shattering - what I choose not to do / by Carey

We all get the same 24 hours.

And yet.  

I hear so very often moms confessing that they wonder how on earth another mom does it.  Gets it all done.  So many amazing things.  With so many little feet around.  Where do they find the TIME?

Time.  I find it is life's most precious commodity.  For everything that is important to us -- it simply takes TIME.

And yet.

We all get the same 24 hours.  Every last single one of us.

And we all get to choose how we spend those 24 hours.  Apparent-Super-Mom doesn't have the super power to stop time and accomplish more than you do.  We are all on an equal playing field.  Granted, there are some who may be more efficient at some tasks than others.  That's the beauty of living in a world full of beautiful individuals.  But no one gets any more TIME than anyone else.

I confess.  I've allowed Satan to enter my awareness.  It wasn't intentional.  I didn't set out to let it happen.  But happen it did, nonetheless.  Slight little whispers in my ear.  I didn't recognize his ugly voice at first.  The seeds of comparison.  Ugly, ugly comparison.

I feel that comparison and expectations are the root of so very much conflict in our lives.  And it seems that women tend to fall victim to the compulsion to compare themselves with others more easily and more frequently than our male counterparts.

But like I said, I confess.  I've indulged my brain's intrinsic desire for sarcastic remarks on facebook when I've read status updates from Apparent-Super-Mom.  How she has showered, dressed, and beautifully make-upped herself after a hearty trip to the local gym where she both ran and lifted weights, bathed and dressed fourteen children with princess bows in all the little girls' hair, prepared a warm home-cooked breakfast that required no less than a forty-five minute prep time with all hormone free meat, free range eggs, and organically grown produce from her own garden, unloaded and reloaded the dishwasher, mended two pairs of pants, taught two kids to tie their shoes, done two loads of laundry AND put them away, cleaned a bathroom and mopped the kitchen floor, executed AND cleaned up a craft activity involving glue, glitter, paint, holiday confetti, and pipe cleaners, walked the dog and then gave him a bath, clipped his nails and brushed him, read the _Chronicles of Narnia_ aloud to the children and now the oldest ones are writing a report, in Latin, on the story, has reorganized the garage and has a new stash of things all loaded up and ready to deliver to GoodWill, painted the master bathroom a beautiful new shade of teal, did her personal Bible Study and had her quiet time, has dinner already cooking away in the crock pot AND she's linked you to the recipe she's using which you KNOW took at least an hour to prepare before even entering the pot, written an article to be published on a very popular blog, while every member of the household has had the most holly jolly of attitudes, and she even managed to shave her legs and pluck her eyebrows this morning when she showered.  And allllllllllllll of this, she accomplished by 8am.

My gut reaction?  Honestly?

Gag me.

[I would like to clarify that in no way do I mean to offend anyone who has posted something like this ever.  I know I have myself.  I also know that the person who posts something along these lines isn't doing it with the intention of making me feel bad about myself.  I own that that issue is my own, all alone.]

I used to indulge those whispers and allow myself to come up with horribly witty and horribly nasty rude remarks that I never hit enter on.  They were an attempt to defend myself against Satan's ugly stealth attack.  Why can't you do all that?  What have you accomplished today?  This week?  You had plans... expectations... for how this early childhood would go.  Are you living up to those plans?  Because you know she is.  So why aren't you?  What a disservice you are doing to your children, you selfish, selfish, incompetent girl.

And what follows this thought pattern?  Shame.  Always, always shame.  Then comes resentment.

The shame and resentment push us further away from each other.  Further away from community.  Instead of a place where we can lean on each other, taking advantage of each other's individual strengths and weaknesses, the very things that make each of us beautiful in our own ways, we create a place of isolation.  Because when in proximity to those people, shame and resentment are there and they prick at your heart just like briars that have overgrown a path tear at your flesh as you briskly walk by..

And Satan wins.

It's what he wants, after all.  He wants us isolated and alone.  Because we were created for relationship and connection.  And he wants to destroy that.  And he's really, really good at what he does.

But I hate it.

And I'm not going to keep indulging Satan. I used to beat myself up a LOT.  I can give myself a GOOD stern talking-to.  I was so frustrated at how much I couldn't do.  What was WRONG with me?  I just couldn't get it all done.  I have so, so, so much that I yearn to do.  So many creative adventures I yearn to take - crafting, writing, photography.  So many things I yearn to do with my children.  The perfect household that is always in perfect shape and organized and Pottery Barn certified.  The perfect meals.  The perfect marriage.  Actually taking care of myself and exercising and fixing my hair and makeup and dressing nicely daily.  Keeping up with the finances.  Staying in budget.  Maintaining relationships with family.  Maintaining relationships with friends.  Not superficial relationships, but real, true deep meaningful relationships.  And having an abiding dependence on Christ to see me through each moment, each day.  None of these things are bad things.

