I used to stop by blogs like SouleMama. I would gaze at the beautiful pictures of gorgeous kids in handmade clothing doing soul-nourishing activities. I ogled at the gardens and hills and trees and lakes. My jaw fell in wonder at the knitted creations and felted little dolls, the gorgeous linens, wooden push toys and fireside gatherings…comforted by the earthy hue of their existence…all these beautiful people doing beautiful things in beautiful places. It all just seemed so mellow, so wholesome and good. like soul food in blog form. And for a moment, while reading, I’d think “Maybe I could do that, too.”
But then one day I read this post, and I haven’t gone back, because I can’t take it. It’s like a mirror to my own parenting deficiencies. Even though SouleMama specifically states that her blog is just a PIECE of her life, and there’s “raised voices” and messes in her house, I don’t believe it because I don’t see it. It’s my problem. Not hers. I mean that. If she pulls off the shit she seems to pull off, mad respect.
As the classic line goes…”It’s me. Not you.”
Only in this case, it’s actually true.
Here was the deal-breaker for me…
“On a recent day in December, on a day much like any other day this year, I watched as Calvin rose earlier than anyone else in the house to take care of his chickens. He opened the coop, changed the water, freshened the food, brought them scraps, and gave the bedding a stir. Coming back in, with his littlest brother just toddling into the kitchen, Calvin made them both breakfast. There was some reading after that in front of the fire, and a game of chess with his other brother. At midday, he volunteered to help his Papa butcher the remaining turkeys, taking breaks here and there to work in his treehouse, and target practice on a bale of hay with his handmade bow and arrow. As evening neared, we left the house…stopping first at the local natural foods store where he sells his eggs. Proceeding into the city, my little guy joined his friends backstage and donned his black tights, ballet slippers and stage makeup and danced his way onto the stage.
In between those moments, I am certain that he also held the baby while I took a shower, likely knit a row or two on his scarf, probably ‘polished’ his Converse (yes, really), may have made his little sister an orange fleece hat, and definitely listened to some hip-hop.” (www.soulemama.com/soulemama/2012/01/a-day-in-the-life.html?cid=6a00d8341c4ea853ef0162ffffffad970d)
And henceforth, in my head, every time somebody mentions SouleMama I think to myself…JOKINGLY, sarcastically, just for funsies…”You mean, Soule-Crushing Mama?”
Cause I read those lines and my mind goes like this:
Wait hold up. Your child got up by himself to do chores, cooked his sibling breakfast, volunteered to work, all by noon? He then played with a homemade bow and arrow, sold “his eggs” at a “local natural food store,” did ballet, built a treehouse, all while intermittently holding a baby, knitting, polishing his shoes and MAKING A FUCKING HAT?
And he did this in ONE DAY? And this is a day “like any other day?”
Holy mother of God I am doing something seriously WRONG.
Where’s the yelling? Where’s the cajoling? Where’s the mayhem? Where’s the bickering, exhaustion, whining?
I mean the sheer LOGISTICS of my life negate any possibility for a day like that one.
Are my kids the only ones acting like hyenas? Are my kids the only ones who chuck themselves on the floor in existential anguish when approached with the prospect of house work?
Where are the bad attitudes, the intermittent apathy, the “kids, please, just stop talking for ONE MINUTE because mom’s about to lose her shit” moments? Where are the temper tantrums, the messes, the screaming-matches? What about racing out the door, late one more time, and the baby takes a dump and you want to weep and the older kid won’t stop asking complex questions and the middle kid STILL doesn’t have his shoes on…?
So I conclude “Either those women are super-powered, or they’re lying, or I’m so deficient it’s ridiculous and my kids are horribly behaved and I’m an even worse mother than formerly thought.”
You see the only part of that day I can even remotely relate to is the killing turkeys part. My husband does that. He’s a butcher. On his family’s ranch. However, I can promise you people, my kids sure as shit aren’t volunteering to help work out there. In fact, they’d pretty much rather recite lines out of 17th-century metaphysical poetry. I mean it’s hard work, it smells like ass, and it’s generally either freezing or like an oven.
When I ask Ava to cook for the younger kids she acts like I just asked her to donate her hair.
We have all kinds of wool we could felt. It’s sitting on a shelf in the craft closet, where it’s remained for the past two years.
We knit. Bi-annually.
