadie threw her sippy cup across the room and my whole entire body was coiled for a red-hot reaction. My lips were forming the word, “SADIE!” and my lungs were preparing to bellow, but before I made a sound, I caught another mom watching us curiously.

Do you think I used my hot-headed at-home voice? Oh hell no I did not.  I paused and offered a gentler version of myself, one who knows a teachable moment when she sees it.  Ideal Christie-Mother emerged out of nowhere.   It was a virtuoso performance of mothering– it was art.  It was a lot of things, but it wasn’t my first reaction, and it would never have happened if that woman wasn’t sitting 10 yards away.

I don’t bring this up to hate on Real World Christie, because I love her humanness and her honesty and her frailties.  Good thing I do, because she’s here to stay.  I also love Ideal Christie, and I’m grateful she’s out there ahead of me as an aspiration.

I need them both.

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32 thoughts on “Two Poles: Ideal Christie and Real World Christie

  1. I think you just summed up something we all struggle with, but don’t have the courage to admit. Beautiful. Can relate to the whole thing. BTW, I was not in a good place last week when Rick was gone for 7 days straight, three of which on the bachelor party trip I wrote about. Stephanie got down right ugly inside and out. But I forced myself to make light of the situation through a funny blog post and it helped a lot – but it still doesn’t erase all the exhaustion and resentment I went through last week as a single parent. You’re having the week I had last week, so know that you are not alone. Hang in there my friend!

      • yep, me too. Yesterday Rick got home at 4 and I was so exhausted that I couldn’t even eat dinner and had to go straight to bed at 5:30. It gets me that bad. Still feeling the fatigue today. Will it ever end?

  2. You’re still young Outlaw. By the time you reach my age you don’t care which “self” does it, but someone’s gonna jerk a knot in a teenagers head no matter who’s looking! 🙂

    Great post!

  3. a sports bra for my psyche. girl, get one of yourselves to call LuluLemon because boyoboy do you have a new product for THEM. Husbands. They travel. We “give permission” for the travel to happen; we are happy that they have friends and WOW emotional connections, yay to the enlightened male. And then: reality. Children, meals, routines, shlepping… yeah. I like to think that a smidge of martyr, a little dollop of pity-party, reminds our partners that we too need a break and are not, in fact, utterly fulfilled by public performances of perfect mommy.
    Also, let us all take note: time was, back in the day, when kids bounced around in the back of station wagons untethered to anything stronger than the wisps of their parents cigarette smoke, that “parent” was not, really, a verb. It was a noun.
    Loved this post.

    • You are do fucking brilliant. That’s what this comment makes me think. How are you do wise? And do your kids know what a gem you are?

      One day I hope to get a standing O for my public performances.

  4. I sometimes wonder if the whole “it takes a village” thing has as much to do with extended community support as it has to do with people being less likely to lose their shit when they know everyone else is watching. Kind of like how, at least in my case, early childhood education is key as much for the lessons my child learns in the preschool community as it is because I get some much needed kid free time and am therefore way less crazy than I would be otherwise. Loved this post!

    • I never thought of it that way, but I think you are exactly right. I would not talk so rudely if there were people around. Maybe that would be performance and also I would have community to help me carry the burden and emotions. And preschool is in 2 weeks. I can’t wait!

  5. The first time I read this all I was focused on you pulling out your perfect performance when you needed it. Contrast that with the scene that was my dragging my child out of the playground tonight feeling like a mommy FAIL, I couldn’t see what this post was really about – couldn’t see past my own shit to realize that we all struggle with the parent we hope to be – think we should be – and the parent that we are after a long day, a second full day with no help, no husband at home. This post IS a gem. Thank you.

    • You know, it’s a muddled issue for me. The mom/wife I want to be, the performance, and the reality. The themes are a bit jumbled on the page because they are jumbled for me. I have been that mom in the park you were today. It feels horrible on so many levels. I have also witnessed it, and I always want to whisper to the parties involved- “hey, I’ve been there… You’re doing a great job. “. Or something helpful like that. Not sure why it’s so searing. But it is.

  6. “My Ideal Christie-Mother is P-R-E-S-E-N-T emotionally to herself and her children; she is available for joy and connection.”

    I totally identify with this. My hubs travels 10 out of 12 weeks, 3-5 days/week. I struggle most with maintaining controlled chaos and emotionally connecting to my kids all at the same time…it’s like I can’t even juggle two balls.

  7. Oh my God. I think about this all the time. I’m always wondering why I parent so much better when people are watching and why the hell can’t I deploy those wonderful skills all the time. I figure it’s because I’m exhausted. I’m glad I am not the only mom who does this!!!

    • I can’t decide what I think about this. The one thing I do know is that the whole idea consoles me when I am watching other moms “be so amazing,” I remember they know I am watching so they are putting extra awesome sauce on it.

  8. Big sigh. Yes to everything you said. I’m thinking the answer is to have people around at all times -maybe we can live in the Museum of Science & Industry’s glass box (the one for its Museum Resident program). Or Costco for you. I loved the last lines of this post. Beautiful!

    • Here here. Now maybe staying up late on this computer LIKE I AM DOING RIGHT NOW is making my life a wee bit harder. Must sleep. But there are so many shiny things on the interwebs……

  9. What a wonderful post. You really are quite good at this blogging business. It’s nice to hear that I’m not the only one with an ideal performer. Ideal Laura-Mom is always center stage when Grandma-In-Law is around.

  10. I want an audience in my living room. Seriously. I’m much more kind, funny, and silly with other parents watching. Except my own. Boy oh boy am I a bitch when my mom’s around…there’s ideal, there’s real world, and then there’s caught in the maternal-daughter miasma.

    • Funny. I have such a business-pleasant relationship with my mom that I really freeze when she’s around. So, it’s not so much bitchy for me, but more wooden and stilted. It’s makes me a lot of fun to be around.

  11. Wow – this is so good and so true and so – everything! The “ideal” mom I want & try to be and the “real, imperfect” mom I am, especially in those stressful or trying moments…it’s a struggle but I love how you pointed out that both are actually needed and loved. All of us, our good, bad, ugly, beautiful, calm and crazy sides can be accepted and embraced. Awesome post!

  12. Pingback: Sharing Is Caring, Right? | The Dose of Reality

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