Wednesday, September 17, 2008

On Seeming Perfect

When I lived in Virginia, I attended a church that gave out a "Mother of the Year" award every Mother's Day. Each year, the pastor would make a little speech describing the wonderful acts of motherhood by the chosen woman, then he would present her with a shiny plaque and we would applaud. It was a truly a horrible idea.

At the time, I had three children under the age of four, and it seemed that whenever I was in public, at least one of those three was screaming. My two main goals each day were to survive and to shower. That was it. On Mother's Day, as I straggled into church pushing a double stroller and barking at a perpetually belligerent toddler, probably the last thing I wanted to hear about was the angelic woman who adopted and homeschooled her eight children, always with a smile on her face and a kind word on her lips. I would inevitably begin to compare my circumstances with hers, reasoning that if she could raise eight with such ease, then I truly was an inadequate mother because my butt was being kicked by just three.

My friend Vonda was in the same boat as me, and had the same attitude as well, and throughout the year, whenever one of us would screw up, we would say to each other, "Oh well, I guess you won't be getting that award this year," and it always made me chuckle.

Someone made a comment to me in passing today about being "too perfect". It wasn't meant maliciously, and in fact the person clearly doesn't know me at all or she would never use those words to describe me, but it really made me think. I know myself, I know the struggles that I deal with, I know the mistakes that I have made, and I know without a doubt that I am far from perfect. If you regularly read this blog or know me personally, you have probably heard stories of my failures as well.

But during the time I knew the aforementioned acquaintance, which was when I was in high school and college, I really thought I knew everything. I thought I was perfect, and therefore I was always right. Thankfully, with age and parenthood, God has shown me through the years that I need just as much (or even more) of His grace as everyone else. What I'm trying to say is, I hope that imperfection is what is coming through my writing on this space.

I like to take photos, and I like to be goofy and (try to) write funny things. I'm good at throwing cheap birthday parties, and I'd like to think I'm good at laughing at myself when the occasion presents itself. Those are the things that I put on this blog, because I need this to be an outlet of joy and occasionally a bit of sarcasm. But there are lots of other things in my life that will never be shared online. I didn't photograph the hurt look in Katie's eyes today when I lost my temper. I won't blog about the argument my husband and I had last week. There are issues in my life that I deal with on a daily basis that will never show up on these pages, for the sake of my own self-respect as well as for the privacy of others.

Sometimes when I read people's blogs or catch up with them on Facebook, or even run into them at the grocery store, I'm inclined to look at the appearance of their life and assume that they really have it together. Like the Mother of the Year awards, I start to compare myself to them, and I start to feel like I just don't measure up. I look at how they've sewn another adorable toddler dress or how they've photographed their beautiful family frolicking on a gorgeous beach, and I start to feel that bitterness and envy in my heart. But the truth is that none of us truly have it "together", and we all have different difficulties and obstacles in our lives, and that I really can't tell what someone's life is like on appearances alone.

I don't really have a good conclusion to this post, I just really wanted to get that off my chest. What are your thoughts?


  1. I've been thinking a lot the past few days about the appearances of people online. I have to remember that, while I know some things about the people I know through blogging, facebook, and the message boards I post on, I do not TRULY know these people. They are not necessarily anything like me and I do not know what goes on in their lives outside of what they post on my computer screen. So when yet another of them mentions getting a divorce, I'm having to remind myself that their marriage is not like my marriage. There are different circumstances that lead them to these choices. But I get caught assuming that people I see online fit into some mold that I can recognize and immediately relate to, and I don't understand!

    And it really is amusing how much people change with adulthood and children. I think your fall from "perfection" has suited you well, though, and made you into a truly beautiful and amazing woman. I wouldn't change you! Well, except to maybe move Dallas closer to Raleigh. But that's not really even you so much as geography.

  2. Awwww...(for Stacie's comment).

    I don't see imperfection (or perfection, for that matter) on your blog - I just see *you* through snippets of your life that you share and lots of great pictures. Love the pictures!

    Of course, with our blogging stories, we usually call each other and go into more detail... But it is harder when you don't actually know someone or knew them long ago to remember that online appearances can be deceiving.

  3. I thought you concluded your post very nicely, actually. you're right, things are not always what they seem, and I think as parents we try REALLY hard to appear perfect, while always saying things like "well, you should see me when I' ve just woken up, it's not so pretty..." we try to appear perfect, but always play down the compliments.

    at least, that's what I see and experience.

  4. I think we all a hesitant to share some of the not so good parts of our lives with others. Only when they get really bad do we share them most of the time. We do the same with God. We think we can handle the little things and only turn the big things over to Him. As a result, many little things become big. I think the same goes for sharing the struggles with others. If we were to share (especially with Christians), then things could be prayed for and hopefully would improve. But, we don't want to be too needy and often feel our problems are nothing...

  5. Aww - Look at the sisters being all sweet - I'm kind of jealous, as I just want to strangle my sister 99% of the time.

    I am new to your blog (via Stacie), but I enjoy it. The two of you amaze me with your humor and writing ability. I, too, do not see perfection - I see LIFE. Sometimes it's perfect, sometimes it's not - but it is YOURS to live and to share, and I think you do an excellent job.

    I am, however, envious of your party planning abilities!

  6. I am constantly doing this. Comparing myself to other mothers and feeling like the only one that just keeps dropping balls.

