All Things, A Little Bit Good

It doesn’t help that she is graceful, tall and thin. Also, she’s blonde. Additionally, her impeccable style and beautiful kids and sweet-smelling house and witty intelligence hurt. If I think long enough about these admirable traits of hers I feel genetically insulted. So when she tells me that she sucks at things, that the method to the madness is to get a bunch of stuff done in half-assed fashion, I want to punch her in the nose. It is a cute nose, too, which somehow makes everything worse. But I take the advice, at least I try to, because she is my wiser, older sister and more than being seemingly perfect as she is, the girl is first and foremost content. She has that air of calm and happiness around her, so she must be doing something right.

Georgemarks

I’ve called her because I am flustered and floundering. To polish and shine the house takes time. That time should be spent playing with my son. But to spend the whole day on just the mom part of this stay-at-home mom endeavor means that the exercise I most desperately need or the brilliant blog post I’ve avoided writing are pushed back, pushed back, tossed away. A day at the computer perfecting words leaves me staring remorsefully at a toddler and recounting the millions of times my own mom breathlessly begged “I’m doing the best that I can”. I cringe at the millions of times my younger face mirrored my son’s unimpressed expression. “Not good enough, girl,” it reads. And so there goes a morning of fretting first and acting later, sitting very still worrying about how much there is to be done.

I would like to do all of the things perfectly, I explain to my sister. I expect, from her pretty hair and baking skills, that she will give me the three easy steps to accomplish this. Is there like a supplement I could take? A manual for dummies I could read? Is there a certain mantra I should repeat? Like that psychic businessman on midnight TV, promising riches if you only think hard enough about them? Because it seems that to do one excellent thing I have to fail horribly at all others. To achieve the sparkling home I’d have to cut out the blogging. To have a successful, busy blog I’d need to just ignore my kid. To be an attentive and present parent, I’d need to say “To hell with clean windows & widgets” and play blocks/dragon slayer/ hide-or-seek-er all the day long.

No, is all she tells me. She repeats it a few times and I am confused. “No. No No. Nonononono?,” I answer back to her (just in case this is the code I’ve been missing). And what follows is an explanation that every person has to suck at something, that my fatal flaw has been focusing on the flawless-ness of tasks instead of just completing them. Aiming for Plain Jane and celebrating mediocrity is key. Do everything on your list, if you can. Do a few big things, or not, but never worry about doing one or any things best. Liar, I think. Just tell me your secret, Domestic Wizard. I want my money back.

She's even good at baking while making a duck face while still looking precious. Ugh.

She’s even good at baking while making a duck face while still looking precious. Ugh.

I had some months to think about this most unhelpful advice. I think she told me just to wing it. I think she told me the not-so-secret code to being blah which is “Whatever”. I think she told me that there are no easy steps.  I spent many days afterwards a little bitter about it. It was the particular heartbreak of asking a super fit person the secret to their physique. Somehow we all know the key is diet & exercise and somehow we are very disappointed by this discovery. We were hoping for someone, anyone, to tell us that the old Oreo & TV Marathon regime we’ve got going is absolutely right.

Ignoring my sister, I stopped blogging altogether. The time I would’ve been writing I decided to dedicate to having a cleaner house. Distracted and dissatisfied with thoughts of dwindling stats, I continued mindlessly sweeping. But then the toddler wore his dispirited stare. So I dropped the broom and let it lie (on a bed of crumbs and dog hairs) and went full-force into super mothering. Just three-tiers up in a twenty-story block tower, the boy grew impatient with a zoned-out mom. The nagging thought of all the square footage to be swept, laundry to be folded, dinner to cook was too clear on my face. I can’t not do all the things and be happy about it, I realized. I can’t not do all the things, but I can’t yes do all the things exactly perfectly all the time, I was finally coming to understand. Oh God! Am I supposed to be teaching my toddler a foreign language? I should probably learn to cook… and to sew while I’m at it and what kind of housewife can’t clean the house and herself up in the course of a day? I should also be jogging right now while personalizing Christmas gifts while brainstorming for that stellar debut novel while completing several complicated Pinterest projects involving wood pallets and glue while also converting the family’s diet to gluten-taste-free and , I can’t help it. Old habits, etc.

