That particular problem of perceived “perfection”

Little Mack does not have an attitude conducive to learning this particular morning.

Little Mack does not have an attitude conducive to learning this particular morning.

Something has been bugging me.  The something is “perfection” or more acurately “perceived perfection.”  A friend and I were chatting about social media, and we were sharing our opinions about how easy it is to put only a complimentary view of ourselves on Facebook and other social sites.  We both agreed that we don’t “air our dirty laundry” on social media or anyplace else, for that matter.  Nope.  Dirty laundry stays where it belongs:  at home.  Even when I have a complaint about life I try to keep it to myself. I don’t always succeed.  But really, you have your own struggles to deal with, why would I burden you, my Gentle Reader, with mine?

That thought reminds me of when I was a young(er) home schooling mom, and I was subscribing to this magazine that had in it a feature called “A Day at Our House.” The editors invited subscribers to send in a “real” hour-by-hour account of a “typical” day at their house.  95% of the time, the published day went something like this:

Here's one of my favorite cookbooks. I set it down on a hot burner.  I still use it.

Here’s one of my favorite cookbooks. I set it down on a hot burner. I still use it.

“5:30 a.m.:  I arose with the birds, and discovered that my darling husband, the Cardiologist, cooked sausages, whole-grain pancakes and fresh-squeezed orange juice for breakfast!  (Again!) Had our daily devotional together over coffee before he left for his rounds, and then went out to run my usual 5-miles before settling in for a cozy day of schooling with my children!  Can’t wait!”

“7:00 a.m.:  The kids have done their chores–the laundry is finished, the beds are made, the dusting is done, and the house is freshly-vacuumed.  We are ready to hit the books!  We’ll start with French.  Our 3-year-old is learning verb conjugations in French and Latin, so that’s where we’ll start!”

“8:00 a.m.:  It’s time for music practice!  Gerielle is becoming quite proficient on the lute, and Caroline will practice her harp.  Little Jeremy does his practice in the basement–drums, the little scamp!  Four-year-old Jett has just started the violin, and I’ll pull out my viola and work with him.  Bobby is working on his Mozart Sonata, so he’ll be on the piano for the hour.  Our home simply rings with music!”

I walked into the bathroom this morning and this is what I found:  a hand towel, covered in mud, draped decorously on the edge of the sink.

I walked into the bathroom this morning and this is what I found: a hand towel, covered in mud, draped decorously on the edge of the sink.

“9:30 a.m. Time for science!  We’re building a lifesize replica of a Brontosaurus in the back yard!  We did some research at the science museum yesterday and I think we are prepared to shape the head today.  How sweet that my dear Cardiologist husband had time to whittle the teeth for our dinosaur yesterday–I think he got the spatulate shapes of the teeth just right!  Nobody would pick this fellow to be an omnivore, no!  It’s simply amazing what one can do with chicken wire and newspaper!! The man from the newspaper is coming today to take photos, and the neighbors burst into applause every time they see us.  I love home schooling!”

(Image courtesy of dinosaurs.about.com)

Okay.  I’m not exaggerating–much.  It was unbelievable, the accounts of those supermoms.  I still blanch at the thought of how intimidated I was by these articles.  I was younger then (cough) and vulnerable to making comparisons, so after awhile I stopped reading that magazine.  I didn’t renew it when it expired.  I just couldn’t handle it.  Maybe that kind of an account would serve to inspire you, Gentle Reader, or to give you some wonderful new ideas.

Ours is not a perfect place.  The good news is: it doesn't have to be.

Ours is not a perfect place. The good news is: it doesn’t have to be.

As for me, it just made me feel like a failure.  I had a houseful of needy little ones at the time, and I had a baby and a toddler to watch over, while trying to guide my older kids in their schooling.  And my dear, long-suffering husband was going to grad school (full-time) and working a job an hour away (full-time).  There is absolutely no way I could measure up, in my mind, with those exceptional women who were able to do so much.  I could only suffer and pale in comparison.

I actually was going to write my own “Day at our House” article to send in to that magazine, only I was going to choose a painfully horrid day–a real one, mind you–but not a picture perfect, things-going-as-planned, applause-from-the-neighbors day.  I reckoned it would do everybody a lot of good–there had to be other moms besides me who read those perfect accounts and felt like foolish, undisciplined dunderheads because of them.

