21 Apr 2015

She’s Got Her Life More Together than You Do. Really?

It constantly surprises me how grown up I don’t feel.

I have three kids and still most days feel like I’m playing house. I look around me and am surprised to find myself in this minivan with these children who think I have answers to all the questions in the entire history of the world.

I’m even more surprised when other women seem to think I have it all together. I immediately want to invite them into my laundry room. Actually, it’s more like a laundry dungeon because it’s in the unfinished basement and there are piles and piles of it and some days I am genuinely tempted to make my kids choose 5 T-Shirts and pretty much 5 of everything else and then give, throw, donate, barter all the rest away.

We are so quick to despair over our own dirty laundry – especially the grown up kind – and then assume so easily and quickly that those other moms at the playground has her life and her laundry together.

We believe somewhere deep down in our sleep-deprived minds that there are perfect moms out there. With perfect homes and minivans and meal planning systems.

Perfect moms with perfect kids who do all the things we can’t seem to manage without breaking a sweat.

We judge ourselves by the perfect standards we think that everyone except ourselves manages to live up to.

Last night I thought my kids were playing nicely in the front yard and then I looked outside and LOST MY MIND.

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There is no such thing as perfect.

There is especially no such thing as perfect parents, waistlines, homes, or kids.

Perfect doesn’t exist.

Perfect is not an attainable goal.

Perfect is merely a street sign at the intersection of impossible and frustration in Never Never Land. 

This realization is the only way I make sense of my days. Because there is no such thing as “doing it all.” And especially no such thing as “doing it all perfectly.” By my third child I am convinced of this.

The only way this family finds love and laughter in the midst of our days is by being willing to let perfect trickle through our fingers like so much sandpit sand. We don’t have perfectly nutritious meals or perfectly put away laundry. We don’t have a perfectly tidy living room or perfectly educational days. We don’t have perfect bedtimes or perfect play dates. And we certainly don’t have perfect obedience or perfect parenting.

Three children have taught me that a content household is rarely ever a perfect one.

We keep pace with one another and sometimes that pace is slow. Sometimes it requires leaving that load of dry laundry to fend for itself while parents take rowdy boys to the pool or a tiny ballerina to her pretend concert. Sometimes it requires compromising on the pasta sauce in order to get a boy’s tummy full of pasta.

Sometimes it means taking deep breaths for a few hours before you can find the funny in your mud-slathered kids and the guilty trail they tracked through the house.

For a work-at-home mom it often requires a certain degree of playroom chaos in order to have a happy work environment for kids and mom. And at the end of long days letting go of perfect means releasing my family from heavy sighs and irritable grunts at the state of the house.

Instead, I’ve learned that if we created the chaos together it’s good for us to clean it up together. And that it may not be perfect if a nine, seven and four-year-old are my cleaning companions – but that the company’s willingness is worth more than a perfect end result.

Sometimes I still miss it – at least the illusion of perfect. And then a boy blows me bedtime kisses from his bed stuffed full of a random collection of transformers that should have been in the play room, toys that should have been on his shelf, and snail shells that should have been outside, and my heart relaxes and I remember what I traded perfect for – a house full of real.

And perfect is rarely as interesting as real.


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Comments

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  1. 1

    Lisa-Jo, you got it much earlier than I did -that perfect is an illusion. I was so entrenched in that ideal that I couldn’t attain that I called myself a ” procrastinating perfectionist”. And didn’t do anything. I shut down on many fronts because I knew it wasn’t possible and in all my attempts it may have happened once or twice but was so fleeting it wasn’t worth the effort Yet I grieved daily over the inability to the point that it ate me up inside- the self confidence eater at work. I’m much kinder to myself now- in some ways- but perfection still haunts me. But God’s Grace stands in the gap.

  2. 2

    RIGHT ON, as usual, Lisa-Jo. I pray my heart can relax and I don’t miss the REAL.

  3. 3

    I’ve caught myself chasing after perfection so many times, even to the point of resenting other women. God reminds me daily that I don’t have to be perfect. Thank you for this post!

