Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Wanna Be Perfectionist

As a mother, I always try to put my best foot forward.  I try to offer my children a lot of enriching experiences and work hard to guide them into being polite and well behaved.  A mommy friend of mine once said that she was jealous of how much I “had it all figured out” as a mom.  I remember looking at her in shock and thinking to myself, “…if she only knew…”

I’m here to state for the record that I don’t have it all together—not even close.  I’m a joke and a sham.  I do get out with the kids a lot.  I do teach my kids about new and different things.  I bake cookies and cakes with them and read to them.  But then there’s the other side of me–the side that kept me from having play dates at my house for the first four years of my oldest son’s life.  The side of me that shutters at the thought of a friend stopping by for a surprise visit.  My house is a mess.  That’s it.  There it is.  As I type this, there is a Leaning Tower of Pisa of Laundry that I am clearly neglecting to fold.  My house is not dirty…it’s messy.  I am terribly unorganized.  My entryway and master bedroom closets are downright danger zones.  I wish I could get it together enough to be one of those super moms who keeps their house super neat and tidy, but I just can’t do it.  I’ve tried.

I am terribly embarrassed by the fact that I can’t keep my house the way that I want it.  In fact, this flaw deterred me from having but a few play dates in our home in my oldest son’s first four years of life.  I mean, what would people think of me if they knew I kept a less than perfect house?  I felt bad because as every parent knows, you reap what you sow when it comes to play dates and my son was not invited to lots of play dates since I rarely had other children over here…and when I did it was only after several hours of tidying up.

This all went on until last year when I was talking with a teacher at my school.  She was just about to retire and as we cleaned the room we shared, she told me a story that her daughter (who is my age) had recently told her regarding her childhood.   She said, “Mom, you know how you used to be embarrassed that our house wasn’t perfect when I was a kid?  Well, there’s a funny thing about that.  All of my friends loved coming to our house because they didn’t have to worry about getting yelled at for leaving toys out.  As I got older my friends like to hang out at our place because it was comfortable and they didn’t feel like they were in a museum.  I know you hated it, Mom, but I loved it and so did my friends.”

I’m not quite sure why my friend told me this story or how it came up in the course of conversation.  Perhaps she sensed that I was a lot like her from the stacks and stacks of papers on my desk.  Maybe she just sensed that we were kindred spirits—fake perfectionists who want the world to see us how we wish we were.  Whatever made her tell me that story changed my outlook on play dates, kids, and other moms.  I have had a lot more play dates since that day and I’ve tried to not be so consumed with making the house perfect before the child crosses my threshold.  I learned that day that kids don’t really care if I have a stack of laundry on the sofa that needs to be folded…and quite frankly their moms probably don’t either.


Janine said...

This is SO me. I sometimes turn things down because I don't want people to see our less-than-immaculate apartment. I try to remind myself that the friends' homes *I* feel most comfortable in are the ones that are stylish yet disheveled and LIVED IN.

Claudia and Chris said...

I love your candor Lisa! I think that all too often we are not honest enough about how difficult, chaotic & messy being a Mommy can be. Thanks for letting your readers know they are not alone! I'm a perfectionist who is being forced to let go a little and accept that it's okay. :)