Little Mack tries to become invisible inside a hat.

Little Mack tries to become invisible inside a hat.

“7:36–Yikes!  I was up with the baby thirty times during the night. He had a diaper blowout in our bed and all the bedding is soaked, not to mention our pajamas.  Bryan left for work two hours ago.  He forgot his lunch.  I can’t believe it’s morning.  It’s raining.  I hear screaming.  Apparently the cat snuck in to the boys’ room and has taken off with one of the gerbils.  Again.”

I have heard from younger women, lately, who look at my beautiful (they are beautiful) children and make mumbled comments about how perfect my kids are. Usually these are women with children younger than mine, children still cutting teeth and not sleeping well at night and perhaps throwing the occasional temper tantrum and whatnot, and my heart goes out to these young women. I have been there.  I almost always choke on something when I hear somebody say this. My eyes redden. My heart starts racing. I look behind me, wondering if they are addressing somebody else.  Because my children are not perfect.

(No offense, kids.)

Each one of them is flawed, just as their mother is.  (And certainly their dad, as well–ha!) We are all victims of the fall; we’re all loaded with faults and foibles and our share of rotten days and disappointments.  Sure, my kids clean up pretty well (most of the time) for the public, but they’re entirely real at home. Real, real, real.  In other words: not perfect.  Each one of us has bad days and bad attitudes from time to time.  Sometimes those bad attitudes last for days–months–at a time.  (Sigh.)  They are all a work in progress, as am I.

Timothy is so handsome, but he won't let me take his picture this morning.  No matter. His backside is just as cute as his frontside.

Timothy is so handsome, but he won’t let me take his picture this morning. No matter. His backside is just as cute as his frontside.

8:48.  I’d been chasing that stupid cat through the neighborhood for nearly an hour, the poor gerbil in its mouth, when I realized that I was still wearing my pajamas–the really ratty ones that I used once to clean up a paint spill?–and that all five of the kids were following me in their ratty pajamas.  Darn. It must be a holiday, too.  Everybody is outside in their yards.  It’s still raining.  Of course. I think the neighbor who has always asked me about how I expect the kids to be socialized without public school has called the police on us.”

So I got this idea. I thought it might be good for everybody if I wrote this post, and opened up the topic of this problem of perceived “perfection.”  I wondered if it might help somebody to hear about how imperfect my life is. Hopefully it won’t discourage anybody.

9:45.  We couldn’t find Timothy so we spent some time looking for him.  We finally trudged home and found him on the front porch.  Playing with matches.  The police officer was there, too, to check out the report of ‘truant children running amok in the neighborhood.’  Ugh.  Worst morning ever.  I really, really need a shower and none of us has had breakfast yet.  Forgot to go to the store and the bread is moldy. The gerbil died.”

It is mid-April and we are in a winter storm warning.  This is ice coating our windows.  We are entombed in ice.

It is mid-April and we are in a winter storm warning. This is ice coating our windows. We are entombed in ice, in our unkempt house.  This is not right.  The kids should be frolicking like lambs outside in the spring, doggonit!

I tell you, Gentle Reader, I have been positively giggling over this idea all day long.  I’ve been taking lots of pictures, too.  It’s painfully easy to find imperfection at our house to snap pictures of.  It’s everywhere.  (Although I won’t subject you to the worst of it, and you’re welcome for that.  The inside of the microwave oven.  The pantry downstairs. And so forth.)

“11:30.  There’s no food in the house and the laundry is piled up so high that nobody can find underwear, so we headed to Mickey D’s for a fast food lunch–maybe tomorrow we can start eating better, when we have more time–must buy lentils!!–and then we’ll stop at Wal-Mart for new underwear, all around.  While eating our McNuggets, the baby had another diaper blowout and little Bethie was holding her–they both had it running down their legs and then Timothy started gagging and he lost his lunch.  He has always had a weak stomach like his mother, bless him. Everybody started crying.  Even me.  The manager begged us to leave with a bag of fried pies.  I burned my mouth on a cherry pie.”

