Pondering Perfection

I am always torn when I see blog entries like this one.

On the one hand, they look so lovely and fun and I think they’re full of creativity andgreat ideas.  I want to pass them on as whimsical inspiration.

On the other, they always seem so perfect and elaborate!  I am just not the sort of mama to have these beautiful handmade toys to spread out on the gorgeous blanket topped with the lovely fresh-from-the-garden lunch with organic edible flowers in the ice water and then take the time to make the handmade, catalog-ready newspaper bunting to go across it. 

Then I think I’m a slacker for having our thrown-together mayhem that will never look like something to showcase on One Pretty Thing

Then I wonder how much the kids really appreciate it and how much is Mom going to hours of work to keep the illusion of a perfect life for her blog community.  (In this case, Mom assured us that her kids were in "loving and wonderful moods" with each other all afternoon.  So much for that!)

I worry sometimes that I come across as too perfect from that side of the monitor.  Those who know me would laugh hysterically at this point, incidentally!  I try to be sure to mention the good days with the bad, include a bit of the messy imperfections in the photos, and work in various trials and tribulations of daily life around here.  My goal here isn’t to airbrush out the bad moments or create an idealized image of parenthood but to offer a little humor, support, encouragement, fun, and occasional inspirational sap for anybody who’d like to come hang out here. 

So when I find these pages (and the net seems bursting with them), should I pass them on?

Do other mothers see this and go do it in their backyards, or do they also think "That looks darling but ours would never look that good and the baby would tear it down and the kids would still fight and leave it after 15 minutes and then I’d just resent the whole lot of them."?  🙂

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m all for making blanket forts in the back yard and having picnics.  It’s just that mine would be sheets strung on the clotheslines and it would take 5 minutes to construct.  And then maybe I’d chase the kids like an idiot around the back yard and sneak off for a while to check email.

I am always torn.  Inspirational or depressing?   What do you think?



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14 responses to “Pondering Perfection

  1. Anonymous

    I read a lot of blogs…a lot of the “perfect” blogs and I have to say that the reason I love your blog so much is because you present ideas that are easy and down to earth. I know that personally I see an idea like the one you presented (the outdoor fort) and would immediately think, What a cool idea, but that looks like it takes way too long to do…I’d never attempt that unless I had a whole afternoon with nothing pressing to do. However, if you presented the idea in the five minute, string up a sheet and show us a more practical, less perfect way it can be done, I’d be all over the idea. I love the way you show how things can be done w/ stuff already in your home…easy and practical…leaves us busy mommies thinking, Yes I can do fun stuff w/ my kids…it’s not that hard… whereas the flip side leaves me thinking “I don’t even have a garden to pick organic snap peas from….how did she make that banner…we don’t have any newspaper in the house…I don’t have dowel rods, etc.” I usually have a nursing baby in my lap and don’t get to comment much on your blog, but I read it everytime you update it and love it!!! Thank you for taking the time to inspire us to really enjoy our children!

  2. Anonymous

    I forgot to add…when you find fun ideas like the outdoor fort, I think it would be awesome if you showed us that idea and then showed us your take on it…how you did the idea in a simple way w/out the organic flowers and other perfectionistic qualities. I think it would show us mamas that we can do it, the kids can have fun, and it doesn’t have to be picture perfect!

  3. Anonymous

    LOL! I’m with you on those perfectionist parenting blogs- usually torn between inspired and frustrated. I can usually look at a project and mentally reduce it to the basic elements, then decide if it’s something we’re likely to try. For instance, without the perfect little banner and the martha stewart picnic, that’s really a pretty easy little tent. We have camping stakes galore, so that would be easy for me to do. And I wouldn’t have thought about using rubber bands! That’s the key useful bit for me. So, even though it looks too perfect, actually this is a project I could totally do- just more basic!
    Now, the joke is how my kids would respond- you can bet your bottom dollar that they won’t match this lady’s description of HER children! I’d be lucky to get a half hour of uninterrupted time while my boys play, and then they’ll tear the creation down in some elaborate wild game of pretend. But, that would be OK. 🙂
    I think the other commenter has a good idea: I’d love to see these “inspirational” whimsical projects, along with your easier, more practical and fun take on them!

    • Good point about the valuable tidbits like the rubber bands.
      I can relate to the part where your boys would play for a half hour and then wildly tear it apart for a game of pretend (which is just as good in my book!).
      Of course, around here it would be Alex grabbing one end and trying to tear it down, Jack wildly running through the fort and threatening to topple the whole thing, Anna sitting in the middle of it singing happily at the top of her lungs and Victoria standing there with a book and an art pad, desperately wanting to be in the middle of it acting like the kids in the original post with no singing, shrieking, running, pulling or mayhem.
      Perhaps I’d just need to make four….. 🙂

  4. Anonymous

    oops, forgot I’m anonymous-
    signed, Kit

  5. Anonymous

    Inspirational and depressing. 😉
    I appreciate that you share the good and the bad, and I still look up to you and wish to be more like you. 😀