I’ve been working (nay! trying not to work) on accepting mediocre from myself. Once in a while I accidentally do one or more things in awesome, Gold Medal fashion. I’m more able celebrate these few and far-between accomplishments because they are so few and far-between. I’m learning that even us Type-A’s can settle for a B. We’re all still passing the class.

So I am here, writing a so-so, average blog post to tell you the secret to a happy, productive life:

Suck a little.

Do the best you can & drop the idea that your best is not good enough.

Don’t go swimming with your pretty sister because you will not feel nearly as good about yourself in that “sassy” tankini.

 Do all things a little bit good.

perfectquote

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How do you balance all the things?

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22 thoughts on “All Things, A Little Bit Good

  1. First, you are just as adorable as your sister, if not more. Second of all – you are exactly right. It took me a bit to come to this conclusion myself and I am always glad to see when other moms do. Accepting mediocrity is the key to housewife happiness :D….

    Be good!! Miss you *terribly*.

  2. Sweetheart, you are so smart, so funny, so so adorable, and ever so much yourself. I’m proud of you every day and glad I get to call you mine. I think you and Abby compliment each other and I love to watch you be sisters.

    • Haha. Oh mom. You’re such a mom. Thank you :) Abby and I had this conversation a while ago. I really did tell her I didn’t believe her. It is easy to think everyone else but you is getting everything done. Definitely kind of her to tell me that this isn’t so!

  3. Every once in a blue moon I had what I called a “supermom” day – when I actually managed to get everything done (and then some). They usually took two days to recover from. None-the-less I would gloat about them. (Even if only in my secret self.) I knew “supermom” was a joke and no one could ever manage to be that way all the time, but it’s easy to see people that way from the outside and something in me wanted to be that too. I still don’t know how people manage to get it all done in a day. Maybe they lock the toddlers in the closet?

    • Are we the same person? Haha! I do the same thing. Just a couple of weeks ago was one such day. House was clean, jog was jogged, laundry folded, dinner on the table, AND had some time for arts and crafts with the toddler. I was cocky for the rest of the day… but didn’t manage to get anything else done for a solid week afterwards. Recovery! I get so wound up about getting everything done that I end up being far grumpier and less productive than if I could just calm down and try to tackle a couple things. Working on lowering my standards and being satisfied with getting SOME things done (even remotely well)!

  4. I hear you loud and clear, girl. There’s no way we can be great at everything. Letting go of that is the biggest step toward being content with our lives. Some days, I focus on Little One all day long. Other days, I cram in a bunch of laundry or blogging or work. We can’t be all things all the time, all we can do is focus on what is really important. And it isn’t housework! It’s our family’s well-being and our well-being. (Blogging is definitely part of my well-being, and if mama ain’t happy… ;) ) I think it gets easier as they get older—at least that’s what everyone says. We’ll see.

    If you do find a supplement that makes all of this easier, let me know. I’ll be all over that. And girl, you know you’re the coolest. Who you tryin’ to fool? ;)

    • Bless you for calling me cool. Me and my acne-cream/ fuzzy peace sign PJ pants thank you :) It’s that kind of advice that I know makes perfect sense but I fight it. I think I would like to believe that everything can be done just so, but there’s always been a simple math understanding that there is only so much time in the day!

  5. Reality check, my dear Tori–you ARE DARLING! You are SMART! You’re the BEST WRITER I know. So there. It’s okay to suck a little at the other stuff.

    Now that I’ve said that, I’ll add that I too strive for perfection. Perfection is the overbearing, asshole god, who’s impossible to please. In fact, Perfection is, and I whisper this part, the devil! That’s right, Satan herself, all dressed up in clean house with a kid whose nose doesn’t even run.

