I met someone new yesterday. Another mom of young children. I can’t remember her name but she told me a little about her life, complete with photos.
Every picture she had looked like it was taken by a professional. Every photo of any scene in her house could be on Pinterest. Every day she and her kids make a craft, a snack, and a costume that coordinate with the unit theme they’re currently studying in homeschool. Every toy they have is educational and handcrafted from all-natural sustainable materials. Every meal she makes is gourmet, healthy and frugal. Every outfit her kids wear is hand-sewn and made out of awesome, trendy fabrics that were hand dyed from the juice of the heirloom berries organically grown in the back garden.
You may know her. If you read any “super-mommy-blogs”, you have met her, too. If you don’t, take my word for it. The above description is only a slight exaggeration. (Of course, had I actually met her in person, I may have come away with a totally different impression.)
But I have to admit, I was possibly a very light shade of green after reading her blog. Just a little envious of how she is able to make her life so beautiful. So perfect. So magazine-like.
In fact, the effect it created in me was very similar to what magazines and other media tend to do. Only worse. Because it is easy to dismiss impeccability in a celebrity. I know the images displayed of them aren’t completely genuine anyway. I’m not compelled to keep up or compete.
But a plain ‘ol mom like myself?
Totally different story.
That’s the funny thing about the blogging world, and the whole social media universe in general. It can make people feel bad. About themselves. About their lives. And it does this, not because it is inherently evil, but because it easily lends itself to the aiding and abetting of producing false and often unachievable appearances. And because we are insecure enough to buy into it.
But the truth is, when I clearly think through it, I know that the pictures, the moments, the achievements displayed on these blogs are handpicked from the many moments of normal, possibly even mediocre life. And really I don’t blame them. Their readers are there to learn, to get ideas, recipes, crafting tips. Who is searching the web for “unhealthy recipes that taste bad”? Or “DIY projects that look like crap”? Um, nobody.
We want to see these Martha Stewart moments. But what we often receive along with them is the idea that some people indeed live a perfect life.
And the crazy thing is that I can play that game as well as any super-mommy blogger. Only I don’t really focus on impressing the virtual world but my real friends and acquaintances instead. And this is possibly a whole lot worse.
Don’t we all, to a degree, try to put our best foot forward? (Ok, maybe not the lady I saw in Walmart the other night in her Tweety Bird pajamas, bathrobe and slippers.) But we can easily get trapped in an endless cycle of being afraid to reveal our own imperfections to those who seem not to have any themselves, who in turn don’t see our’s, so they have to keep up the charade, and so on.
I think we all probably have our different things that are important to us. Different areas where we feel the need to keep up appearances. I have to admit that I really like to have things organized and tidy around me. I feel more at ease in such an environment. Sometimes I have a hard time not getting caught up in it. (Although, if you could see the inside of my minivan at this moment you would seriously doubt that.)
However, I also have enough of a natural inclination to laziness (not to mention 4 small, messy people) to keep me from actually achieving the perfection I sometimes think I want.
I’ve gotten a lot better about this (I don’t start painting bathrooms at midnight anymore when guests are coming the next morning), but I still kind of freak out a little bit if I think someone may come over and see things in disarray. Partly because the untidiness is really bothering me, but mostly it’s because I don’t want them to think I’m untidy. To see my untidiness and know I’m mediocre. (Because, you know, they might not know that already.)
That’s why when a friend is over in not-so-perfect conditions I have to apologize and give excuses like, “Sorry it’s such a mess in here, I’ve had a crazy morning.” (Because waking up and eating breakfast and getting dressed are craaazzy.) Or maybe, “I know it’s such a disaster around here” when I really should say, “You would not believe how much better it looks in here than it did 10 minutes ago when I got your message that you were stopping by. I cleaned like a mad ninja.”
Why do I do this though? To myself and to others? How many times have I missed out on being friendly and inviting a neighbor in because there were trains all over the floor in the entryway and Cheddar Bunnies spilled on the dining chairs and my kids were still in their pajamas at noon?
How many times have I acted like my normal, little messes are apology-worthy, thereby making others feel inferior if they know they have normal giant messes at their house?
