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.
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.
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.
How do you balance all the things?
Share the secret to your success (Please say Oreos & TV Marathons)