The other day, a friend sent me a link to this clever blog post written by a mom who’d been struggling with inadequacy. The source of this empty emotion? Her slacker-style parenting and inferior homemaking skills. Believe it or not, this woman doesn’t decorate her kids’ grilled cheese to look like ice cream cones, she hasn’t bothered to alphabetize her spice rack and she doesn’t even mold the family’s soap into flowers.
(Insert eye roll) I know, right!?
I guess I could give the lady a break — even empathize a little. After all, I too, have wondered what I was doing wrong as homemaker through the years. I’m creative. I can cook. I even know how to sew and knit and decoupage dresser drawers. So why aren’t my kids adorned in hand-knit fair isle or their lunches properly packed with smiling sunshines?
What’s this Little People-loving mama got that I don’t?
I’ll tell you what she’s got – one of four things. Either a great big vintage mess to reorganize every time her kids play, a daily sense of defeat over the fisher-price fail on the floor, live-in help, or OCD. Thanks, but I’ll stick with my slightly-more-primitive method of mess management – the few toys we have, we toss in a tub and push into a corner. (*See footnote.)
I can’t say I’ve always felt this way. I used to try hard to keep the house all cute and the crap creatively contained. But through the years, these things have become less and less important to me. And why? Because they don’t feed me. And they don’t feed me because they really don’t matter.
I’m not dissing those of you with affinities for prettifying your possessions. I love order and beauty and old-school toys. If I had all the time in the world, I might even embroider vintage-y vegetables on all my kitchen linens. But what I don’t love – in fact, what I loathe, is that our culture places so much value on show and appearance and image. That everywhere we go, we are bombarded by reminders of the things we don’t have, the experiences we’ve not provided our families and that someone, somewhere does something better than we do.
Fortunately, we have choices about what we allow into our experiences. And while it’s hard to avoid the billboards between ourselves and the starry skies, many of the influences that increase our sense of inadequacy are part of our lives because we invite them to be there. Magazines depicting the “perfect” home, the “perfect” body and the “perfect” parent, the dozens of seemingly-innocent home and image-improvement shows, and – as the previously-mentioned blogger describes – internet influences like the all-popular Pinterest have more influence over our perception of what’s important than we realize.
Don’t get me wrong – I rather like Pinterest. I could spend all day pining (and pinning) over off-grid minimalist dwellings or two-person outdoor showers or letterpress prints of ferns and Japanese maple – but I don’t.
And I read blogs – about experimental homesteading and curbing candida and ghetto guerrilla gardening – every once in a while.
I appreciate access to information and ideas at the click of a button – but enough is enough already. And while it’s nice to have that sock-darning tutorial handy, more often than not I get so distracted by something woolen or whitewashed or wilted with caramelized garlic that I waste a freaking hour and still have a hole in my knee-high.
I’m not encouraging you not to read blogs (clearly), nor am I suggesting you give up anything that truly inspires you. What I am saying is that we’ve all got to check this shit. You decide what serves you and your family. You decide what’s worth your time and emotional investment. You decide whether pixilated poppies satisfy your soul’s longing for beauty like discovering them growing wild on a Sunday picnic.
And most importantly, only you can decide whether you could have lived without knowing that this can be done with noodles and wieners…
Happiness grows at our own firesides, and is not to be picked in strangers’ gardens.
– Douglas Jerrold
*Despite the odds, the photographer and owner of this toy shelf recently stumbled upon my post and reached out to me, quite angry over my inaccurate assumptions, however playful my intentions. I’d like to apologize publicly for what was, indeed, a judgement on my part and clarify that she is not OCD, nor does she have live-in help. At the time of the photo, she was, in fact, a single mom going through a difficult time and her toy shelf was a bit of a solace from her storm, making my accusations that much more hurtful. I am once again reminded that judgements, however lighthearted, rarely, if ever, contribute more good than they do harm. My apologies, Jade. Thanks for keeping it real.