And what about the other areas where I attempt to hide all imperfections and portray an unrealistic image to others? The bigger, more important things in life like my marriage, my parenting, my family relationships, my spiritual life?
It all comes down to humility, or lack of, in my case.
In the book of Philippians it says, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. In humility, value others above yourself. Not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” (Phil 2:3&4, NIV)
It comes down to choosing to do things based not on how it will make me look, but on how it will make others feel.
And that sometimes means letting my mediocrity shine for all to see.
Once, a close friend of mine (who happens to value organization like I do, and who also has more young children than I do) dropped me off at my house after a shopping trip together. She was helping me carry my grocery bags inside my unusually (to her) messy house. (If I recall correctly, it was pretty bad.) I can distinctly remember her beaming smile as she said,
“It makes me so happy to see this!”
Just as keeping up appearances can make others feel substandard, being transparent can bring them freedom. It can release them from striving for unrealistic achievements. And it was no big deal for me to let my friend see my reality that day, but only because she had been gracious enough to let me see her’s in the past.
I’m sure we all have the friend or family member, who really does always have a perfectly kept house, or a faultless marriage, or perfectly shining career, or flawless appearance at 5 am. But I’m willing to bet they don’t have all of them all the time. And if they do, man, they must be tired.
Of course, I’m not discounting the importance of good role models. We need people to be examples of the good things in life worth striving for. And there are areas of life that are too important to settle for mediocrity. We all need someone to inspire us to better things.
But only when I am truly motivated by my love for others, rather than my own selfish ambition, will I inspire others to healthy achievements, to Godly aspirations.
So does this mean I will not clean my house next time we have visitors coming over?
Well, I’m sure I will still be sweeping the cracker crumbs off the chairs so no one has to have a crunchy seat. Or digging out the half-eaten apples that some small person named “Not Me”, who is not even allowed to be eating in the living room, has shoved behind the throw pillows on the couch. I will definitely clean the bathrooms (no descriptions needed).
But hopefully, it will be motivated by my desire to make people feel comfortable than by my vain conceit.
So, in the best interest of others, (and possibly as a protest of sorts) I’ve decided to post some of my own hand-picked photos (of unprofessional quality).
So this is really no biggie but this breakfast mess was captured at noon when I had no choice but to clear it away to make room for lunch. The guilt all rests on that powerful, time wasting duo sitting there: Laptop and Coffee Mug.
I'm actually quite proud of this little scene. See that clean laundry crammed on that shelf? It is sloppily folded instead of in a giant mountain on the floor waiting to be folded while getting too wrinkled to wear. So what if I haven't actually put it away or matched that bucket of socks in over a week.? It is clean. And folded. Success.
I'm glad I have photographic evidence of this crime scene to help me figure out what actually took place and when it happened. There was even toothpaste dripping off the top of the mirror. It is still unclear who won this battle, but it is evident that the toothpaste is indeed a wild beast that must be struggled with and forced into submission. Clearly, I am going to have to start buying a more compliant brand.
Long story short, I spent all morning cleaning out the inside of the dryer to ensure there were no baby mice inside awaiting an untimely death with the next load. Instead of mice, I found this mess of lint. It's only had seven years to build up in there, so I'm thankful it hasn't caused a fire.
So I also had a photo that would secure my nomination for the Parent of the Year Award. It was of my 2 year old jumping on the trampoline. Outside. In February. With only a t-shirt on. And I mean only a t-shirt (which is why I didn’t publish it.) I’m sure she went out in more clothing, but I’m not sure why she took them off. Anyway, I don’t know if I got her back in before my elderly neighbors saw her, but I’m just hoping.
So there you have it. Honestly, on another, crazier day, I could have produced some more revealing photos. These were the best I had to give today. (Anyway, this is about mediocrity, not the best and also not the worst.)
But even so, I’m resisting the urge (ok, the strong, overwhelming need) to post a picture of something beautiful, or cool, or at least organized.
But I will stay strong and accept that those of you who don’t know me, may well think that this is an accurate representation of every day of my life. (Just like I tend to believe about the super mom bloggers.) That’s ok. It’ll do me good.
So I’m sorry you had to see the evidence of my real life mediocrity.
And by “I’m sorry”, I mean