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.
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.