Little Mack thought he was finished with his schoolwork, but I reminded him about his handwriting practice. He wasn't happy.

Little Mack thought he was finished with his schoolwork, but I reminded him about his handwriting practice. He wasn’t happy.

 

That green blur in the kitchen is my son, running away from the school room and screaming.  He really didn't want to do his handwriting practice.  (He did return later and do it.)

That green blur in the kitchen is my son, running away from the school room and screaming. He really didn’t want to do his handwriting practice. (He did return later and do it.)

So I thought it might be timely to suggest a truce all around. There are a few moms whom I look at wistfully, thinking that they have it all together, unlike me.  I realize that this isn’t fair. I know their houses are clean and orderly and they have nutritious, organic lentil-filled meals on the table every night, their children are winning academic awards left and right and they run thriving home businesses in their spare time.  They have beautiful knitting projects at hand, at all times.  Conversely, I know there are young women who look to me and think that I have it all together (bless their hearts, the sweet, deluded young things).  Here’s my idea:  I’ll stop looking at the “supermoms” around me, thinking their lives are perfect, and I’ll expect the deluded younger moms to stop looking at me, expecting the same thing.

Here is my kitchen counter this morning: look closely and you'll see amidst the clutter:  washed eggs, a used toothbrush, dirty rags, a thermos, a near-empty bottle of hot sauce, an old coconut, dirty knives, a bill, an Aprons sticker, a dirty coffeepot.

Here is my kitchen counter this morning: look closely and you’ll see amidst the clutter: washed eggs, a used toothbrush, dirty rags, a thermos, a near-empty bottle of hot sauce, an old coconut, dirty knives, a bill, an Aprons sticker, a dirty coffeepot, a cup full of Easter grass, an enamelware bowl full of coins, a boxful of mangoes; a bagful of avocados, and more (this will be cleaned up during the course of the day–but still!!). Perfect women don’t have countertops like this one.  I hear.

Because baby, there’s no perfection around here.  Just a yearning to be pleasing to God, to get a few things done off the endless to-do list, to perhaps get to the bottom of the laundry basket for once.  To keep everybody fed and progressing in learning and in life.  We’re all in this together, chickies, let’s just pull for each other.

“2:07.  I forgot the eggs I had on the stove boiling when we left for lunch, and they made a lot of smoke when they boiled dry.  Also, they all exploded in my kitchen, one by one, apparently.  A neighbor called the fire department, and they broke the front door lock when they forced themselves in.  The kitchen is a mess of exploded eggs and smoke.  But we’re finally home and everybody is lined up for the shower, with new underwear in hand, at least.  Gosh, I wish we had a second bathroom but oh well. It’ll take a bit of time to get all six of us through the shower and dressed.  I’ve got the first load of laundry going, and I bought a few groceries so I’ll put some supper in the crock pot and maybe we’ll get to the schoolbooks yet today, after all–after we clean up the kitchen, that is.  I did stop at the pet store to get Matthew another gerbil, and now Andrew is upset because he wants a gerbil, too.  Bryan called to ask how the day was going. I couldn’t talk.  I just started crying.”

I went on quite a bit longer than I meant to with this post, but that’s one of my foibles–I can go on too long.  Does it not encourage you, Gentle Reader, to get a glimpse of just how imperfect things are at my house?  I do hope so.

So as I try to relax in my imperfection, I hope you will, too.  Have a blessed–and a blessedly imperfect–day!!

(Now it’s time to clean up that kitchen counter.)

 

 

 

38 thoughts on “That particular problem of perceived “perfection”

  1. Deb Dutilh

    Amy, this is the best post. It’s funny, authentic, true and trip down memory land that I can warms my heart. I only had 2 sons, now 26 and 28, but when it comes to family and raising kids and their friends – don’t all moms participate in raising other kids in a way? – my life and house and live looked and felt the same way. My biggest gut reaction is nostalgia. Nostalgia for a house full of kids, their friends, their mess, their laughter, Sunday night dinner which often consisted of raiding the fridge for anything you want, cleaning up tiny down feathers from dead bird toys and chasing down live mice that the cat brought into the house, and never ending car-pooling and laundry. It sounds cliche, but those were the days, they go by way too fast, and in my opinion, few things top a home full imperfection and real living.

