Monday, February 25, 2013

Less Than < Equal To > Greater Than - Enough. Or, Some days are like that, even in Australia.

Alice wanted Jon to read Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day to her the other day. I loved that book when I was little; the illustrations and the minutia of his terrible day. I've read it to Alice as an adult and it's actually really depressing. He really does have a terrible day and no one cares, even when he tries to tell them how rotten he's feeling.

Some days are like that, I know. Some days, you find yourself crying while you chop broccoli for a dinner you don't even want to make, the tears blurring your vision so badly you can't even see the cutting board and you should probably stop before you cut off your thumb, but you don't. The days that you don't tell anyone you're having a rotten day, that you don't ask for help because you don't even know what you need, except that what you need is for your kids to eat their food and go to sleep but no one can help you with that. And no one can help you with the guilt you feel for wasting a whole day being mad at your infant and toddler because they both woke you up with crying and won't close their eyes and go to sleep when you command them to even though you are all just. so. tired. 

How sad not to have anyone that would care if you told them you were having a rotten day. Luckily, though, I have a husband who cares, who's watching for post-partum depression. Who can tell when I'm miserable, even when I try to hide it.  Who knows when I'm crying (mostly) silently in another room. Who takes the kids outside and tells me to do something that will make me happy. He tells me to take a nap, but I can't because then I really won't be able to fall asleep at night and I'll be even more tired and miserable the next day. So I sew, even though it makes me cry more, trying to understand the geometry of a sleeve, trying desperately in the precious few minutes I have two hands free to finish the simple shirt I'm trying to make for myself so I have four shirts I can wear, instead of just three. 

Luckily, I have friends who understand when I shoot off a text/email/fb message and vent that I'm going to lose my shit and that I'm stress-eating, shoveling cookies in my mouth like I'm chain-smoking them. Friends who write back that they are having the same kind of afternoon and are taking solace in cupcakes and wine, and then apologize for replying with a rant of their own. 

But that is just what moms need, someone who really understands, who is living it too. Because this is the thing: motherhood is messy. It is fearfully wonderful and it is also full of terrible, horrible, no good, very bad days. Other mothers understand and we need to talk about it in a different way than we talk to our husbands, our partners. I don't write about the day-to-day often enough here. I want to record more of the tiny, miraculous moments with my beautiful daughters and I want to record the times that are purely awful - if not so I can turn them into something useful, then at least so we can all laugh about them later. 

Much has been written about and many a mom-blogger has lamented how easy the internet makes it to compare one's self to someone else's seemingly perfect life. I don't want this space to give the impression that anything at my house is ever perfect or always wonderful. I hope that anyone who knows me, for real or through this blog, knows that my life is perfectly imperfect and that I am completely satisfied with the imperfect perfections and the perfect imperfections. I think I make this clear in my real-life conversations and I try very hard to make my online presence a faithful representation.

The thing is, there is a distinct difference between sharing or commiserating in the shitty parts of motherhood (or life) and being a miserable, annoying whiner. Much like Kurt Vonnegut cautions, I've learned to be mostly positive and optimistic by pretending to be mostly positive and optimistic. I try to edit my perspective - whether internal, online, through my camera lens - to focus on the details I want to see. Sometimes the ugliness is impossible to ignore. I've learned that it's best not to ignore it, and that it's easier to face it and push through with a positive attitude and a support system of other positive individuals who can relate, sympathize, lend a hand, push and pull you along, and laugh with you while doing it.

The internet is a remarkable place to make and maintain these connections. You can put your authentic self out there, solicit and offer others a little validation, support, and/or emotional connection. Anyone can hear your message (or not) at their convenience, and respond with their own message of validation and support at their convenience. You can maintain constant contact - as superficial or in-depth as you choose - with close friends who you may not otherwise get to see very often. This mom writes well about it here; that we are more connected than ever but yet we feel so alone. Let's change that. We can start by being honest with ourselves, with each other, and sharing the real parts of our lives.