    • Re: both!
      Aw, thanks! And it sounds like everybody does like those posts, along with an occasional real world translation. I’ll keep sharing them then, along with our happy imperfect stuff to balance them. 🙂

  6. Anonymous

    Sure, pass them on. I really love the balance you have on your blog, as stated by others, and I know that sometimes we have more time to really do something up, though more often not enough time. I like that most of your ideas are so simple and easy and more relationship-oriented than product-oriented–that’s why I like to hang out here instead of spending a lot of time at the Beautiful Blogs, but there’s nothing wrong with something that catches the fancy and might take more time.
    Last summer the kids and I watched a bunch of old Julia Child cooking shows. She was a riot; quite clumsy in the kitchen and often just really messed up. Once she was making some lovely apple thing that was supposed to be turned upside-down onto a plate. It not only was the wrong consistency and ended up half sliding off the plate, but it was kind of a sick grayish color. So she says, “Oh, well, it doesn’t always work out. Here, let’s put some whipped cream on it.” Other times she did something very time-consuming which turned out very nicely. But you get the overall sense that here is someone who is just like you, who isn’t perfect and doesn’t have to be, and is just having a lot of fun with the process, and if she can do that stuff, maybe you can try too. That’s what your blog is like.

  7. Anonymous

    Good thoughts
    I took a look at the forts this week too, and thought – pace yourself girls (and then I thought, boy I hope those are really young mothers, who will slow down, and just enjoy the kids a bit as they get older, and not already older mothers, with eight, or nine little ones – but still able to outperform anything I’d even think of doing!) – In the end, I slung a blanket over a couple of chairs, to keep the kids busy while I was mopping the floor – happy in the knowledge, that I was doing just what my mother had done for me when I was little – and I still love those memories.
    Thanks for being conflicted too!
    – Almost Unschoolers

    • Re: Good thoughts
      Good point! Yes, when I had two little girls I accomplished much more than now with 4 boy and girls of all ages! 🙂 I have also noticed that many of these blogs offer things for sale and I think it’s important for business to sell that image of whimsical perfection.
      The blanket on the chairs sounds like a fun compromise! We had an old tent up in the back yard last week and that was magical to the kids too (and harder for the toddler to destroy!).

  8. Anonymous

    Quite honestly, I have thought almost the same thing. I sometimes think to myself—how on earth do these “perfect on the outside” mom’s who blog have ANY time to do the things they do, have a clean house, AND blog about it too—and then their blogs look “perfect” too. What the heck? Now, I have a 4 month old and a 4 year old, and I don’t even have time to write an email, let alone bake a cake or sew a friggin’ thing….and many of these bloggers are probably not bouncing a baby boy in their lap while writing an entry, but….geesh! So, a part of me thinks that they should be writing about how they make the time for such things, and not the things themselves, if that makes sense. I mean, what do they know that I don’t know?
    I have shared your blog with other moms because I find you authentic. I like that. My house is messy too, I don’t do crafts every day or if I do I don’t spend hours doing them together. I do think that some bloggers make money as WAHM with the crafty projects that they do, and I think that’s a great idea—so sometimes that’s what they blog about, and that’s fine. I like what you share, no matter what it is—and I like that you share the good with the bad. (I do too in my own blog and if you want a sneak peak I can email it to you as it’s not a public.) You keep it real, and I’m a realist. On my bad days I remember that even magical mommas have bad days too—and not too feel any less magical than I really am. Write and share what you feel comfortable, and I know others are listening….

  9. Anonymous

    i agree its both inspirational and depressing. while i like the ideas, i rarely get to attempt them. i really like reading the posts of the frustrations and the pulling-your-hair-out moments and the things that make you start yelling, and all that sort of thing in people’s blogs. i seriously can’t stand the blogs that don’t ever post the bad. it makes me feel inadequate. my problem, not theirs, but i just prefer to read blogs that are more real.
    i agree that yours has a nice blend…but i still find myself feeling seriously inadequate reading all that you do for your kids! i still can’t get myself to do even half the cool stuff you do with your kids. but i keep trying. 🙂 i also am jealous of where you live…it looks just gorgeous! i’m stuck here in the central valley, california, where 100+ degrees is the norm from june til september. bleh. bad air keeps us out of friends pools on the hottest days even. so i am always looking at people who have better areas to live in and dream of a day we can move someplace that’s not so godawful all summer. some day! 🙂
    but anyway, i really like how real you are. keep it up! and don’t hesitate to post the bad with the good! because it seriously makes me feel better. misery loves company and all that, LOL! 🙂

    • Re: both
      Thanks for the grins! Yes, I like to read the bad mama moments too! 🙂
      I started out in California (San Jose, Cupertino area mostly) and miss it sometimes but I am happy here. Minnesota has beautiful seasons for half the year but we’re pretty miserable ourselves during our very long winters! In a few months you’ll have the nice weather again and we’ll be preparing to be snowed in.
      Real estate is dirt cheap around here though! Our neighbor’s house just sold for $18k. There are advantages to living in the arctic boonies! 🙂

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