When I looked around me, however, it appeared that so very many did all of these things flawlessly.  It appeared that so many around me have it alllll together.  And reading about my friends on facebook, and seeing them in real life with the 'out in public' persona they present, only proved to buffer this theory further.  And I wanted to retreat.  And for a while, I did.

At some point, however, there were a few statements directed towards me about how someone viewed ME as one who had it all together.

One time and I just laughed it off.  Whatever.  But when it continued to happen, I really started to think.  There were people who thought that I had it all together.  Me.  That I was accomplishing all these amazing things.  How did I find time to x, y, and z?

How positively, absolutely absurd!!!

I'm not!  I'm sooooooooooo not!

Back in March, my best friend Dana got to witness it all first hand.  Although Dana has been one of my closest friends for a long time, there was still that pretense of being 'put together' that I used when with her.  It wasn't necessarily something I put conscious thought to -- it's just how we interact with the people in our lives who don't live in our homes, in our culture.  But one Friday afternoon back in March changed all that for Dana and me.  I remember making the mental decision to go against the grain and leave the house in the state of utter disarray, in order to take the kids to Bear and Friends for some time at their favorite toy store.  We were going to run some other errands after that.  But dinner from the night before had yet to be cleaned up in the kitchen.  It was a wreck.  The kids had destroyed the playroom, and I mean that quite literally.  We're talking every toy pulled off the shelves, every game pulled from the cabinets, every game piece strewn across every horizontal surface on the first floor.  But I figured we would go ahead and have some time out, and then I'd tackle the project of cleaning up whenever we returned.  It's what I felt like doing.

And that would have been a most lovely of plans, if that had been what happened.  But Shawn took a fatal swing of his machete in the woods and was brought to the ground and rendered nearly immobile with a spasm in his back.  He managed to crawl from the far end of our woods back to the house, find his phone, and call me.  He asked me not to panic and then told me that he couldn't move.  At all.  We rushed home.  I could tell something was bad wrong.  Long story short, after many hours with various paramedic and chiropractor and doctor type services, we head to the ER.  Shawn is barely conscious.

And it is at this point that I call Dana.  I beg her to come to the ER and get the kids.  It's 5:30pm and Shawn is barely conscious and we have no idea how long we will be there.  Finally get ahold of her and she and Scottie readily agree, drop everything and come to our aid.  Relief.  The kids will be well taken care of.  And then it hit me.  Panic.  Sheer Panic.

Oh. My. God.  They will see the house.  

They will see the kitchen and how I left it.  On purpose.
They will see the playroom and how I let the kids leave it.  On purpose.
They will see the bathroom and how I haven't cleaned it in, oh, how long does it take for that black moldy stuff to grow in the toilet?  On purpose.
They'll see the kitchen floor.  And the playroom floor.  And the hallway floor.
They'll see the kids' bedrooms and the state I let them leave those in.

They'll see it all.  All of me, in my realness.  No pretense.  No hiding.  Nothing.  And how I'm soooooo not put together.  Not at all like the persona I've tried so hard to project for visitors to our home.  And that crushing reality was.... crushing.  I knew it was a turning point for us.  Because she knew the real me now.

But you know what?  I'm SO glad that happened.  It was been the most freeing thing for me to experience.  She knows me.  The real me who doesn't clean or care or whatever -- and she accepts me and loves me anyway.  And I don't have to pretend about anything with her anymore.

Somewhere along the way, all of this materialized and connected in my brain... the concepts of TIME and how we all get the same amount, no more, no less.  I knew that the reason I accomplished x was because I just plain didn't DO y.  Didn't even bother to try.  It's just that the world doesn't get see that I didn't do y.

It's so very easy to wear a mask.  I didn't knowingly don my mask for the world.  I've always been very adamant about authenticity.  But I was still donning the mask.  I wanted people to think I had it all together, just like I did with Dana.  So the mask that I showed the world included the parts I wanted them to see, but not the ugly parts that I didn't.  None of my failures.  Failures as a mom.  Failures as a woman.  None of my chosen omissions.  Really, what is the motivation to post on facebook or to say in person, all the amazing things you do?  What is the underlying motivation behind all of this?  What is it that the person who does these things is seeking?

