I’ll just get it out of the way and say it up front: I was hugely unpopular as a kid. I was the nerd, the kid that got bullied, all of it. For that reason, and also for the fact that I’m just a nice person who believes in being nice to other people, I was determined not to have adulthood turn out like that for me. I was going to be the person everyone liked, everyone wanted to be friends with, everyone could count on, that everyone wanted to hang out with. I started with that attitude in high school, and as I close in on age 40, I’ve realized I enjoy being that person as little as I enjoyed being an outcast.
I realized I was not only exhausted, but I was a bad friend. I had to flake out on a lot of things due to over-committing myself. I thought I could be one of those super PTO moms, but the truth is, the PTO just isn’t for me. All I wanted to do was just show up at school every once in a while so my own kids would be thrilled to see my face. God bless the parents that want to put in the work, but that’s not me. Going out to the bar is fun every once in a while, but to do it now on a regular basis? I’d rather be under a blanket at home with my own glass of wine. The walk to my bed is much closer and I’m not fighting people half my age for an overpriced drink I may or may not like. I’m looking for deeper and I want more out of my life. Yes, I love to have fun and blow off steam, but I’ve been through a lot and want to find some meaning to this life and some way to give back. What I had around me just wasn’t cutting it, and I’m sure I was not party for them either.
This epiphany was two years in the making. For many years before that, I was in playgroups, I was in PTA’s and PTO’s, and running myself ragged. I planned playdates, I worked, I went to meetings, I chaired charitable efforts. There weren’t too many things I didn’t say yes to. I was the supermom of three kids and I thought that’s how life was supposed to be. I made some really great friends, and a lot of enemies. There were just times I couldn’t live up to my own high standards. Then the standards came crashing down around me.
In 2014 I got sick, really sick. Genetic testing revealed a rare illness and I spent the better part of two years in the hospital, and lost four organs. I had also lost some friendships. And, after seeing others’ reactions, I had to resign myself to a completely new way of thinking. As I recovered, I had a new lease on life, and I wasn’t going to waste it. As a grown up, we have to make difficult decisions, and also realize when it comes to friends that less is more, and that quality is truly better than quantity. I chose to keep women and men who stayed in my corner long-term. I also chose to include individuals who were going to lift me up, inspire me, and help me grow. Even at age 40, I have a mentor and a sisterhood of professional women I look to for inspiration. All of the above keep me going even on the toughest days.
As a grown up, we have to make difficult decisions, and also realize when it comes to friends that less is more, and that quality is truly better than quantity.
Advice to Moms Everywhere
So far I think the change is making me a better person. My head is clearer. I can focus on what is really important now that I’m not worried about running to an activity or pick-up. My kids were pretty confused as to why I did what I did. My one son even went as far to say “what friend did you lose now Mom?” I admit that hurt, but I was able to look him and my other two in the eyes and say straight out that I was a confident enough person that I didn’t need to be popular. I didn’t need “friends” that just liked a picture on Facebook or to feel like one of the cool moms on the playground. I was enough on my own. I wanted quality and not quantity, and it was an important lesson I wanted them to learn while they were young. A lesson no one taught me. This is one of the best examples any of us parents can set for our kids. Hopefully my three get the message.
If I can share any advice with moms who read this blog, it’s to not wait until these hard times hit to find your worth. Don’t try to be supermom, and don’t say yes to everything just because you think you have to. If you don’t like a certain type of work, don’t do it. If you don’t like helping out at school, don’t do it. If you can’t stand being around tons of other moms, don’t do just because of your kids. Be your own person and find your own place to shine. Find those like-minded people, either through social media or your own personal circles. Don’t try to please everyone. The minute you stop trying to be a people pleaser, is the moment when your life truly begins.
Contributing Sister Site and Author
Jen lives in Gibsonia, PA and is a wife and mom to three awesome kids, two of whom fall on varying degrees of the autism spectrum. As a result, she is a tireless advocate in the local autism community, with a specialty in dealing with service dogs. Jen’s efforts in the autism community were recently recognized on a larger scale, as she was featured in the international best-selling trilogy Common Threads by Dr. Shellie Hipsky. She remains a loyal part of Dr. Hipsky’s Global Sisterhood Initiative, which educates, provides resources, and networking for women and girls internationally. Jen’s own book, The Happier Autism Family, is due out in 2017.