Keeping it Real

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I have a few confessions to make.

I don’t live in a perfectly decorated home. I don’t do creative, DIY crafts with my kids. I don’t make homemade meals from scratch every night. On the nights I’m in charge of dinner (my husband does most of the cooking in our home — he’s just better at it), meals are home cooked, as in cooked at home, but mainly consisting of something from the Trader Joe’s frozen section. I at least make sure there’s a fresh vegetable to accompany it. Other nights, we eat out or bring take-out home.

I get impatient with my children more than I’d like to.

I love them deeply and unconditionally, but I sometimes crave moments alone without them, without the boisterous shouting or whining that makes our loud house so very loud from sun up to sun down (and beyond), until the boys finally succumb to sleep. My children go to bed very late (we do everything late and we like to joke that we’re on “European” time). We start our entire nighttime routine on the later side, especially during the summer months, with dinner starting as late as 9:30p.

For some reason, we just can’t seem to get it together before then.

Dinnertime itself isn’t always tranquil or pleasant. In my fantasies, it’s filled with charming dinner conversation over a savory, herb-infused roast chicken, which I start baking from scratch early in the afternoon. There’s an exchange of everyone’s days, with each boy eating every morsel of food with vigor. We eat with matching flatware and without a rainbow of ugly plastic sippy cups lining the table.

And then I wake up.

In reality, our dinnertime usually consists of a battle of the wills and lots of enforcing of food-eating because usually (with the exception of the baby), there is plenty of it that’s unwanted, that’s met with scrunched up faces, turned up noses, or outright disdain. The children are such messy eaters and the aftermath is so appalling, I’ve often contemplated buying a large trough and lining them up, farm-style.

If I’m lucky, I’m usually picking at my food from a bowl at the kitchen counter, in between repeating, ad infinitum, a string of commands that even I get tired of hearing every night:

“Eat your dinner. You can’t do (fill in the blank) until you eat your dinner. Please, eat your dinner. Get back to that table and finish your dinner.

Our boys are for the most part sweet, loving and well behaved, but sometimes they’re not. I find it difficult and challenging when they’re not.  Of course, I don’t expect my children to be perfect, but I do expect a few things: participation in family duties (age-appropriate, of course), some manners, respect for one another, compassion, empathy, responsibility for their space and for themselves (this mostly applies to the oldest who is responsible for showering and brushing his own teeth, wiping up counters, putting his dirty clothes in the hamper, setting the table, cleaning up toys and making his bed). The “babies” are less self-sufficient of course, but we’re slowly working on that with the almost three-year-old.

All this is to say, when getting a glimpse of other families’ lives through social media, many times they look so dreamy and charming and effortless. I see perfectly decorated homes and I wonder where the stains on the sofa are, where the toys are scattered, where the sticky fingerprints on the walls are – or worse, all out toddler wall murals (like a few of ours are covered in). I see stylish moms who look so together. Where’s the frustration? Where’s the repetition of commands? Where’s the exhaustion? Most importantly, where do they find the time? The energy? And how in the heck do they keep their houses so clean while wrangling small children?

How do these moms find the time to make complicated homemade meals from scratch each night with vegetables lovingly grown in organic backyard gardens, while I find it difficult to get five meals on the table at the same time, let alone all sit down together peacefully without someone complaining about what’s on their plate and me having to coax them into eating it.

“Just four more bites, okay just three more bites. Fine, two more bites and you can get up from that table.”

I once read a blogger’s description of her family’s pre-dinner routine, which she illustrated through photos. It involved a sun-dappled living room with squeaky-clean floors, complete with kids quietly painting alone while daddy plucked a quaint little song on the piano for the family. I didn’t see any signs of chaos whatsoever. I thought to myself: “This looks nothing like my evening.” How is it that I can have such an opposite nighttime scenario and how do I get it to look more like hers?”

I really don’t know the answers. My kids are still young and they’re not robots. They’re loud and rambunctious and wild and untamed. I can’t foresee serenity until they’re a little older. Maybe?

I can only hope.

