7.28.2011

Doing It All (not)

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.)

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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.    

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47 comments:

  1. Thanks for that. I'm one of the ones who thinks as she reads these amazing blogs, "How do these women do it?" It's comforting to be reminded of the reality. To know that my floors aren't the only ones getting sticky as I hit publish on another hastily written post or as I stitch one more hem. And as always, thanks for carrying on with the blog. I always look forward to reading.

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  2. What a wonderful post. I have had to take breaks from some blogs in the past because I start hitting myself over the head with all I don't do. I especially liked the last part of your post. Thank you.

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  3. great post, thanks very much for the honest reminder. :)

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  4. Something tells me if we ever met, we'd be very good friends!
    Emily
    domesticdeadline.blogspot.com

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  5. OMG, this should be printed out and glued on my wall but the printer is out of ink. It is so incredibly true! While I may wallow in Soule envy (taken over from you, by the way), all the above said must surely apply even to her as well and in fact she has even said it on her blog.
    But you've helped me so much with this post...

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  6. Thank you! I needed this reassurance this week.

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  7. That was an awesome post that put a lot of what I think about while reading blogs into great perspective. Thank you for that.

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  8. Personally, I'm old enough to know better and smart enough to not give a crap if someone else's life is perfect or not.

    We spent 3 hours at the park today! Then the preschooler took off her shoes and threw sand all over my freshly-washed floors. Oh well :) .

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  9. Beautiful post. It's nice to know someone else has dust bunnies and sticky floors; I worry a lot about whether I'm doing a good job with my kiddos and it's moments like these that remind me not having a Better Homes and Gardens cover model house yet it's full of love and insanity is perfectly typical and my kids will be fine.

    PS, like someone else said I think we could be good friends haha!

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  10. personally i would love to sit down in your kitchen and have coffee-sticky floors and all

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  11. Thank you for your honesty. I love this post!

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  12. Well said. I think a lot of us bloggers feel the same way about our writing. It is just a piece. What we show our readers, but not the whole.
    You are much gooder than you think:)
    Michelle
    www.falafelandthebee.com

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  13. One of the biggest reasons I regularly check your blog is your ability to be real with yourself and your kids. It's something I strive for in my own life and something that I don't think is positively portrayed in society (at large). It's hard to not give a damn about being perfect but you make me feel like I'm not alone in this journey. Sticky floors, dog fur tumbleweed, unwashed dishes, and dirty feet all have their place in my house. I'd rather tolerate mess than miss out on the fun-loving times that happen in the midst of it. Thanks for sharing!

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  14. Oh i heart this post.So many things i could relate to. Thanks for sharing.

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  15. Thank you a thousand times for sharing. It's like my life - NOT doing things and in the same time doing a lot and wanting someone to notice at least something I've done, despite raising children, which of course now is the main thing.
    THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU

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  16. With you all the way on this one - blogging is like reality TV shows: edited. I sometimes find myself thinking 'I could take a photo of this and blog about it', but then a knee gets bumped or hair gets pulled, and I have to go back to being a mama...

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  17. I love this post Charity, and I reckon you answered the email much gooderer than you think ;)
    We can't compare our worst with another bloggers best.. there is just no comparison and it hurts to do it to yourself.

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  18. You should use that as your acceptance speech for the award we would all nominate you for and you would surely win! That was eloquent to the point of tears. Thank you, I appreciate your inspiring words, and would gladly eat 4 of your homemade cookies because I would insist on the same thing to a cat-hair-covered guest in my home! I would guess we would be friends if we were neighbors.

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  19. The section where you write that our blogs are a way of reaching out for someone to pay attention to us and notice that we're not a waste of flesh is so true. And it's funny that the people who notice are always other mommies who are going through the same thing, only kilometres away from where I'm struggling and trying again and again to get it together. I think Blogging, for me, is about reaching out to an understanding and hopefully non-judgmental community who will comment and inspire me to keep going.

    And yes, I have a university degree as well that I'm totally wasting on cleaning up puke and finding lost socks. Meh. "Mommy" is still a worthy goal. For now.

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  20. You guys are the goodest readers ever!

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  21. Oh you are so fantastic. I was about to write a long intelligent response when I got interrupted by my three children complaining (yes complaining) about going to the beach later. and that about sums up my life. :) Thank you for your continued astute observations that you share with us.

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  22. Wonderful to read on this Friday night at the end of the first week of 6 weeks school holidays where all I feel like I have managed to do it keep my 3 children alive! My answer when people ask me 'how do you...' is 'you should see the state of my house' and they laugh because they think I'm joking, live is too short for housework (ok we do clean sometimes) and not long enough for sewing! I think I'll be bookmarking this post to come back to time and time again!

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  23. What a great post! Keepin' it real is what we all need reminding of every now and then! Thanks for sharing.

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  24. Charity:
    your blog is awesome and always puts a smile on my face!!
    keep it coming!!

    ali

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  25. Great post! Some mom friends and I were discussing this issue, like what is taking place just beyond the border of the blog photos that we are not shown ( a big mess perhaps?) Not that I blame anyone for trying to hide their mess, but important to remember when reading blogs that seem perfect!

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  26. i love you and your sticky floors,
    i am always grateful for your honesty...it is refreshing.
    I check your blog daily (one of only a handful) because i feel good when i read about your life - a kindred soul in some ways and hugely inspiring in others.
    thanks

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  27. As someone who isn't good at being real, with myself or others, this is such a good post to reflect on. God knew I needed to read this at 4:34am after tossing and turning. Will be bookmarking. Thank you.