    I knew you in highschool when I did think you were perfect and adored you and wanted to be like you. But I love how real (and funny) you are now about your struggles. It makes me want to be your next door neighbor so we can hang out.

  7. I have this one friend that is perfect for real. Her house is spotless, her children are angels, her food tastes better than anyone elses food, she is the perfect mother, and she actually enjoys "adult" time with her husband. It use to make me feel horrible about myself. But now, I let it inspire me. She makes me want to be better in all the above areas. So when I am feeling slack, I channel her. Just kidding, but really, we all feel exactly as you do. We all yell at our kids, step over the toys instead of actually picking them up, and fight with our husbands. If we didn't we wouldn't be human. What matters is our kids think we rock! Our husbands think we are awesome. Really, as long as we are happy as a whole, our imperfections are insignificant.

  8. Oh my goodness, I soooooo needed to read this today!! Yesterday Bill and I were just talking about all the other parents around us who volunteer for everything, are always on-time, and always have a smile on thier face. We were asking ourselves - What do they have that we don't?? It's so true, appearances can be decieving. We have no idea what is going on behind closed doors. It seems like we are always struggling to play "catch up" and other people have it all together plus some!!

    Thanks for your insight! You are perfect because you are a child of God. I love you!!

  9. What exactly is perfection? I often think back of how ridiculous I was in high school trying to be perfect when I haven't even begun to live in the real world. But just like everyone else (most everyone) we grow up. Thank God for that! I am embarrassed most of the time thinking of how I must have seemed back then. Soooo not perfect. And now? Definately NOT! But I am happy because I am a child of God. I have his grace and forgiveness anytime I need it. Through this journey of motherhood, I need him a lot!

  10. I so do not have it together. Your kids are gorgeous.

  11. Beautifully written my friend!

    I watched a bit of Oprah's interview with Gwyneth Paltrow yesterday. A comment was made that her best friend Madonna has amazing children..that they are so mannerly and wonderful and that she is an incredible mother...that you can measure children by their parents. All of a sudden I was like whoa, oh my goodness, if people measured me by the way they see my kids act sometimes I would get an F and I'm supposed to be minister...the kids should be well mannered always!! haa! Then the Holy Spirit set in and I was like, wait a minute... we're daily working out our faith and learning as we go about being the women and parents God would have us to be. This assumption that other mothers have obtained perfection can drive one crazy. Thank God for the only perfect One in Jesus Christ who constantly helps us to regain the right perspective. I think the verse that says to, "Fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of out faith..." is very appropriate here!

  12. spelling correction...
    "of OUR faith."
    See, I'm definitely not perfect! Ha ha!!

  13. Chrissy, you're so right about appearances. And how unfortunate that a church would pick out one mother to applaud! Blogging and Facebooking, photos in general are never a good measure of reality. I think that even when I'm blogging about my failures it's difficult to really express how deep the depravity goes in my heart. Being able to admit your imperfection is a sign of growth, though right? It's good to see old high school friends all grown up and imperfect just like me!

  14. Chrissy - you really touched my heart today. I spent years felling like I didn't measure up, that I wasn't good enough. As a working mom, I continue to face it daily. I can't enroll my daughter in after school activities unless it starts at 7pm, I can't join the school/parent team because of my work schedule, my girl eats McD's for dinner way more times than I'd like to admit, every morning I'm raising my voice and begging her to "get up we only have 15 minutes and you have to take a bath!", breakfast and homework happen in the car. I try to remind myself that I love my career, that Autumn is well adjusted and knows I love her, that she gets to have other experiences besides gymnastics and Girl Scouts that some of her friends don't. I resent the stay at home moms in my neighborhood, who get to walk their children to school at a time when my daughter and I have been on the road for 45 minutes already, who don't have to pick a school 35 miles from their home b/c they can get there faster during the day if needed. I don't know that there is a way to prevent ourselves from comparing ourselves to other moms. I just try to remind myself that I am the best mom I can be most of the time, that my family is healthy and happy and loved.

  15. you blogged my heart for today...and most days...thanks for putting my thoughts down on "paper"

  16. What timing you have! Another mother commented yesterday at Leslie's b-day party that she envied me. I thought to myself - WHY?? She said she didn't think she could handle having so many kids running around in her house - especially after playing on the slip and slide (FEMA tarp - thanks FEMA!) And then she said "And aren't you still in school?" So I guess she sees me as someone who can handle it all, but that must mean she doesn't know me well at all. She doesn't see how many times I have to pause before I yell at my kids or my husband. Or worse, how many times I forget the pause and just yell. She's doesn't know how inadequate I feel when I compare myself to other moms. Or how many times I look at my calendar and just pray to get through this week (or day/hour/ minute) before I start worrrying about the events of next.
    So I guess we all see some aspects of others, but not all aspects of that person can be presented - especially in a picture or blog. We humans are too multi-faceted.

    I get a lot of "you're such a great mom" stuff on my blog and while it's nice to hear, I know that I'm certainly not perfect - I write about the things that I'm good at, while I might not write as much about being crabby and messy and stuff.

  18. Well said, my friend, very true. I have to remove myself from reading blogs sometimes when I find myself starting to feeling inadequate and comparing myself to these "perfect" moms and wives, but the reality is I don't know them at all! I have no idea what is really going on in their lives. Thank you for your honesty and reminder that nobody is perfect.


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