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Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Perfectionism and Keeping It Real

This post is inspired by Shannon's new blog focus. It can be all too easy to give a false impression on a blog that your life is perfect and nothing ever goes wrong. It is quite natural to want to present oneself in the best possible light but in doing so, we risk perpetuating the myth of superwoman and deceiving others.

This is a picture of what our living room currently looks like:


I could explain the reasons for each bit of mess but that would be giving in to perfectionism. Mess means I have been blessed with a family to look after. Of course I intend to get it tidied up but I won't pretend it doesn't happen or that it is always dealt with straight away.

Today I made some bread. (Well I made it yesterday and baked it today.) For some reason I decided to test what would happen if I didn't grease and flour the baking tins first. I have learned from my mistake as this was the result:
My first reaction was, "Oh no! how on earth are we going to be able to use this sliced for sandwiches. This loaf is totally useless." But then I remembered how nice buttered chunks of freshly baked bread are so I took some of the random lumps and buttered them for myself and Little Girl:
It was delicious and I'm convinced that randomly shaped lumps of bread taste nicer than proper neat slices.

It can be easy to read about what other women get done in a day and think, "How come I can't get those things done in a day?" It is important however to remember that nobody does everything. Yes you can always make time for something if you think it is important enough but you have to prioritise as you can't do everything. We all have different talents and different limitations and it is important to accept this. Here are some of things I do and don't do:

I do cook almost all of our food from scratch most of the time. (This is probably the part of home keeping I consistently spend the most time on because I think it is important from a health point of view.) I don't however cook every day - I cook more than enough so I can just reheat on some days. I also freeze portions so that on the days when I just don't feel up to cooking, I have homemade readymeals in the freezer. When we are having company I often cheat and use the food processor to chop the vegetables. I don't grind my own wheat because it is too time consuming and noisy to do it using a coffee mill.

I do exercise but I am not always consistent. I was doing cycling for a while but this is not practical in bad weather because I take Little Girl on the back of my bike. I have bought some exercise videos but I have not got into them as I don't seem to have the coordination required to keep up with the moves.

I rarely go grocery shopping (unless you count popping to the local shop for one or two things which I usually do more because Little Girl enjoys it than because it is necessary). We get fruit, veg and milk delivered weekly from a local farm and I do online shopping from the supermarket every two or three months.

I did attempt to grow some token vegetables this year but they have failed/been decimated by snails.

I don't take Little Girl out to playgroups and such like every day. I do breastfeed, use cloth nappies and do elimination communication. I also make sure we spend time playing together every day.

I don't do the laundry by hand. I did this for a couple of months but even with my husband helping, wringing out the clothes was too much so we ended up buying a washer.

I do try to keep my house clean and organised but I can accept lower standards than I would like. When I was pregnant I was too ill to do anything (seriously - my husband even had to wash my hair for me) which resulted in a serious decline in the state of the house. This was very frustrating as I would be sitting around looking at things I wanted to put away or floors I wanted to vacuum but unable to do anything about it. I can see number of benefits from that time of illness and one of them is that it has made me able to accept not being able to keep things to the standard I would like which is something I would have found very hard without that experience.

I like to sew. I bought a sewing machine and have had all sorts of grand plans about making clothes but I have yet to make anything since my wedding dress three years ago.

I am prone to leaving things on the hob or in the oven and forgetting about them. (I really ought to buy a kitchen timer!)

When I read about all things other people get done which I don't, whilst it can inspire me to try to achieve more, I try to always remember that for everything they do which I don't, there is probably something which they don't do which I do.

If you have not already read it, I recommend this article at Ladies Against Feminism.


Heather said...

Great post!

I try to always be honest on my blog. If I'm posting pictures of a neat, clean room, I always point out that it was a total disaster before, and I only cleaned it up for the photo!

I agree with you that some people seem to enjoy giving the impression that they're perfect, so that they can look down on others. I think you probably know who I'm referring to.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, that has to be the quickest comment I've ever had - you must have been online when I posted. The "real"ness of your blog is one of the reasons I particularly like it.

Anonymous said...

I like this post. I've been thinking about doing a post on this subject but just haven't gotten to it.

Lately I've been slacking on things and am trying to catch up this week.

This reminds me I have a sink full of dishes that need done.

Crystal Richey

Anonymous said...

Great Post!! It is so easy to be caught in to thinking we need to be perfect and be achiving huge to do lists since we are at home so whatelse do we have to do!! Thank you for the reminder that we don't need to be perfect!!! I am learning in the final stage of preganacy that there are things I just need to let go and sometimes it is better to have a rest than push myself!

Anonymous said...

I don't do the laundry by hand. I did this for a couple of months but even with my husband helping, wringing out the clothes was too much so we ended up buying a washer.

This one puzzled me. I don’t understand how doing laundry by hand can be perfectionist. I find the machine does it better, quicker, and with less hot water, soap and faffing about.

Since we are called to be good stewards, as well as keepers of the home, using a washing machine is a no-brainer to me, since it costs less to heat the water, and frees up my time to do something else.

Much like my new dishwasher. I hate washing dishes by hand, so I recently bought a small, table-top dishwasher, and honestly, it’s changed my life. Suddenly I have free time in the evenings that isn’t spent in the kitchen, and I’ve started eating breakfast and taking my lunch to work instead of buying it in one of the local sandwich places. I reckon that in terms of the savings alone from me taking lunch to work, never mind the savings from the fact it uses less hot water than I do to wash up, it will have paid for itself within six months.

Anonymous said...

Rosumundi - I wasn't trying to say that one was better than the other (although I can see that it could have sounded that way). The point was more to do with how much I am able to acheive in a day. If you do a search on my blog for "washing machine", you'll be able to find my posts about when we didn't have a washing machine. Ours broke and I wanted to see whether we could manage without one but in the end we decided it was better to have one so we bought a new one.

Toni said...

I know exactly what you mean susan. I`m always very honest on my blog. Imperfection is a blessing because we are reminded of the need for God`s grace to help us become better:) Your bread looks so yummy:) I might just make some whole wheat bread today:) Blessings!!

Anonymous said...

Ah, I see - thank you for clarifying.

Shannon said...

Hello! Thanks for mentioning my blog- I just saw that!
The more honest to goodness real life homemakers we have out here in cyberspace, the fewer young fledgling wives and mamas will be duped into following an impossible standard of perfection and feel themselves failures. Good post.

I am SO jealous that you have groceries delivered!!! I wish I could do that. I do 2 weeks worth of shopping every payday and it takes a long time and is exhausting, but I did find that by shopping every 2 weeks instead of weekly, I spent about $100 less! I also try never to take the kids shopping with me- it just makes it worse. They stay home with daddy while I shop. But grocery shopping online? That would be heaven!

BTW...what is a "hob"? I just love British lingo, but I don't think I've heard that one.

Anonymous said...

The hob is the top of the cooker - where you put the pans.

true blessings said...

you want real, I got real! lol I dARE you TO LOOK at my before and after pics !!!

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