Friday, April 6, 2012
The TRUTH about perfectionism and motherhood
I was totally prepared to do a post this week entitled "Impromptu Spring Break" instead of my usual "Week in Review". I was going to be crafty and make it look like it was planned, like we actually intended to take a break. I was going to tell you about the books the girls read and the field trip we took. I might have said something interesting about the Lego creations and our weekly Waldorf Handwork Group. I certainly would never have lied to you, but I might have portrayed an untruth by omission.
Then, I received a note (via Facebook) from an old friend about how much she loved my blog. She told me how informative she found my blog and how much she loved my info sharing. She told me that she often "steals" ideas from here (which is fantastic ~ I really DO want to help other Moms in my situation). She said she loved how I shared my planning and that it helped her immensely.
What struck me, though, was a comment she made about how she had been homeschooling for five years (this is only my third year) and she felt like I had a better set of goals than she did. She told me that she felt like she had been "surviving" for so long that she felt like she was always trying to figure this thing out. She talked about a "Home School Mommy Slump". She talked about feeling distracted (hey, didn't I just post about feeling distracted?). She talked about lacking "specific thoughts" and being easily side-tracked.
What really got to me was the way it seemed that she thought I didn't get like that. Did the moms on the other end of this blog not realize that I got distracted and side-tracked? Had I portrayed an image that didn't show how I often felt like I was still figuring this thing out? Did my readers not see my feelings of inadequacy? Had I never mentioned the "Home School Mommy Slump"?
One thing that I think is so hard for readers (women, especially) to remember is that people generally only feel inspired to write when they are feeling good. If I'm in a slump or a rut, I mope. I don't write. Then, when I emerge and feel better, I feel inspired to write about it. So, you're really only getting to see one side of the coin. I don't withhold information from you on purpose. I just don't feel like writing when I'm feeling like a failure or feeling sorry for myself.
I guess if I were to be totally truthful with you, I'd also mention that deep down, I don't want to display any of my less-than-stellar home school moments because I don't want to give ammunition to any of my doubters. You know as well as I do that if you choose this life, there are always going to be people who don't believe in what you are doing. I don't want those people to have any "I told you so" opportunities. But, I have enough faith in what I am doing that I must be strong. I must set aside my worries about anyone who doubts what I can do and be a true inspiration to others.
In my quest to show them that I can do this, I forgot about all of the readers out there who are moms just like me. I want to be an inspiration for those women. But, I also want to help those women. I want them to realize that the women who inspire them are just like them. I want them to realize that the women who inspire them, have faults and question everything just like they do. I want them to see that "inspiring women" don't have it all together any more than they do.
So, if I were to be totally honest here (and, in case you hadn't noticed, that is what I am trying to do), I'd have to tell you that I am like a bi-polar homeschooler. I have highs and I have lows. I get it all figured out and feel fantastic about my plans or how I'm doing. I feel good about "just plugging along". I feel good about everything. Then, out of nowhere, my outlook makes a complete 180. I question all of the plans I've made. I can't decide on my history cycle (four year or six year, family history or put them in their own Charlotte Mason year, etc). I feel disorganized (and, boy am I disorganized). I get totally confused. When I am confused, I don't want to continue. I just want to mope.
This is my third year of homeschooling and this is the first year that we have finally been as steady as we have been. I spent the first two years philosophy-hopping. This was much to the detriment of my children's education. I would start something, get confused and then completely stop. I hadn't yet learned that it was okay and normal to get confused. I would stop everything, tell the kids to go away (go play) and I would spend hours in front of my computer screen researching the next philosophy. I would read the blogs and think that everyone else had it together and I was a failure. I thanked God on a regular basis that my children were young enough that I wasn't causing as much damage as I would if say we just threw in the towel every other month of 8th grade or something.