I believe it is affirmation.  We want someone to notice us.  We all have this desire.  We want someone to come along and say "Good job!!"  We yearn for accolades.  We want to be well thought of.  We want to be the best at something.  We want to be sought after.

Once I realized that I, myself, was contributing to this Shame-Resentment Comparison cycle, I wanted to put a stop to it.  I don't want anyone to ever look at me and wonder why they can't live up to my standard, do what I do.  Because for every thing I do manage to get done, there's another thing I don't.  I have tried to announce some of the things that are lower down on my priority list and that I CHOOSE not to do.  I want to be real and true.  I want to encourage other moms out there - not tear them down.  Ever.  And besides all of that, I know the source I should be leaning on to find my self worth.  The source of those accolades.  I know I need to seek God for those things.  Finding it in others is always, always temporary.  It never, ever lasts and it never, ever fills.

We all only get the same 24 hours.  And we all have our own priorities.  No matter what it looks like Apparent-Super-Mom is accomplishing, something that you ARE accomplishing is something she isn't.  Neither of you is wrong.  Neither of you is right.  It's just a matter of our own beautiful priorities.

SO, in an effort to dispel the Apparent-Super-Mom myth, I want to confess some of the things I DON'T do.  I hope that some others find comfort in knowing they aren't alone.

I don't clean.  *gasp*  I used to.  I didn't do it because I wanted to.  I did it because I thought I was supposed to.  I don't like to clean.  My husband likes for things to be uncluttered.  And while we have to live with a certain level of chaos due to the nature of young children (because we choose for them to have freedom to play and be children and not mini-adults), I attempt to keep things in a semi-okay state in an effort to serve my husband.  But there is a difference between uncluttered-clean and sanitary-clean.  And sanitary-clean is where I've made some concessions, because my husband doesn't really care about sanitary-clean.  I almost never dust.  My blinds resemble furry rodents.  I almost never sweep the rooms in the house besides the kitchen, and my philosophy about the kitchen floor is 'just don't look down'.  And I certainly haven't mopped them.  I don't vacuum upstairs.   I don't clean the bathrooms nearly as often I should.  But making the decision to bump cleaning to a lower priority on the totem pole, gives me more TIME to do other things.  It's my choice.  And other things are more important to ME than cleaning.

I keep one room in utter disarray.  This isn't exactly something I set OUT to do, but it's just where things have arrived.  I can keep the other rooms in the house uncluttered, but that means the piles and random junk are just placed into the one-room.  It seems to morph back and forth between our dining room and the office.  But at any one given point in time, one of them will be a wreck.  It's a fact of life I'm made peace with.  If you stop by my house unexpected, you'll find these rooms in utter chaos.  And I'm okay with that.  It's who I am.

I used to spend all my time after the kids went to bed working on photography related things.  And that means, that I wasn't spending any time with my husband.  I learned a whole lot about photography, and I did a better job of staying on top of working on the photos that I took.  But my marriage suffered.  Because a marriage, a relationship, is something that also REQUIRES time in order to survive.  If you aren't investing TIME into a marriage, it WILL dwindle until it fails.  Friends, I will urge you to not put your marriage on the lowdown of the totem pole of priorities like I once did.  It's a mistake.  And it isn't worth it.

I don't put off my own personal creative endeavors.  I will work on my stuff while my children are still awake.  While I wrote all of this, my children both played in the playroom with new toys they bought on the way home from preschool with birthday money.  Without me.  Because I was writing.  And I badly needed to get all of this out of my head!  And because the toys were new, that bought me a little more time that usual.  So while they occasionally have to entertain themselves, I get some time for my own creative needs.  And I think I'm a much better mommy the other hours of the day because of it.  My kids don't nap.  They both dropped naps completely well before 18 months, so it has been a long, long time since I've had dedicated on purpose non kid time unless I CHOOSE to do it.  I don't ignore them all day long by any means, but they need to learn to occupy themselves, too.

I hope to continue this trend of confessing things I choose NOT to do, in order to accomplish the things I do.  And I urge you to confess, too, what you DON'T do.  Because there is no such thing as a Super-Mommy.  Let's help and encourage each other.  Not try to boost ourselves up in order to push others down.  

(and notice I didn't find a perfect photo for this post.  The together me wants to have a perfect one, but I don't have it.  And I'm choosing to post without it.  Because I don't have it all together.  Ever.)