I don't want to be friends with miserable, negative people and I certainly don't want to read their blogs. I want to surround myself with positive people who see, find, and share the good in everything, even the ugly and miserable bits. But again, there's a difference between being authentically positive and putting on a false persona in public. I want to be positive and authentic and to make real connections with others that are really authentic. My dearest friends are positive and authentic, and my reader is full of authentically honest blogs that are able to find and create beauty and positivity in the hardest parts of parenthood.

The most important things I read online are the courageous words of women who hire help to do it allwho take medication to be a better momwho wanted to diewhose family didn't turn out like they had expectedwhose child has special needswhose child has cancerwhose child diedwho lost all the photos of a child's short life. These stories hurt but they are exquisitely beautiful. And they remind me that we needn't bear any of our hardships alone. Somewhere, someone else understands and has lived it too. Reading these stories makes me believe that it is possible to live through the hardest of hardships and, should I find myself in any of these situations, that I can find words to offer guidance and comfort, if not also a hand to hold.

My RSS and Pinterest feeds are also full of people sharing their beautiful and amazing lives, homes, careers, DIY projects, awesome crafts, delicious-looking meals, gorgeous photography, perfect children, adjective noun fill in the blank here. These words and images are like tiny, shiny little gems I get to pluck out of the interwebs whenever I have a moment and/or need a pick-me-up. I use this content to help me feel happier, more creative, more motivated, to be a better parent, to plan my next meal or treat, to learn how to make something new and wonderful. This beauty, this abundance should never be allowed to make me feel inferior or unworthy, I only allow it to inspire.

Some of what I see is completely unattainable (like many of the homes I admire) or simply impractical (open kitchen shelving - we have earthquakes here; all-white interiors - we also have kids/cats), but I don't let this stop me from appreciating what others may enjoy. And I don't believe - not for one second - that the beautiful interiors I see online always look that perfect and polished in real life, no more than I believe real human beings can look anything the way media + Photoshop wants us to believe they do. I don't believe that every blogger's kids are always adorably dressed, sitting still, smiling nicely, or otherwise generally cooperating for the camera (and I love when they prove it!). I know better, my own computer is full of the thousands of photos I've taken of my kids in order to get the small percentage that are frame-and share-worthy. I know that no matter how good things appear online, real-life is always lurking behind the scenes.

Use the internet to find inspiration instead of instilling insecurities in yourself. Make real connections and be authentic. Find other bloggers/moms/dads/people that you know or admire and reach out to them. All of us, especially parents, need a support network to make it through the terrible, horrible, no good very bad days and the internet is an amazing tool to cast your net further than any generation of parents have ever been able to. Just don't let anyone else's online content make you feel less than and don't act like you are better than anyone else. Your life is enough, you are enough.

image and print found here.

We all have our own journeys, everyone is fighting a hard battle. Don't indulge in the comparisons, competitions. Be joyful, be inspiring, be supportive, be compassionate, be confident, be positive, be authentic, Be part of the conversation with others like you, others different from you, and others you do not yet know. Be there for others so that there is someone there for you when you need it, and you will need it. Because some days are like that, even in Australia...


  1. I love this raw realness in you. Speaking outloud gives you so much power and lessens those loud negative days to subtle whispers.

    Alice and Ivy will look back at your posts, the big celebrated ones and the simple mundane shots of life, and be proud they've been ushered into the world by an expressive woman like you.

    I'm proud to call you a friend and fellow mother in this wild sometimes shitty adventure.

    1. Thanks, Amy. These words mean a lot to me. I'm proud to call you a friend, too!

  2. While Jonnie-Bo-Bonnie & Joshua-Brian-Fish were easy babies & teen-agers, they were hell on wheels from 4-12 years of age. I had a friend & neighbor to walk with all of our childen to school each morning. We then returned to one of our kitchens for tea, venting, and encouragement. I don't think I could have made it through those days without her support. We need those other mothers who are experiencing our world as it really is as well as the mothers who came before us to let us know we can do this even though it is really hard!

    1. So true. Thanks for being one of the great "moms-who-came-before" in my life!

  3. preach it, sister. a to the men.

    1. I know I'm preaching to the choir, here, Krista!

  4. This is one of my favorite things you've ever written! I've only just now read it. So well-put and important and true.


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