Overcoming the feeling of failure
As a child growing up, I was drawn to the older black-and-white TV shows, the shows that my grandparents and parents liked to watch, such as Leave it to Beaver, I Love Lucy, Bewitched, Dick van Dyke Show, the Andy Griffith Show, and the Brady Bunch. Then, came Full House, the Cosby Show, Boy Meets World etc. I watched more modern shows too, but I really enjoyed the slow-down and break from reality that a 1950s/1960s/1970s show afforded me. I liked the way that all of the “perfect families” appeared on TV- clothes neatly pressed, homes nicely arranged, everyone gathered around the dinner table each night telling stories about their days over a home cooked meal. This was a far stretch most nights from our house, where my mom juggled putting dinner on the table in between the car rider line and driving my younger brother and I to endless practices and club meetings.
Sometimes we’d grab a bucket of KFC chicken on our way home and a few sides, sometimes she’d throw together a quick meat and three (one main dish and three canned veggies and a few rolls.) Many other nights we would simply go out to eat- cheap Mexican, Burger King, a diner in town. As ashamed as I am to admit this now, I found myself judging my mother, who worked full time and took care of our family, running the house, keeping up with our schedules and helping us with all of our school projects. I had the kind of mother who was THERE– for everything. She was the room mother, PTA volunteer, in charge of my middle school’s First Aid room, and our main cheerleader at EVERY SINGLE SPORTING EVENT that Ethan and I ever had, which was a lot since my brother played several competitive sports and was on both school teams and travel teams. She was basically superwoman, and I didn’t know it. I was too busy mentally comparing her to the other moms–on my TV shows and those in my neighborhood. I pieced together tiny snapshots of my friends’ lives from when I was invited to their homes to play, and everything always appeared perfect to me, an outsider looking in- perfectly clean home, smiling, welcoming parents, homemade dinner on the table each night. The siblings all got along, and everyone always took special care to make me feel at home. I never stopped to think that our house appeared that way too, to anyone looking in. I often had friends tell me we had the cleanest prettiest home in the neighborhood, and everyone loved my mom. All of my friends knew “Ms. Lou,” and growing up, she was as likely to be driving them to practice or to games as their own moms. She was one of the most involved parents in my class, and at the time, I did not appreciate that as much as I should have.
Now, that I am a young wife in my 20’s, without any kids yet, I find myself struggling. I can relate in a small way to how my mom must have felt during the daily, never-ending grind of life- taking care of a family, working, pressuring herself to do it all. I mean really– who has time for the gym? And, I don’t even have children! I am sure she compared herself (at least mentally) to her peers too, and to the women on those TV shows who make it look so easy because, of course, it’s fiction! I know that my brother and I did not help things with our snide comments about so-and-so’s mom who had cookies fresh from the oven for them every day after school. Well, what we did not know or care to realize is that Mrs. So-and-So did not work a full-time job AND had a housekeeper to help her out! I can only imagine how I might feel if my husband came home and told me that he wishes I was more like someone else’s wife. And, this was in the age BEFORE social media. Now, I think it is even more difficult to gain perspective and separate yourself from how things appear on the surface and reality.
Because, honestly folks, it’s HARD. As a modern career woman and full-time wife, it is nearly impossible to balance professional pursuits and home life and excel equally well in both arenas– Throw grad school into the mix, and I am beyond thankful I do not have children yet because I have zero clue how I would manage it all. As a lifelong over-achiever, I put a tremendous amount of pressure on myself to manage all aspects of my life perfectly. And many times, I succeed.
This weekend, I have been sick. Actually, this whole week I have been sick and trying my best not to let it show. I can’t take a sick day at work, can’t miss that meeting, can’t not see those friends, can’t miss date night with my husband. And this morning, it really took a toll on me. So today, friends, I have literally been sitting on the couch while my husband did it ALL. He drove me to the Clinic, dropped off and picked up my prescriptions, folded laundry, brought me drinks, cooked a quick dinner and washed and dried our sheets. And, I have felt extremely guilty to take even this one day for me. Scrolling through Facebook, I see my friends who have freshly prepared dinners for their families this evening, friends who have already bought fresh fruits and veggies for the whole WEEK while my refrigerator is currently stocked with junk foods, and others who spend their days at the gym training to run marathons or 5Ks while I honestly could not tell you the last time I hit the gym. I began feeling BAD and INSECURE. How do these women do it all and make it look so easy? And, what must my husband think of me, in comparison, when he looks over and sees me sitting here in my pajamas all day on the couch?
A friend’s blog post inspired me this week, because she wrote a lot about putting things into perspective. When you look at all of these friends’ “Facebook lives” versus their real lives, I would bet you that many of them are struggling as much as I am and just don’t publicize it. After all, my own life looks pretty darn perfect on Facebook. If you scroll down my wall, you’ll see a date night with the husband, a post about filling water balloons together, another date night, and a home-cooked meal with us at home on the couch watching TV. These are the happy little snapshots of our daily lives, but what happens in between– the chaotic, less fun parts–aren’t posted for everyone to see. I don’t want my Facebook friends to know that yes, laundry may pile up in the laundry room for several days before it finally gets washed. I may toss a shirt into the dryer to “fluff it” rather than pull out the ironing board– or I may pull out the ironing board and have it sit in the living room for several days, unused. Other times, I’ll fork over the $100+ and send our clothes out for –gasp– dry cleaning!!
If I am being honest here, many times I feel like a somewhat lazy, unmotivated, terrible wife. Those times usually come when I am comparing myself to others via social media. Facebook is great, but it shows everybody’s “best self”- the self they wish to portray to the world. Luke tells me I am amazing wife and that he couldn’t imagine anyone better for him. That’s what matters right? Ever the self critic, I would guess that I am doing better than average in the homemaker department, all things considered. So what if we order pizza more than we should or go out to eat instead of eating in? The most important thing is that we laugh together every day. We hug and cuddle and enjoy quality time together that I cherish far more than spending my hours on the ironing. We do little things for each other– I make an effort to make the bed in the morning, he cleans the dishes, I wash his ACU’s every Saturday. I try to cook a true homemade meal at LEAST once per week, but mostly averaging 2-3 times per week. Other times, we enjoy socializing with friends or eating out together at a restaurant in town, and that’s OK. It is what we enjoy and what our current lifestyle affords, so why do I stress over it when I see that Suzy Q is making 7 home-cooked dinners a night with desserts too? My husband doesn’t even like dessert, so that would be a wasted effort.
Overall, our apartment is very clean and comfy. Some days it is more “lived in” than others, but we have a beautiful place to call home. So rather than stress over the laundry or buying all organic produce for my Super-Wife meal plan this week, I think I’ll make myself a cup of hot tea and call it a night.
By the way, I completely admire those wives and moms who take the time and effort on meal plans and hope that one day it is in the cards for me too! But, I have to be OK with the fact that the time for this is not now. I also have to know that it’s OK to take a sick day or a personal day occasionally. And if you are reading this and feeling anything like me, please know that it’s OK to not have it all together, wives. I promise that most of us don’t! At the end of the day, if we love God and then our husbands above all else, we are doing pretty well. And, don’t pay too much attention to your Facebook friends– I guarantee that your friends have a lot more going on underneath the surface than the happy, upbeat posts and photos that appear on their walls.
Finally, here’s to you, Mom. Thanks for always doing your best by us kids and making it look easy. I hope to follow in your footsteps someday and have it “all together” as well as you always did.