Not so long ago I heard from a reader who was under some misconceptions about me.
You see, social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and the “blogosphere” are designed to let people share a little of themselves with others.
Note that I said “a little” of themselves.
Because not even the most vain, narcissistic, selfie-obsessed person in the world really projects themselves in full before others. We give people snippets of our lives; brief, carefully edited glimpses into those things we find most pleasant and attractive and flattering about ourselves.
Which is good! I mean, who really wants to see the worst of me all the time?
But then when you decide in your online presence to focus on the positive in your life, people will then criticize you for projecting a false image of yourself.
I mean, aren’t there a lot of areas in our lives where we’re not necessarily REAL at all times? We expect people to take showers in the morning and fix their hair and iron their clothes and look respectable. Isn’t that projecting a false image, especially considering we don’t wake up in the mornings looking like that?
And when people throw out the standard American greeting of, “Hi! How are you?”, how do we usually respond? We may have a splitting headache and an ingrown toenail and our cat may have just been run over by the neighbor’s pickup, but with everyone except perhaps our very closest friends we’re likely to force a smile and respond with, “I’m good. And you?”
Because it’s not about being absolutely totally completely forthright in everything — it’s about being uplifting. And polite. And encouraging. And shoving my every fault and failing and trouble and heartbreak and struggle in your face isn’t any of those things, especially when YOU have faults and failings and troubles and heartbreaks of your own!
Listen, I recognize the selective sharing that goes on online may sometimes lead less discerning people to draw some wrong conclusions. Those who may not be as adept at reading between the lines may very well look at my blog or my personal Facebook page and be led to think I have the perfect life. The perfect marriage. Perfect kids. A perfect home. A perfect homeschool. Perfect faith. Perfect happiness.
And then they shoot me an email telling me how much they regret their own past decisions, how unhappy they are with where life has taken them, and how they wish they had my perfect existence.
And I sigh.
Because they have no idea.
Now I have every intention of continuing to focus on the GOOD in my online presence, but maybe it’s not so bad a thing to throw out some reality on occasion! Now don’t worry — I’m not going to show you pictures of the wart on my finger, (aren’t you thankful?), nor am I going to “cyber bleed” until you blush at my honesty, but if you’re looking for some confessions from a totally imperfect wife and mom, here are just a few:
Confession #1: Highly social situations make me want to cry. Or vomit.
I am not shy and I don’t have a problem talking to or even in front of people, but that doesn’t mean I’m not also very introverted by nature.
Crowds where I know I am expected to mingle and be chatty are so awkward for me, and sometimes I get so nervous I want to vomit. If I was of a weaker stomach, I would do it. OFTEN.
I just prefer the security and peace and quiet of my home and family, and though I can push through my introversion to be very social when necessary, I also spend the entire time feeling like I’m either A.) being obnoxiously FAKE because deep-down I’d rather be at home in my pajamas reading a book, or else I’m B.) making an idiot of myself by chatting endlessly because I’m. So. Nervous.
Confession #2: We outgrew our house at least 5 years ago. And it shows.
Hey, I am thankful for what we have. We have a beautiful little home that I believe with all my heart was a gift from God.
But it’s small. And we’ve been here 10 years and we’ve added two children since we moved in. And I feel like our family of 6 is oozing out of this little place in every direction.
Which means it’s a mess much of the time. I mean, we keep it clean and try to keep it picked up as much as possible, but there are way too many people and way too much STUFF trying to coexist in this house. And it shows.
Confession #3: I use trick photography.
Okay, not really. But you do realize the personal photos I post on my blog or on other social media are not exactly true-to-life, right? They’ve been edited, or at least very carefully angled and cropped.
Sometimes I have to shove a pile of toys aside to get a decent photo of something on my couch. A few times I’ve emptied one little section of my counter top so I can post pics from a kitchen that appears to be clean. Sometimes I go to take a picture of the latest school project and suddenly realize child #3 is in the same mustard-stained shirt he had on yesterday, (the same one he slept in,) and things are put on hold while I send him off to find a different shirt.
I try to hide the less-flattering things, you see. And since I mentioned the kitchen…
Confession #4: I sometimes go to bed with a pile of dirty dishes in my sink. And I don’t feel guilty for it.
Now I only bring this up because I’ve read after a few of the get-your-life-in-order gurus who insisted going to bed with an empty sink was somehow the key to changing the rest of your life.
That’s a bunch of hooey.
A clean sink is a clean sink. That’s it. And if I don’t feel like washing all the dishes after supper, I don’t have to do it. Sometimes in the evening I’m tired and I decide I’d rather deal with it the next day and I’m pretty sure that isn’t going to ruin my life.
My family doesn’t care and not one dish has every complained to me.
Confession #5: I really do hide from my kids to eat chocolate so I won’t have to share.
I’m eating a Trader Joe’s milk chocolate and caramel bar right now. Well, I’m eating half of it right now because I ate the other half yesterday. You see, I think calories have more time to evaporate from chocolate if you eat them over a longer period of time.