    Sucking in Ecuador,
    Kathy

    • Oh, Kathy. Your comment is perfect (not sucking even remotely)! Perfection IS just as you say, an impossible image making us feel worse for reality. I bet she even wears pearls, the snob :)

  6. I’m still working on the “everything does NOT have to be perfect” part and at the moment, I have no one else to worry about except myself. So to me, you’re already doing it all. Being a mom, being a writer, and also having a bit of a life. Maybe YOU should tell me what the secret is. Along with all the other mama’s here on WP because ya’ll are KILLING it. ;)

  7. Oh girl. I think everyone sees someone else and wishes they could be like them in some way that they are not. Me included. I like to think that my day consists of juggling about fifteen balls ( hehe, balls), when I am only equipped to juggle about ten at a time. So it is inevitable that some of them get dropped. Usually it is the “me” ball, and I end up with no shower and having eaten two month old Halloween candy for lunch. But the rest of my tasks get done in a spectacularly half-assed way. Laundry is clean, but shoved in drawers without folding. Floors get vacuumed but still have dusty dog paw prints on them. I can’t tell you how many times I day I repeat this: ” You can do anything, but you can’t do everything.”

  8. You don’t balance everything. Prioritize what you can, and devote as much time as possible to the most important tasks. Maybe Tuesday it’s playing dragons with Thomas, but Wednesday it might be blogging, and Thursday it may be swimming with your sister while not worrying about the tankini you’re wearing (although if she bakes dressed like that, I can see that you have a tough row to hoe, so to speak). Don’t try to do it all – just do what you can, and let go of the the unfinished tasks.

    But by all means, don’t stop blogging.

  9. I struggle with wanting everything to be perfect, all the time. And wanting to do it all myself. I love that Steinbeck quote and am going to make that my mantra this month while I attempt to “flawlessly” host 60 people in my home for a party (eep) and then my whole family plus dogs for an entire week (double eep). I tell friends to do one thing at a time, take a deep breath, and do their best, because it will be good enough. I need to take my own advice.
    Perfect timing on this one. :)

  10. Awesomely said, as usual, lady. Alls I know is that it took me until that first moment when my two kids were in the same room together for me to realize I’d have to be even *more* mediocre and attention-split. It’s like mom guilt squared… fun! So you are already the picture of emotional maturity to me! Mothers are the ultimate Jacks of all Trades, Masters of None, and that’s okay. I am your fellow Sister in Suckhood. Raise a glass!

  11. Balance was supposed to be my “word” for this year and well, most of the days and months of the year I didn’t do such a good job of it.
    That Steinbeck quote reminded me of something I one of my teachers always told the class — “Perfection is the enemy of the good.” How true that is. Wanting to be “perfect” often keeps us from even trying something where we’ll “only” be good.

    PS – I think you’re pretty amazing just as you are!

  12. Um…….I slept all afternoon over here. My mother-in-law is coming tomorrow. My house is a disaster. I still have hours-and-hours-and-hours of continuing education to complete, plus deadlines on my book, plus things that are, ow, my fingers are hurting now. And, I’m sleepy again.

    We’re all amazing, Tori. I for one KNOW you are. One day, you’re going to be so freaking glad you climbed the jungle gym with Thomas. You’re going to be ecstatic that you didn’t stress over dog hair and dust bunnies, because you’re going to remember some amazing things you did together.

  13. The myth of perfection is a cruel one! As far as house cleaning, ‘good enough’ is what we get around here (and with the boys being seven- almost eight :), and eleven, I put them to work as well. That’s really where I have to accept imperfection, because they are not nearly as thorough as I’d like them to be!) I don’t know how to obtain true balance, but if I ever figure it out, I’ll certainly share.

    P.S. That Steinbeck quote is a gem.

  14. Tori, I’m so glad you commented on my blog. I thought you’d stopped posting and just re-followed.

    In answer to your question, I was born perfect. I am the youngest of 5, and my parents tried harder to reach that goal with each spawn until achieving it with me and stopping. My only imperfection is that I am a compulsive storyteller/liar. Which works.

    So when I was a stay at home Mom, my house was a mess, I lived in my slippers and bathrobe. I made dinner. I changed my kid’s diapers. I got him where he needed to go. What else was there to do? I figured that if a little bit of dirt was good for children, a whole lot must be way better. And the dog hair was just a bonus.

Ramble on, little rambler...

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