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      I so agree, Deb, and your memories brought a lump to my throat. My oldest son is going to be 27, and I miss the days when all the kids were home . . . but I’ve got awhile before I’m looking at an empty next. I agree with everything you said about how busy and happy the days are when the house is full of kids and their mess and their laughter and their energy. Great comment!

  2. Shawn

    You made me cry this morning. We homeschooled for 10 years and it was the best 10 years of my life I miss it. The last one graduated 4 yrs ago and I still get sad at the beginning of the school year because we can’t go get school supplies.

    I know what magazine you are referring to because I thought the same thing. We were not conventional homeschoolers at all. Or maybe we were, the kids were happy, they were learning and yes the house was dirty. I learned to use home ec as time to train the kids to clean the house. Not perfect but it worked for us.

    God bless you on your journey.

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Thank you Shawn, though I’m sorry I made you cry. I know–even on our worst days, I am so thankful for the blessing of homeschooling. I love it and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Thanks for your sweet comment. God bless you in your life.

  3. Jamie Van Treeck

    I LOVE that you, your kids, and the house are not perfect….(forgive me for my enthusiasm over that fact!). What an encouragement! From a fellow in it together chickie, Jamie

  4. Debbie

    I sure have been there. Yesterday was not a good day for us. We get ducklings from the post office and 4 are died. The other two died within 24 hours.

    Our favorite cat had kittens and when the (human) kids went outside to milk and feed the goats last night, a male cat had eaten the kittens.

    The house is being over run with box elder bugs and it is windy and rainy and now we need to fix the screen door.

    Those people that have perfect homeschool days consistently are lying.

    Hope you have a good day. smile.

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Oh, Debbie, I’m sorry.!! Sounds like “one of those days” that just begs to be forgotten. Hope tomorrow is better!

  5. Jocelyn

    Oh, this totally brought a smile to my face! I loved the beginning where you start explaining your perfect day juxtaposed to the reality with the pictures. Every picture is awesome! My favorite is the one of the cookbook in the very beginning. That had me rolling!!

    I have one question: what happened with the green cutting board in the last picture? It looks dented. I’m so incredibly curious.

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      OH, Jocelyn, you made me lol. I didn’t even realize until now that that green cutting board was in that shot . . . you can probably tell that I put that down on a hot burner (me and burners—geez!!) and it melted a dandy curvey groove in it. But my daughter gave it to me so I still keep it and use it every day and probably will until I die!! hhaa! Thanks so much for asking. You made me laugh.

  6. Regina Walker

    You are truly inspirational and I thank God for your honest writing. As a homeschool Mom, I am always worried that other people will think I’m not doing “enough” for my kids, and that I don’t have it together “enough” to be their teacher, too. It can be hard to keep up with the perceived expectations, too…especially when I’ve made them up myself. Keep writing dear one, you are blessing this Momma for sure!!

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      YIKES no, now don’t go down that “truly-inspirational” road, Regina, that makes me very uncomfortable! You saw all the pictures! I AM NOT AN INSPIRATION . . . unless you mean . . . you are inspired to NOT be like me?? That works for me! But thank you, sweetie, for your sweet comment, seriously. You’ve made my day.

  7. Chef William

    Only one of us was perfect and they killed him when he was only 33 years old.
    After the apple it has not been perfect regardless of what we read. I think the
    whole thing is one big lesson, it just seems hard to remember we need to learn
    something from all of it. One problem/challenge at a time, all day, everyday.

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Thanks for that reminder, Chef, I got goosebumps when I read your comment. We’ve been battling sin, imperfection, weeds and pain ever since. But God doesn’t call us to do any more than one day at a time.

  8. Shelli Johnson

    Hi Amy!

    The most encouraging thing, at least to me, is to for people to be genuine & authentic. I’ve read those kind of stories, too, the perfect moms & of course, my house is more like yours. Thanks for being real & letting all of us see the imperfect but lovely you.

    Cheers!