But anyway I’m eating chocolate. And my kids have no idea. And I don’t feel bad about it.
Confession #6: Sometimes I struggle with depression.
How’s that for a confession from a seemingly perfect Christian mom?
Honestly, this whole issue needs a post all its own at some point, but let it suffice for now to say that, while I would never consider my depression to be chronic, it is nonetheless REAL.
Sometimes, often for reasons I can’t fully understand, I deal with bouts of depression. It’s interesting because I’m a remarkably positive person overall. And I try to be diligent about maintaining a thankful heart. And I am wholly, trustingly, devoutly Christian.
But sometimes something happens which I can’t explain. John Pollock described the apostle Paul as a man with a “tendency to melancholy,” and I latched on to that term when I read it and I have used it to describe myself ever since. But I’m not talking about mere negativity or grumpiness or a brief hormonal downer. This goes far deeper than that and I recognize it now only because of the horrible postpartum issues I experienced after the birth of my fourth child.
I had no idea what depression was until that happened to me. And it was awful. And it forever changed my perspective upon depression as a disease and on the importance of understanding it and finding healthy treatment.
And so I try to be more proactive in dealing with it now. And for the most part I am successful.
Confession #7: I have shelves I haven’t dusted in probably two years.
I mean, they’re high ones, like nobody-can-reach-up-there-without-a-chair high, so it’s not like anybody would notice or anything. And at this point why would I want to disturb the dust? It’s like this indelible mark of the passage of time, you know? Why spoil that?
I have open spaces above my kitchen cabinets, too, where I display lovely china plates and pip berry garlands. Do you know how long it’s been since I cleaned up there?
Yeah, I don’t know either.
If it bothers you, feel free to come and take care of that for me one day while I’m homeschooling.
Confession #8: I’ve given up on folding clothes. (More or less.)
Having a laundry schedule has done a lot to help me stay on top of the laundry beast in our home. As long as I follow my schedule, the clothes get washed.
Washed, but not folded. I’ve given up on that part. I mean, I fold clothes, but I no longer obsess over getting everything folded and put into drawers the way I used to. If it happens, hooray! If it doesn’t, oh well.
Folding laundry just takes a lot of time, even with my kids’ help, and most of the time it ends up not looking any better or being any easier to find in the drawers than it did in the clean laundry basket!
Sooo…..why not just leave it in the basket? Why didn’t I think of this years ago?
Confession #9: Sometimes I find myself annoyed at my dyslexic because she doesn’t learn like me.
So there goes my Homeschooling Mother of the Year nomination.
Believe me, if there’s anything in the world that makes me feel like a wretched mother, it’s this. I’m a devoted homeschooling advocate and I encourage moms all the time to treat each child as an individual, to understand that each one will learn differently and progress at a different rate.
And yet again and again I find myself wanting my daughter to learn just like me.
It would just make it easier, you know? Easier for me. I want this homeschooling thing to be a breeze and when it’s not, well, I get frustrated.
But I wouldn’t trade my daughter, and I wouldn’t even trade the things I’ve learned from her dyslexia, for anything in the world. Sometimes I just have to stop and take a deep breath and remember again all the challenges she has already overcome and how successful we have been with slow, steady, calculated work.
Confession #10: I hated teaching my children to read.
Does that disqualify me from being considered a good homeschooling mom?
Listen, there are 100 things about homeschooling that I have loved and fully, thoroughly enjoyed, but teaching my kids to read was NOT one of them. My oldest learned in a Christian school, but even my minimal efforts to help her at home left me completely exhausted. Teaching my dyslexic to read was about a 5-year process that STILL makes me tired just to think about. In the midst of that challenge I had to start teaching two boys to read very much against their will. The first is finally a fantastic reader. The second we’re still working on.
Anyway, teaching my children to read has never been the seamless, beautiful experience I always thought it would be, and so I haven’t enjoyed it like other moms.
Sorry about that.
Confession #11: Sometimes I eat potato chips and cookies. And stuff from McDonalds. And occasionally I have a Coke. And sometimes I even (GASP) feed these things to my children.
Listen, I try to make healthy choices for myself and for my family. And we’ve made some remarkable strides in the last few years, so that I can tell you without question we are eating far healthier and more naturally than we did, say, 5 years ago.
But sometimes life gets busy and convenience becomes more important. Sometimes I start craving a Coke and I let myself have one. And sometimes my kids just want a cookie and I can’t think of a good enough reason to say no.
LIVING on that stuff is one thing; having it occasionally is quite another, and I don’t beat myself up over it. I would love to be Mrs. Super Healthy Mom, but it’s not always practical in the real world. At least not in my real world.
Life is hard. That fact doesn’t escape any of us, no matter our backgrounds or personalities or even our decisions. Remembering that it’s true for everyone can help keep the things you see and read online in a proper perspective. Real life isn’t always uplifting or polite or encouraging. And those are things I want to be. So please forgive me for hiding away the rest of my not-so-perfect existence.