Escape from Perfectland
I was agreeing with Elizabeth Esther’s take on Mommy Bloggers and their “oh-so-natural” lives, when I started trying to figure out why we do this to ourselves. Any Mother who’s been on the Internet knows what I’m talking about here: all those ever so perfect blogs with the lovely pictures of the great crafts, the repurposed toddler dresses, the homemade educational toys, the organic gluten-free everything to eat, the hand painted baby’s room mural. And just as Elizabeth points out (the other one,) as soon as you’ve been around the block a few times, you know that this isn’t the whole story. It can’t be. Motherhood is a messy, tumultuous business, with lots of fibs, and fudges, and milk spilt all over the organic steamed broccoli that no one will eat anyway.
I ruminate upon this as I scrub my house within an inch of its drywall. Part of the reason that this poor blog has been put out to pasture for the past week is that we are desperately trying to list our house as soon as possible. Part of the work required, as anyone who has tried to sell a house in the last 4 years will tell you, is that it must look Perfect. As is in “Wow! I didn’t know that a structure could be occupied continuously for 30 years, and have no one ever set foot in it.” Every single picture? GONE! Kids’ toothbrushes in the bathroom? HIDE THEM! Kids’ toys anywhere? BURN THEM! Tiny little toe prints on the hardwood? WHAT?? YOU MEAN YOU ARE STILL ALLOWING YOUR CHILDREN TO WALK IN YOUR HOUSE? (And you said you are serious about selling? Parents.)
Over and over again I keep coming up with the news that people, especially younger Gen X’s and Millennials, want perfect and they want it now. They want a starter home with slate counters, stainless steel kitchens, and some kind of rare rainforest hardwood that can only be harvested by indigenous tree climbers on alternating Full Moons. And they don’t mind paying mortgages for 35 years to get all this, either. Because which is worse, being owned by a Bank or having to wait? It seems that most folks are picking Perfect over Free. And what’s true in real estate, is just as true in Motherhood.
“So, what?” you might be saying. “Hasn’t it always been like this? June Cleaver and 2.5 in the neat and tidy house? Pot roast on the table and Dad gets his pension 65?”
But, back then everyone wanted the Perfect Life, but everyone agreed on what the Perfect Life was. Children, Mom at home, Dad gainfully employed, ownership of a modest house, a car in the driveway. Now, no matter what Perfect you seek to emulate, someone is there telling you how wrong you are. Stay-at-home? That’s nice, until your kids need the programs that your extra income would have bought. Birthday party? Oh sweet, actually too sweet, since all that sugar will ruin their health. Put them in hockey? Fine, unless running to all those games means you eat too much fast-food in the car. But I suppose if good health isn’t a priority for you…..
I once heard a mom of Baby-Boomers proclaim that, “As long as they graduated high school, we knew we had finished as parents.” Could you imagine how great that would be? That we could define success in Motherhood as raising adults that have finished high school, got a job and moved out? And we as parents could only be required to provide a home environment that would allow them to do that. Everything else, the organic diet, the homeschooling, the musical theatre camp, was just an “if you want”? Maybe we would have fewer adults graduating with their second Masters without any prospect of gainful employment, and thirty-something parents asking their kids’ Grandparents for “help” with the mortgage.
All this uncertainty, married with a paranoia of unknowingly making a mistake, is fuelling this “my lovely life” blog-o-frenzy. That’s why, as evident in many of the comments in Elizabeth’s original post, these ladies respond as if they are the ones under attack — because in their minds they have responded to this feeling of never being good enough by drawing up the lines of their own battle and fighting back. Except, that by doing that, they unwittingly become soldiers in the enemy’s army. You don’t overcome June Cleaver Perfect, or Celebrity Mom Perfect, by substituting Crunchy Momma Perfect. We need to remember that some of the greatest human beings ever to live never had Mothers who cared about how white the toes of their socks were, and as for diet — only cared that they had one.
All this Perfect is costing us our freedom; freedom to be happy, to enjoy ourselves as Mothers, to make choices based on what we think is best rather than on how we will be judged. So I’ve said good-bye to Perfectland, and never looked back. Let me tell you, the grass, even littered with dollarstore toys, fruit leather wrappers and the occasional Happy Meal wrapper, is still a heck of a lot greener.