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      You’re so sweet, Shelli, thank you so much. And you’re welcome. If you need any more REALness, just let me know. 😉

  9. Janice

    All my kids have flown the nest but I remember it all. The house does stay neater now but it misses something and seems to sigh. I don’t get any more done and disasters still happen, just at a slower pace. Having said that, the car has decided not to start just as we are coming up to the weekend we have tickets for Meatloaf and the week before I need to take OH to hospital to have his leg rebroken and hopefully set properly this time.

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      OH NO! I hope you can make it to your concert, Janice! One of those bumps in the road! I agree that I’ll miss all the kid-noise and bluster once they’re all gone. I’m so thankful for them all.

  10. Dot Hurley

    Very entertaining post – surprised you had time to write all of that with everything going on! I don’t believe that anyone really has a perfect life (well not unless they don’t really have a life)

  11. Jennifer Ledet

    NO one is perfect and I have found that I am a much saner person when I remove myself from the presence of those who try to make me think that they are perfect. (Gag.) Thanks for the giggles!

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      hahaha! Alana, I think only YOU can write your chicken memoir. I definitely think you’ve got the chops to do it! Can’t wait to read it! 😉

  12. Carlana

    You are a riot. You had me in stitches here, literally laughing out loud. Thanks for your authenticity. It is like a breath of fresh air and makes it so easy to relate to you. I can’t stand being around people who always need to give the impression that all is well and perfect. I don’t need them to air their laundry but why this false sense of perfection? I have a sink full of dirty dishes and it’s just hubby and I in the house. I’m a good manager of time and I work from home! Yet, they have 4 kids and they are always clean, well behaved, preparing three course meals daily, while homeschooling and the house is spotless and everything is so together. Sigh. Really? Let’s all just keep it real!

  13. Anita-Clare Field

    What you have is a REAL life, not a plastic, cosmetic existence and I love it. Social Media does one of two things. People either become obsessed with trying to out-do one another or use it as a counselling service. I have to admit, when I laid awake day after day, night after night after my accident and my surgeries it has helped. There are a lot of beautiful people out there too. No one really knows what is going on and whilst I continue to make witty comments or post silly posts on my normal facebook/twitter accounts people do know we are surrounded by packing boxes trying to get our new home straight, what they don’t know is my Mother is weak and dying of cancer. Like you say, somethings are best left for those closest to us. xx

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      I’m so sorry about your mother, Anita-Clare. Even as I went on my tirade about social media, I’m also very thankful for it. Many times I have prayed for dear friends who have asked for prayer through facebook posts–I’ve opened up my heart on occasions, too, and asked for help in one way or another. The thing that I resist is promoting an image that I’ve got it all together, and that my life has no bumps in it, because that’s not true. I’ll add you and your mother to my prayer list–and that your unpacking will go smoothly! Blessings, sweetie!

  14. The Great Gordino

    I can only imagine how many readers will be nodding their heads as they read this – I know I was!
    I was brought up by parents who had an obsession with presenting a perfect facade to the outside world, while not all perfect inside at all.

    I thought that was normal, and it was only late into my teens that I realised that it wasn’t normal to that extent, and that it had caused a lot of lasting damage.

    Sometimes I wonder whether, as an adult, I have gone too far the other way, and even then still battle this ‘facade’ issue.
    btw if you saw my current handwriting, you’d have me stay behind for extra lessons for sure!
    Cheers,
    Gordon

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Thanks for sharing your story, GGOrd. I guess we all carry with us into adulthood effects–for good or ill–of the way we were raised. Good for you for battling that one particular issue, rather than repeating it. And as for handwriting–there’s a spot at the table next to little Mack. Just be aware, though, that if you get grumpy I’ll have the camera handy! 😉

  15. iSophie

    Hi, I am visiting from Rebecca Mugridge’s Blog. I am so glad I came over to read this, it is -brilliant-! I have 4 sons, and I can so so so relate on so many levels of this post. I wrote a post about my horror trip flying solo with the 4 of them a year ago, called The Journey Home, if you are ever after some other refreshing ‘real’ parenting.

    Thank you for sharing!

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Sophie,
      Thanks so much for stopping by!! 4 sons–my goodness! You have your hands full. I’ll definitely look up your blog and your post. Sounds like fun, flying solo with 4 boys (not!). Thanks sweetie!

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