I occasionally receive emails asking me how I manage to raise kids, sew, craft, and blog. What’s my organizational secrets? How do I, basically, Do It All?
I usually read these emails first thing in the morning while the coffee is perking and I am sitting in my pajamas with my hair plastered in odd directions and my eyes still half closed. Often I laugh out loud. I am the very picture of Not Doing Anything At All.
I have to let you know, I have sent these sorts of imploring emails to other bloggers who also appear to have it all together. I can’t figure out how someone can have a flashy blog, making their offspring clothes, educate them, feed them, take them to exotic locales, write books, run a business and still seem like they are just sitting and knitting the day away, wearing a beautific smile of peace. How? How!? So calm, so efficient. Like she moves so fast she appears to be standing still. Is it magic?
From other bloggers whom I have questioned, I have either received no response (because they are too busy to answer emails) or gotten the same frustrating answer that I am about to give you: there is no secret because we are not nearly as organized, tidy, accomplished, or articulate as our blogs might indicate.
Feeling personally like I am falling down in so many areas of my life, it's incredibly humorous to me that someone else might think that I might know what I’m doing. Either the questioner is in a really, really bad place or there is something inherent to the craft/mama/natural family blogging world that is throwing a disillusioning light at readers.
I sit on both sides of this dilemma. I'm in awe of other bloggers while someone else wonders about me. We all feel somehow incomplete, as if we slept in on the day competence was handed out. I get this, and I think most of us feel this way. Grass is greener blah blah blah. If we are feeling that way about tutorial blogs, ones that actually tell us how to do, perhaps it’s time we took a step back from this little world of mama blogging and get a bit of perspective.
Things to keep in mind about mama/craft/tutorial/natural family blogs:
What you are reading, the dozens or hundreds of posts that you track back and consume in one evening of reading represents, usually, years of one woman’s life. It didn’t all happen at once. What has been blogged about sometimes only happened once – one project, one time – and many things we used to do, we no longer. I spend probably two hours on a sewing machine a month now, but I used to sewing for two hours or more a day. Right now I have other things I’m doing. Experiences listed on the blogs are not cumlative. Each and every day, something doesn’t get done.
We’re not telling you the crappy stuff. The yelling, the falling down, the ways in which we are not the parent we want to be. There are tears, yelling, anger, smacks to bottoms, children being hauled bodily into grocery stores (because we’re out of everything) while they scream, ‘I hate you!’ (That was Tuesday.) You also don’t know about being thrown up on (oh, so many times), about bribes, bargaining, and how long our children actually nurse for or wear overnight diapers. You don't know how many times we've threatened to sell our kids on Ebay. And we’re not going to tell you because we don’t want to talk about it, it’s none of your business, and who wants to read about that it anyway? It would sound more like whining than anything else. Bad, boring writing. And we really want to give you something better than that.
You don’t see the failures. We don’t talk about the dress with the too big neck, too short arms, and wonky hem. We edit, show the best. Many of us have handmade home businesses and these blogs are a part of our portfolios. Not saying that what we write isn’t real, because it is. Not saying that we aren’t doing what we say we are, because we are. But it’s not the whole picture. No one has time to write – or read about – the whole picture.
Bloggers have varing levels of help and sleep needs. I write while my kids nap, play with their friends or watch a movie. It’s really only a couple hours a week, but it is something I do despite exhaustion, two days worth of dirty dishes on the counter, or exercise. Because I want to and I have to. It’s my passion and you fine folks are my community and I hate to disappoint. There are other things I should be doing and is not getting done. But instead of wasting my time and yours with confessions of my sins, I’m just going to give you some of my thoughts about hanging out with my kids and how to make a pair of toddler pants that is faster and easier than dragging a fussy two year old who is in love with the word ‘no’ to the store.
Some bloggers have child care, either paid, family or available partners. Some women have children who like to play independently. Right now my children are spending an hour in drop-in child minding at a community recreation centre, a cost that has, incidently, eaten all of my profits from my patterns this week. (Plus, I had to pry Birdie’s arms off my neck and the staff took him away screaming. He’s fine now [I peeked in the window] but it wasn’t easy and, lord knows, it wouldn’t make a pretty picture for this blog.)
Bloggers are smart, learning creatures. We know that our presentation counts if we want people to read what we write. We know how to make things look pretty. Lots of us have some serious skills in art, photography, marketing, business (not me, but some). Lots of us have university degrees (okay, me here). Lots of us read voraciously, including books and blogs on how to blog well. We are all Writers, with a capital W, who would do so whether someone read us or not. You can see how bloggers change and grow if you go back through posts. The earliest posts probably do not look anything like the latest couple. The presentation has gotten better, pictures have been added and improved, the writing – through practice and hard work – is much gooder now. Blogging, writing and taking photos, putting on a quality show, is a skill that we have been working at. And it's taken time to get here.
Oh, and we don’t do it all. Most of us choose, either outright or by passive non-doingness, what is important to us. My house is messy and badly decorated. The floors are sticky. It's true, read it and revel: I HAVE STICKY FLOORS. Not much to envy there. Most of my day is spent with my children, playing games, reading books, walking around, chatting. It produces almost nothing at the end of the day that I can hold up and say, ‘This is what I’ve accomplished.’ Other than two children who are still alive and seem relatively okay. This is both rewarding and frustrating. It feels like my time just dissolves away from me. And the dishes are not done. So that one thing I did do, what I baked, what I sewed at high speed during a nap, what craft was made, I like to take a billion pictures of and post online so I can feel proud of something. This blog is me saying, ‘Look at me! Look what I can do! I am not a waste of human flesh! Pay attention to meeeeeeeeee!’
I think that if you sat down and had coffee with me in my house, you will probably develop a different picture of my life. Some of the things about me in person are the same as my blog like my nervous verbal diarrhea and my terrible little jokes. You might notice I swear a lot more than is necessary. Some of the other things are pretty consistant, I think. You might note that I'm pretty laid back about my kids not wearing shoes but a little intense about full and consistant use of manners.
Depending on how close you read my blog, you wouldn't be surprised that the shelves need dusting, the plants need water and that your foot keeps sticking to the floor in a particular spot. You may also note how the books in my house tend to gather in drifts, the coffee is strong, and that I have just made cookies and feel a bit dismayed when I insist you eat four of them.
You will not, I can assure you, persist in thinking that I am an organized, get 'er done kind of person. The real person here, the one that has been trying to write helpful tutorials with honesty and humor, is rough and flawed and doesn't have an edit mode. This blog is, in many ways, my baby doll, who I can dress up and take around town when it suits me, but doesn't cry or get dirty when I put it away. And I'm gratified that you want to come play with me here. Often your comments are the stuff that gets me through the days when the day is not only rough, but bleak.
So, what's the fix here? One thing I've found that counter acts that pain of envy and feeling of not measuring up is to focus on the things in my life that I wouldn't trade for anything. The things I do well, the memories I have, the people here with me. Often that's enough to remind me that my life is pretty good too. Perspective is the water in which we are all swimming. This blog has one view, my kitchen has another, and my kids have another yet. Each one is true, but it's not complete. You are the only complete one, somewhere in the middle. Keep your head on, don't panic, don't get distracted by one particular view. Who knows which way you'll drift. Make the motions that are right for your life while enjoying the show here in blogosphere.