  4. 4

    I love this post (and especially the pictures!). I often struggle with feeling like I have to keep everything perfect and then feeling like a failure when I can’t. Thanks for reminding me that real is much more rewarding than perfect can ever be :)

  5. 5

    Lisa-Jo, how well I understand the mind-losing upon realizing the “playing nicely in the front yard” had morphed into something, well, else. But those pictures? Priceless. Deserving to be framed and hung in the laundry room, at least!

  6. 6

    Oh wow! This hits home for so many moms, I am sure! Thanks for posting such a kind, honest account of motherhood and our lack of perfection:-) You are right, perfect does not exist. And we all need that reminder, and the grace to know it is OK!

  7. 7

    I love you so – you and them and those muddy expressive little faces and all of your Real and your Brave that you show us, that you open the door wide for us to show up and show our Real and our Brave too! xoxo

  8. 8

    I can say from experience in having so many of those unexpected mud covered days (or socks on the roof because um, boys, hello) that have turned into sweaty teenagers driving me around… it was worth it. Every single mud covered moment – or the time I found my littles covered head to toe in flour and sugar making cookie angels like it was snow on my floor. Or when one of them stuffed easter eggs in his underwear only to pull them down in the produce aisle and start pulling them out of his pants… “What, mom? I have EGGS in my underwear!!!” These are things LIFE is made of. These are the memories I treasure and celebrate and that we all laugh about now. It is glorious, really. I so aimed for perfection back then not realizing FUN is so much better. I LOVED making mud pies when I was a kid yet as a mom, I completely forgot. I just thought it was work. Should’ve spent more time with Peter Pan I suppose. Kudos to you for taking the pictures, giving the kids a moment to enjoy themselves, still making everyone learn that we have fun together AND we clean up together, and reminding us all that really – it is worth it because all these moments are sands of time that builds our family’s history. Thanks for sharing!

  9. 9

    I substitute teach 2-3 days a week. I got home today after a long day in 2nd grade and convinced myself that that pile of jeans will still be there tomorrow.

  10. 10

    I relate entirely. Why do we have to be perfect when no one else is? It is like a mirage – it is always gone by the time we think we have got there! Especially when there are kids around =)

  11. 11

    Oh how my heart needed this today. I look around my house and often feel overwhelmed at the chaos, but try to remember those little hands and feet won’t really be here all that long. And that reading books, playing swords and dress up will only be a memory.

  12. 12

    My two older boys are interested in ballistics. Yesterday morning the started the day with an impromptu experiment on splattering patterns that involved the top bunk, a dozen raw eggs, and carpeting. Meanwhile, the 2 yo attempted to feed the cat by putting wet cat food *on* the cat.

    All this while I got dressed.

    I think I cried for an hour before I tackled any of it.

    Perfect ain’t happening here, and I’d trade yesterday for a mud mess any day.

  13. 13

    I remember sitting in a parenting meeting at my son’s preschool. He was my first. I had been a mom for a total of 4 years. A much more experienced mom with kids that were teenagers down to toddler aged said something that has stuck with me through the past 20 plus years. She said, “I’m still waiting to feel like a responsible grown-up.” At that point, I understood that if this experienced mom who I looked up to, who seemed to have it all together, felt the same way I felt then it meant we are all the same. We all have the same feelings and doubts. That moment and realization will stick with me forever.

  14. 14

    HA! Oh, glory, I hooted out loud at the photos! How wonderful… and yet… lol. I love this post, you give every mom and housewife and career gal permission to slow down and really live and to toss guilt aside, no matter how many loads of laundry still wait.
    There will always be laundry, but I’d hate to run out of moments. Thanks Lisa-Jo :D

  15. 15

    The pictures of your muddy kids? They were taken right out of the scrapbook in my mind. Mine are older now. I miss the muddy days.1 girl, 3 boys…I get it.

    “…perfect is rarely as interesting as real.”

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