All my life, I’ve struggled with an unending quest for perfection. As a child and teen, I wanted everything to look perfect, I needed to be perfect, and suffered mightily each time I didn’t achieve said perfection. This lasted into my mid-twenties, at which point, I decided I would happily settle for having the “perception of perfection”. As long as it appeared to the world that I had it together, that the world would never see my naked face or grubby clothes, my kids would never be a mess, visitors would always find a clean house (or living area, at least!), I would get everything done on time with apparent ease – I could live with that. I had seen and knew people who certainly seemed to have this perceived perfection, so darn it, I could too!
Well, since having children, I have finally come to accept that it just ain’t going to happen. Much as it kills me, my children are actual people – can you imagine! Once past babyhood, the boys only want to wear clothes with their favorite cartoon characters on them, and they’re in “play” condition almost the moment the tags come off. I finally have a little girl, and – wouldn’t you know it – her hair absolutely refuses to stay brushed! And now she loves to wear these crazy combinations of clothes. But I simply cannot expend the time and effort to keep them looking and acting in a way that meets my personal expectations – nor is that fair to them. My house (and life, to be completely honest) are what I call “controlled chaos”. I try my best to keep us functional and limit the uncontrolled chaos until I can take care of it.
This school year, I’ve struggled even more. It must be the addition of a 4th child (who loves me so much she can’t stand to be separated for even a moment), plus having a baby with others in school (new to me, and wow! it’s difficult!), but I am just so barely able to keep up these days, therefore apparently unable to hide that fact from the general public. In my quiet moments, I have this dream of people’s perception of me. The one where I serenely walk down the school sidewalk with my 4 kids and the other moms say, “Wow! She has 4 kids! With all she does? I never would have thought!” The reality is this: I am frequently excused for my a) lateness, b) unpreparedness/forgetfulness, c) untidyness (home and/or personal), d) everything else, with some variation of: “Hey, you’ve got 4 kids. It’s OK.”
I don’t want it to be OK. I don’t want people to lower the standards for me and my constant insanity. I want to rise to the occasion, not continually just “make do”. What makes it worse is that I know it’s possible. I personally know women with multiple children whose hair and clothes are always tidy, fashionable and clean; their homes are always organized and tidy, even when I drop by unannounced; and they never appear frazzled and crazy or lose their cool in public. But here I am. I do have 4 kids. I am so busy and time-crunched and frazzled that I’m amazed I manage to function at all some days. So now I will stand tall, mismatched, messy-haired kids yelling, laughing and fighting around me, dirty-kneed baby clinging to my hip, with who-knows-what spilling from my (*sob*) filthy minivan, and say, “Yes. I am that mom.”