Recently I listened to a friend tell me and a few of our other friends how she feels like she’s not doing enough. That she sees the other moms around her doing all these great things and wonders why she can’t do everything that these women other women do. Having watched this particular mom I can tell you for a fact – she’s one of the moms that I have looked at and thought, “Man, why can’t I do all that she does?” Her house is always clean and well decorated, she seems to always be organizing activities with other people, she exercises, she cooks healthy meals, she dresses cute and is always smiling and reaching out to people who could use a friend. Oh, and on top of that she has three little boys that she takes care of all day in addition to working crazy 12 hour night shifts as a nurse. If she doesn’t count as the pulled-together mom of the year no one does.
The reality is that none of us are doing all of the things that other people think we’re doing. We like to share the things we do well – as we should. So people see all the things that are going great in our life and compare that part of their life to just the picture perfect things that we share with others. But we almost never share the things we aren’t doing so well. It’s not malicious, we want to celebrate the things that are going well and aren’t quite as keen to celebrate our perceived failures. So, I decided I was going to get real and post what it’s really like around our house. Generally I share the good things that are happening in my life, like my son wanting to go to church meetings or spiritual thoughts that I have when reading the scriptures or cool resources that I’ve put together. But that’s just a tiny tiny slice of my life. I thought I’d share some of the other side. These are some pictures I took of our house recently-
I will admit, I’m not being as real with you as I’m claiming. This is how things looked after a HUGE amount of cleaning. Like 3 days worth of dedicated effort to cleaning. It looked MUCH worse beforehand, but I didn’t think to take any pictures then. It’s not just that I still have a shred of pride (perhaps only a shred, but it does exist!) but also I just didn’t think about it until I was this far into it and thought, “Man, if people only knew that my house was really SO messy that it’s taken me a lot of work and it STILL looks horrendous”. Even still, there are no pictures here of how awful my kitchen looks, or a close up of my bathroom sinks, and no selfies of me with my unwashed hair. I couldn’t bring myself to that level of reality. I’ll admit to you they were also bad, but I couldn’t bring myself to incriminate myself with photographic evidence. Sorry.
The truth is there are not enough hours in a day for each of us to be the Pinterest Perfect Woman. I can also guarantee you that NONE of the women who look perfect on Pinterest really are as perfect as they look on the internet. There are not enough hours in a day! They’re sharing with you the things that they do well, but I promise that there are other aspects of those women that you don’t see. You are not expected to be able to have fun activities for your kids every day AND make delicious, organic, aesthetically pleasing dinners AND have the perfect hairdos or makeup or clothing AND take perfect pictures AND have an immaculate, well-decorated house AND bring in an income from part-time/full-time/from home work AND be completely versed on current affairs AND have a perfect garden etc etc etc. The list of possible pursuits that you may want to perfect is endless.
Growing up most of us were told that we could be ANYTHING we wanted to be. Our potential was limitless. I am not here to dispute that. You really can be anything that you want to be. But, you cannot be everything you want to be. In college I was once told that there were three main elements to a college experience – sleep, social life and academics. You could succeed at any two of the three in a given semester, but it was impossible to really do well at all three in one semester. That was totally right. You could have a social life and do well in your classes – but it would be at the expense of sleep. Or you could do really well in your classes and get adequate sleep, but your social life would definitely suffer. Or you could slack off and have an awesome social life and get decent rest… your parents weren’t likely to approve of the grades you brought home at the end of the term though.
It’s the same with the rest of our lives as well. You can pick something that you want to do well, and you certainly have the potential to be exceptional in that thing. However, you will not be able to be exceptional in everything – and that’s ok. Unless you find a time turner and are able to get more hours in the day than the rest of us then you will never be able to master all these things at once. So choose what is important to you and forget the rest.
Today, I’m owning up to my part. Many days I don’t shower, my baby stays in her pajamas all day, and I let my three year old roam the neighborhood on his own. I don’t keep a clean house, I don’t make delicious, beautiful cakes, and I don’t weed our garden sufficiently. However, I’m still a pretty darn awesome person. Despite the things I can’t do, there are some things that I do pretty well. I can build websites, I cook semi-decently, and I can put together some decent science experiments for my kids. Today despite the things I didn’t do I was able to get my desk cleaned off, reached my 10,000 step goal for the day and wrote this blog post. That’
At the dinner table each night my husband will frequently ask me, “What did you do today?” As a stay-at-home mom of three kids often it’s hard to find the right answer to that question. My days always seem packed, but without a lot to show for all my work at the end of the day. Often the answer I give him is the slightly tongue-in-cheek, “I kept all three of our kids alive – all. day.” Luckily, I married a very smart man and he will usually respond with a sincere, “Good job!” rather than rolling his eyes. While I’m being a little bit silly, the truth is that just that task of being a mom takes an enormous amount of time. When you account for all the time you spend getting kids ready, preparing meals, nursing babies, changing diapers, going to/from the bus stop, finding activities for your kids, picking up toys, laundry, cleaning, meal planning, grocery shopping, dishes, stories, breaking up fights… suddenly your whole day is spent. The hardest part is that at the end of that day, there is little to show for your efforts as nearly all those things will have to be re-done the next day. It is the most disheartening part of motherhood. However, those things are the most important things we could be doing. As tedious and mundane as your efforts may seem, there is nothing that could be more important than the work of raising the next generation.
Before this most recent General Conference I was struggling with feelings of inadequacy similar to those that my friend described. Prior to the conference I wrote down a few questions that I was hoping to have answered during the conference. This is one of the questions I wrote – “How can I best use my time with the many demands placed thereon? Freelance work, housekeeping, motherhood, callings, education, blogging, reading, socializing children etc. How can I keep from being completely overwhelmed and truly accomplish things? Or do I need to simply embrace the chaos?” In the second talk of the conference I got my answer. Sister Linda S. Reeves shared her experience of feeling overwhelmed as the mother of 4 young children and turning to the Lord for guidance on how to get through those times. The answer she received was this – “It is OK if the house is a mess and the children are still in their pajamas and some responsibilities are left undone. The only things that really need to be accomplished in the home are daily scripture study and prayer and weekly family home evening.” I cannot adequately express how much peace that answer gave me. While I still often feel overwhelmed with all that I’m trying to do it’s easier to step back and evaluate if we’re doing those three basic things – prayer, scripture study and family home evening. I’m sure we’re not even doing those things as well as we could, but if we’re doing them then we’re ok.
Ladies, but especially fellow moms, please stop beating yourselves up. You cannot do it all, so don’t expect yourself to. Choose something that you really want to do well and work towards that *one* thing, and forgive yourself for not doing the other things. Pick your priorities, give yourself credit for the things that you are doing and let the rest of it go. I promise you’re doing better than you realize, and I’m sure there’s someone who’s looking at you and wondering how you do it all.