It’s hard not to feel completely inadequate when someone else’s life looks so charmed and idyllic through social media. Where homes look like they’re straight out of Domino magazine or Elle Décor and — and although I aspire to have a comfortable, well-designed interior – for now, mine still ends up looking like a hodgepodge of hand-me-down furniture ruined by toddlers, with food and dog hair on the rugs thrown in for good measure. It’s true, we really can’t have anything nice in our home. The boys just destroy it.

In our house we’re messy, we’re loud, there’s chaos, there’s exhaustion, there’s whining, there’s frustration. But there’s also a lot of laughter, affection and love — even if it doesn’t come in the prettiest of packages.

Some days, I really wish I could be one of those moms. The ones who have it all together, all the time. Or the ones who seem to have it all together, some of the time. And other days, I’m okay with being “good enough.”

Sometimes good enough is okay too.

Or at least that’s what I like to tell myself.

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10 responses »

  1. I love this! Chaos rules supreme at our house too. I find that getting the kids involved like setting the table, getting cups then selecting their plate from the counter where I have dished the food, helps us get to the table about the same time. Even the baby gets involved. He brings napkins and throw them on the table. (food comes next – otherwise its messy) Not sure how anyone does it alone, like your other blogger. Around here, its definately a group effort! Or else I would never get it done!

    • Hi! I take comfort in knowing I’m not alone on the chaos front. Your tip for enlisting all the boys’ help at dinnertime is great. I need to try to put that into action in our house! Although, something tells me the 2yo would end up making a bigger mess in the end. 😉

  2. Nice post. Dinner time is always chaotic in my house too, and I’m not a great cook either. When I lived in CA I frequented the Trader Joe’s frozen aisle quite a bit! I wish they would build one here on the island. No one is perfect and it sounds like you are doing a good job to me. Sometimes you just have to embrace the chaos I think. 😉

    • Thanks @redpigeonleaves! Wise words indeed. I need to start embracing the chaos instead of pushing so hard against it. Quiet in our home is a thing of the past, I think. And yes — they need a TJ’s on the island! I think it’s a lifesaver for feeding hungry kids!

  3. Thank you for this honest post! I enjoy reading several blogs out there, but sometimes find myself comparing my house, baby, dog & whole life to those blogs that seem so perfect. Unjustified feelings of inadequacy start to creep into my thoughts & I kinda go crazy inside…good to know I am not alone! But then I talk sense into myself & remind myself that the internet is just a snippet of people’s lives. And, I am ok with the dog hair and unmade beds too, especially if it means I get more quality time with those that I love! A home that’s lived in is so much warmer and it is all about the genuine love you have for your family at the end of the day-not the perfectly picked up playroom or epic homemade dinners every night. Thanks for the reminder:)

    Hugs, Benicia

    • Hi Benicia! Thanks for visiting! I’m glad you could relate to my post. You have some excellent insight too. You’re right, I think it’s always good to be mindful of the fact (as you mentioned) that the internet shows only a “snippet” of people’s lives and usually that snippet is often curated to portray an image people *want* others to see, not the entire picture. I think people guard their imperfections more closely online because the audience is so “public,” which sometimes gives an inaccurate illusion of perfection. But I also feel honesty is refreshing, especially for other mothers out there just trying do their best. And sometimes, just getting through the day with everyone in one piece is hard enough, not to mention getting dinner on the table too. 😉 With that said, this definitely isn’t a lifestyle or design blog!

  4. I found your blog by chance yesterday and when I read this particular post, it felt like an enormous weight was lifted off my shoulders. I live with fairly constant guilt about the way I mother my children, the state of my house, how much attention I pay my husband, etc. I can’t begin to tell you how much I needed the words in this post. Thank you for inadvertently reaching out and letting a complete stranger know that it’s ok. Everything’s ok.

    • So happy you found my post and enjoyed it.

      And it really is *okay.* 😉 I think a lot of us moms struggle with guilt that we’re never doing things well enough. And chances are, we’re all doing just fine. I don’t think it has to be done perfectly for it to be just fine. 🙂

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