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  28. I remember telling my sister when I started a blog, and she read it and rang me to say," you actually sound nice and your not yelling". I said "well I am nice and I hardly yell". Perception is a powerful thing...............

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  29. Oh good, I am not the only one tat has contemplated selling my kids on ebay. They really are cute in pictures :)
    Thanks for everything!

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  30. I <3 U That's all I have time to say

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  31. Yup.

    People say:
    *you sew for your little girl?!
    *you take your kids to the beach without your husband!
    *you take your kids to resturants!
    *how do you do it all?

    I reply:
    *if I didn't have a creative out I would go nutters.
    *they were killing each other and driving me bun-nonkers.
    *I just want to eat something without peanut butter or ketchup and not have to cook/listen to "I don't like it."/wash dishes.
    *I've quit cleaning my house.

    Know you and love you and floors were ment to be sticky and walls need finger prints. Without such things we would not know what our children have been doing while we've been blogging (or commenting.)

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  32. ... and the millions of photographs we take to get that 'one' wonderful photo we can actually use on our blogs...

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  33. Love this post :-) I do try and show my imperfections on my blog to keep it a bit real but then again I want by blog to be my happy place too :-) I think we are all swans, swimming beautifully, gliding along the water but paddling like crazy underneath lol.

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  34. THANK YOU! This brought me to tears. After I nursed my little princess this morning, I decided to look for a dress pattern to make my niece a back-to-school dress. After getting the homemade waffle batter mixed and the first batch of waffles started,(one point for mommy, put that in the look at me file. No cold cereal here!) I sat down to check your blog. You describe my life. I was so riveted that the first batch burned. So I started another and continued reading. After finishing, and in deep thought, I put together my boys' plates, feeling somewhat accomplished...until I walked to the dining room to put the plates at the table, which is covered in receipts,diapers (clean), my camera, a newspaper, toys and books. Michael pushed aside the mess and made a spot for himself. My little guy, Mason still needed a seat. In desperation, I turned to the coffee table. It was covered in folded laundry. Now all the children are settled quietly and I'm taking a moment to write you this note (when I probably should be clearing the table). Thank you for letting me know that today, I'm not the only one.

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  35. Hear hear! there is a certain amount of do it all perfection within the chaos though. It is all in how you flow with it...and to me you seem to be flowing beautifully! Doing it all or not!

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  36. Don't know if you get trackbacks, so here's a link to my post inspired by this one: http://44socksontheline.wordpress.com/2011/08/02/she-doesnt/

    :) You rock, Charity. Always a pleasure.

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  37. Wow. Reading this post literally moved me to tears. It's so nice to relate and feel a little less bad about everything that just doesn't get done. I guess none of us are perfect. <3

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  38. You are an awesome writer, Charity. And I've been reading your blog from long ago when you were also an awesome writer, and that's clearly one of the many things you do well. Thank you for writing, for inspiring, for teaching. Thank you for sharing your realness and humanness without sounding as if you were trying to win an award for being Realer and More Human and More Flawed than other people. I love your blog because you have a great voice and amazing kids (sticky or not) and because you do great work. Thank you!

    P.S. Yesterday we all had a meltdown because the youngest child wanted to bring 11 friends (aka her stuffed animals) in three large bags into the van just to go to the hardware store. Someday I will look back and miss these days.

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  39. They give awards for that stuff?! Oh boy, I think I found a reliable second income!

    Thank you :)

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  40. How did you know that this is exactly what I needed to hear today? At times, when my own life seems to be unraveling along the edges, I like to browse through all the loveliness online and am buoyed not only by the competence of other mommas out there, but by those flaws which blogging mommas sometimes let us peek at for a second.

    It's these flaws, these bits of humanity, that keep us coming back for more. Thank you for sharing your humanity, and for letting us commiserate with you.

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  41. Ditto almost everything you wrote! Thank you!

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  42. Beautifully written. I gave up the envy sometime within this last year and I find that my life is better because of it. My sink is still full of dirty dishes, but my family is happy and healthy and that is all that matters.

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  43. Thank You! I've got 3 small children and If I can't do it with one hand it often does not get done. I've got lots of sewing projects, clothes for my kids that have never been finished and now they have grown too big for them. I also feel as if I need to create something in order to feel a sense of accomplishment and that gives me joy, the making od something. I also am a teacher, so I'm in constant guilt about not spending enough time on my students or not focusing enough on my own children. This balance between being an involved, creative parent, working and "keeping house". Is a struggle for us all. Why is it something we still feel guilt about, not doing it all.
    Thanks again for this wonderfully honest post.

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  44. As a brand new blogger who has been in awe of your blog for some time now, this is so inspiring and helpful. Thank you for being honest!
    I think that you've just helped make this business of blogging a lot less scary, thank you for being such a great blogger :)

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  45. This is such a great post - I go through this envy ALL the time. Or that slight feeling of inadequacy because I failed to actually make school pants, or I bought something I could me. Thanks for that grounding post!

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  46. I know this already and yet I still feel inadequate. With two kids 3 and under and one on the way, nothing gets done at my house because I have zero energy right now. We have clean underwear (usually) and everyone is fed but that's it. I feel like a failure even though this is temporary and will pass. It's a terrible byproduct of reading so many wonderfully interesting and useful blogs and websites, methinks.

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