The other day I asked the kids to help me plant some flowers in the front yard. Ava responds “you mean, so we can NOT water them and they can die like all the other ones and we can do it again in 3 months?”
Well, yes, smartass, that’s exactly what I mean.
Even the 10-year old gets it.
And this, my friends, is the best I got, and it sure isn’t much – a fact that’s compounded in my brain when I read about a “day like any other” that strikes me as some sort of homemaking ethereal existence of joy.
And she’s like “It ain’t no thang.”
Now don’t misunderstand me. Not only do I have nothing against women like SouleMama, I’m so freaking JEALOUS I COULD CRY. I support the over-arching values being conveyed by bloggers like that. I admire their work, their devotion and the ethics they reinforce. I admire their LIVES. As she says, they’re only sharing a part of their lives – not the whole story.
But there’s this whiny child in me….”I want my life to be that beautiful!!” I want my kids to wake up knitting shit for the baby and crafting archery tools out of native woods. I want to spin yarn and make jam from berries I’ve grown, sew bonnets out of organic cotton and sell eggs at local stores. That shit is wonderful. It’s beautiful. It’s GOOD.
But the reality of my life is that I live in a small, unimpressive agricultural town in a small, totally unattractive 1970s house next to a dude who drinks Budweiser in his garage all day, smoking Marlboro Reds and doing drunk yardwork. On the other side of me is some gathering of individuals who enjoy marijuana, screaming at their dogs and bad country music. I work. My husband works. All the time. And yet, WE DON’T HAVE ANY FUCKING MONEY for Amish pushcarts. Everybody on my street works, all day. My kitchen floor is linoleum. You can hear the freeway from my front yard.
But I TRY, people, I TRY. We got rid of our T.V. We don’t eat many processed foods. Almost all our meat is raised and killed by my husband, I hate American consumerism, we read lots of books, I breastfeed and cosleep and use cloth diapers (um, along with the “other kind”)…I try to engage my kids in imaginative play…I take them outdoors, camping, swimming…but check it out:
I recently came home to a note from Mac, regarding our dogs. It read “Laser needs to poop. Odie is constipated.”
You see, no matter what I do, my life just isn’t that beautiful. No matter how hard I try, it just isn’t aesthetically pleasing. It isn’t calm, wholesome or carefully crafted in gorgeous wood. It’s loud, messy, stinky and a little frenzied. It’s plastic and metal and occasionally, it’s frozen food. It’s a few successes and glorious days scattered among hours of messiness and rushing and struggling and flailing.
Those are the rhythms of my fucking day. Not exactly what the Waldorf dude had in mind, I don’t think.
Not because I love it that way, but because it just is. I read those blogs and I think “We should sell everything we own and move to Vermont and grow lavender.” But then I remember that this is where my people are, and I can’t leave my family, and my whole life is here. So this is it for me, for now.
Plus, we can’t afford a big old farm house in the country. Shit, we can’t afford to move anywhere. We can’t afford all wooden toys. And somehow, I can’t get my act together to even do ONE crafty project, let alone 6 in one day. And my children are pretty much always bickering and one day rushes into the next and I’m excited if I get two rooms clean or set up a little play room, or clean bags of crap toys out my house, or turn on some Jimi Hendrix while I clean, so my kids get cultured.
Basically, the women on these blogs are actually DOING the shit I pin on Pinterest and dream about.
So I don’t read that stuff anymore. Because even though it makes my heart smile, and I appreciate it, I just have to accept that my life isn’t that life, no matter how many Waldorf playstands I “pin.”
I am not talking shit about them.
I’m talking shit about me. About the fact that I can’t take it. About the fact that I can’t read those things and believe myself when I say “Janelle, it’s a BLOG. Nobody’s THAT PERFECT.” But they seem that perfect. They seem that capable. Their kids seem that good. All I see is pretty shit.
And clearly, my insecurities are just too big to expose myself to so much beauty. I should find it inspiring. But honestly, you know what I find inspiring? Going over to my lovely friend Kristi’s house, a Montessori teacher, and seeing the way she has crafted these simple, wonderful play spaces for her toddler, out of $10.00 Ikea items.
Because that, my friends, is within my reach.
And I like to stay within my reach. Well, at least close.
And I guess in the end, we do what we can do and appreciate our small, slightly pathetic attempts to nourish our souls, and those of our children.
Right where we are.