A few weeks ago I wrote in my email* that it was the time of the school year here in North America in which the seams were starting to show. Kids were really fatigued with schoolwork, they were starting to get sick of each other, expectations were running high, and if there were any kinds of problems or tensions they were going to come to the surface.

After that I got a lot of “I thought it was just my kids!” responses from people. It feels like everyone else is blithely pushing through while your kids are just barely holding it together. Pants that are suddenly too small, missing homework, scuffles with friends, more tears than usual.

Here’s a little reminder for you: There’s nothing that weird or unusual or scattered about you. Other people may look more together than you do in some areas, but no one’s on top of everything all the time. And no one is riding calm emotional seas all the time, either. 

I don’t think any of us are trying to deliberately deceive other people into thinking we’re doing really well when we’re presenting a calm, happy face in the middle of disarray. I think we make an effort to look calm as a way of trying to stay calm. The unintended effect is that other people are comparing their realities to our aspirations without our even trying to put that on them.

Remember in Lost when Jack said he’d give himself ten seconds to freak out and then he’d get it together? Maybe we should let other people see that ten seconds, and then rally again to stay calm. I’ll go first:

Every year I freak out that no one will come to my son’s birthday party, which is always on Mother’s Day weekend, and I just got some positive responses to the invitation and burst into tears. I think I’m carrying around more “odd kid out” baggage than I like to recognize.

Now you. (Here or on FB with your friends, or on Twitter with the hashtag #moxie10seconds or wherever.)

We can do it.

* I send an email out every few weeks, to people who subscribe over there on the right side of the page. It’s basically whatever topics I’m thinking about, and is usually a mix of finding your way as a person with children, some business nerdery (I had some deep thoughts about negotiations and value last week), and integrating work and life into something that feels like fun. I usually link to posts from my worklife blog on LinkedIn, too.

If you have a baby or toddler, there may be some question I can answer for you in the Moxietopics.

And if you have a bigger problem, this might be your sign that it’s time for a Flash Consult.