** Something was lost here and I don't know what it was. Oh well, moving on. **
I also find that I am always learning about our family and how we roll. It's kind of like keeping a spending diary to see where you actually spend your money. I've had to observe what happens in our family naturally and maybe just flow with that instead of trying to fit us into some home school mold I've determined is "normal" from reading all of those blogs. I'm finding that maybe our "natural" flow is to be able to work hard for about four weeks and then we flop. Well, instead of feeling like a failure about that, why not make that our schedule? If we worked for four weeks and took one week off all year long, maybe we could maintain our steam and still fit in 36 weeks of school with ease? Again, slow and steady.
Back to the old friend that inspired this post. Let me just say, that given this particular Mom's situation, I most certainly would not have it together. Her husband is in the military. He is gone A LOT. He doesn't even live with them at this moment. He lives 3500 miles away. I need my husband on a daily basis. He doesn't make home-schooling decisions or anything, but I need his love and support. I need him to validate me when I feel like a failure. They move a lot. Anytime we have moved, home-school has always taken a back seat to life. Who can think about Ancient History or math facts when there are boxes to pack (and then unpack), new grocery stores to find, houses to organize and you can't find anything in your new place? She has four kids; I have two. I cannot even begin to imagine how one "schools" the older two with a toddler and a baby undertow or a demanding three or four year old whose needs seem to monopolize every moment of your time.
My point is that we are all in unique situations. We all do the best we can on most days. We all fail even on our best days. And, we all have days when we don't even try to do our best. Becoming a mother does not suddenly make us perfect human beings, without faults. We still carry the same issues and baggage with us. We only suddenly feel as if we are not allowed to have those faults. We place standards on ourselves as mothers that no one else would ever place on us. We forget that we are human. Through God's grace, we trudge on. One day at a time.
So, the truth about this week would not be that I had planned a nice break for us. The truth would be that I was busy on Monday and it wore me out. Then, I woke up on Tuesday and felt overwhelmed and just not "into it". I wasn't prepared for my week (such a help to be prepared in advance) and I just felt blah. The truth would be that I decided to take the week and "get caught up", but here it is Friday and I really haven't accomplished much of anything on that mental list. The truth would be that my house is still dirty. I still haven't prepared for next week's school (but I must do that before the week starts ... maybe when I finish this post). The truth would be that I have a ton of laundry piled up, a "to-do list" a mile long that I continue to ignore because it overwhelms me and a checkbook that desperately needs balancing. The truth would be that I have a school room that has piles and baskets and stacks of papers that need to be gone through (from all of those times that I get confused and try to make "new" plans ... that involves a lot of scratch paper). I have unused homeschool materials that I've needed to try to sell for a long time, but they still sit in my school room (would anyone be interested in my putting a list here on the blog?). I could go on about all of the truthfully imperfect things going on in my home, but I won't. A girl's got to maintain a bit of pride, right?
So, I will leave you with the thought (again) that we are all doing the best we can do in our situations. We try to do better, to be better, to improve all the time. We try because we love our children and we know that they are a gift on loan from God. We try because we know that God has faith that we can do this or He wouldn't have blessed us with these children in the first place.
We try to make our bed each day (to set a good example). We try to keep up with the laundry and the dishes. We try to vacuum and clean the bathroom before it gets too disgusting. We try to "do school" most of the time. We try to read to our kids and be loving and kind to them. We try to be their soft place to fall.
But, we also all fail at our attempts to be perfect every.single.day. No one can maintain perfection without failing. God just didn't make us that way. So, love yourself, faults and all. Try to see yourself as your husband does, as your children do, as GOD does. They all love you and think you walk on water. Try to live on that high for a bit.
Wishing everyone a blessed and peaceful Holy weekend. Whether you are Jewish and celebrating Pesah (Passover) or you are Christian and celebrating the resurrection of Christ or you are Pagan and celebrating the rebirth of the Earth each spring, enjoy the time with your families. Know that you are blessed and you are loved and you are perfect just the way you are because God made you the way He wanted you to be.