better homes than yours · blogging · family fun · Keepin' it real · Kids · parenting · waxing philosophical

Day 94: Failure is important. Failure in public, even more so.

A few weeks ago, a friend messaged me after reading my blog and said something like, “Wow, you’re a supermom. Amazing. I can’t do any of that stuff!”

My response: “Yeah, well… I can’t hold down a full-time job. So there’s that.”

And then she asked me why I feel the need to downplay my talents.

We are living in the era of Pinterest, Instagram, and Facebook. Everybody posts photos of their dinner, their kids, their up-cycled furniture, and their Disney cruises (yes, P, I’m looking at you!). It’s easy to get the impression that those people’s lives are always picture-perfect and that they would never have an evening where they slammed a box of cereal down on the table while proclaiming, “Tonight’s dinner is Whatever the heck you want served with a side of Get it your own d**n self!”

There’s a meme that periodically makes the rounds: “Don’t compare your bloopers to someone else’s highlight reel,” it reminds us. A lovely sentiment, and yet we keep on comparing ourselves and feeling like our lives come up short somehow.

The thing is, we’re always going to compare ourselves to others. Some of us are more prone to it, but in the end we all do to some degree — it’s human nature. That’s why I feel the need to offer a disclaimer after people compliment something they saw on my blog. I would hate for someone to read my posts and then go away feeling that they weren’t good enough somehow. I live a charmed life for the most part, but I still have bad days, unkind thoughts, and huge gaps in my skill set. I wasn’t just deflecting when I responded to that friend; I truly am impressed by people who can work a full-time job with some measure of success and still come home and be a parent and a partner. I can’t get it together to manage that.

When I meet people and they ask me what I do, I usually tell them about my professional qualifications despite the fact that I haven’t practiced said profession in over 13 years. I used to very honestly say, “I’m a stay-at-home mom to four kids,” but that seemed to be a conversation killer, as if not pursuing a career means I’ve been lobotomized and have no interests outside of parenting. That’s my insecurity — it might not be anyone else’s. But I talk about it openly because I think it helps others to know that even people who come across publicly as “having it all together” fall apart sometimes.

In the spirit of keeping it real, I’ll tell you what tonight’s post was going to be about.

We had a lovely evening: dinner outside followed by K teaching E tricks on the trampoline. Then I announced that we would be making homemade ice cream — in a bag! We measured the ingredients and followed all the instructions. Then I froze my hands off throwing the bag of salted ice around alone (the girls thought I had said “back porch” when I thought they said “front porch” and even after fifteen minutes they didn’t think of checking the front to see if I was there.) When we finally removed the outer bag of ice and rinsed all the salt water away, the girls eagerly crowded around the sink to catch the first glimpse of our homemade strawberry ice cream. I opened the inner bag and there it was:

A strawberry milkshake.

The ice cream didn’t freeze. I don’t know why, but it was disappointingly liquid. There went my idea for a blog post about a beautiful evening with my children topped off by photogenic homemade treats. The only reason E agreed to go to bed was that I put the milkshake in the freezer and promised she could have ice cream for breakfast tomorrow.

I did take a picture for you, halfway through the process. I think it captures the mood quite nicely.

I scream, you scream, we all scream for… milkshake?

6 thoughts on “Day 94: Failure is important. Failure in public, even more so.

  1. What’s been really bothering me over the past week or so about this blog is not your security about parenting but the insecurity. All of these things that I just take in stride because they’re so commonplace I’ve been reading as you taking on as faults in you… like if my kid forgets to get something signed, that’s on them, not on me. If ice cream doesn’t freeze… so what? Maybe your friend’s comment has been weighing on you? None of these “problems” are a big deal at all (exception: concussion) and treating them as if they’re signs of “failure” or even imperfect parenting or homemaking is the opposite of reassuring for a reader! They’ve definitely been adding a little bit of anxiety to my mornings.

    1. Wow, really? Can I ask a follow-up question? Why does it add anxiety for you? Is it because if I see it as failure then you’re failing too? Perhaps I use the word “failure” too liberally? Please help me understand (if you can).
      For me, the insecurity is a daily companion. It’s more a statement about my mental health than anyone else’s performance as a parent.

      1. I’m generally pretty secure, and I don’t do a fraction of the stuff you do in terms of parenting/homemaking and I’m fine with that (my kids are great, so we must be doing something right). BUT, when you talk about all these things that I wouldn’t give a second thought as being a sign of you failing or being imperfect, it does cause a thought of, “what does that say about me?” kind of like when one’s skinniest friend complains how fat she is and one has to remember that one is a healthy weight and fine.

        I think the patriarchy does encourage women to downplay themselves when faced with a compliment. Instead of being, “I have to show my failures so other people don’t feel bad” when someone compliments your homemaking, why not just say thank you, and maybe compliment the other person in return for their successes? Comparing oneself to other people generally doesn’t lead to happiness anyway because someone out there is always going to be better at one thing or another.

        I generally don’t feel at all bad when I see other people’s highlights reels, and I think it’s great that they are proud of their accomplishments. I know there’s a subset of people on social media who do compare themselves negatively to other people, but rather than dragging others down, I think it’s much better to just not let their successes be a commentary on one’s own choices. We all have different preferences and different constraints, so we’re going to end up in different places. I can appreciate someone’s perfect bento box without actually wanting to make one or feeling like my kids are deprived from not having one. There’s plenty of awesome to go around.

        We have a bunch of posts on related topics about how the patriarchy screws with moms, but they’re like 5 or 10 years old from when my kids were younger and we came into contact with more moms who were being sold insecurity.

  2. Hi! New commenter here :). As someone who also has perfectionist tendencies, I think we need to throw “perfect” out the window and embrace other positive adjectives. Did your ice cream in a bag turn out perfect? No, but I bet throwing around that freezing bag to see what happens was *fun*. Is your house “perfect” in a house magazine sense? No, but it’s *awesome*! Those bookshelves! The colors! I love it!

    Also, if someone insinuates that being a SAHM to 4 kids means you have been lobotomized, well, that says more about them than you. There are *lots* of good ways to live your life. I have 3 kids and work part time. I think I could have a different good life with more money if I worked full time, but I have *this* good life where I work part-time. I could have a different good life if I was full-time SAH, and it would have different benefits and drawbacks.

    I think we (myself included) get so caught up on making the *right* choice, that we fail to see that there are so many flavors of *right*. Yes, there are obvious bad choices like… I dunno… just straight up abandoning one’s family, but within that there’s so much that’s not better or worse, just different.

    I’ve really enjoyed reading your blog because so much about your life is *different* from mine (I life in FL and am kind of terrified of power tools). So anyway, virtual ((hugs)). Keep it real 🙂

  3. How absolutely fabulous you set out to make ice cream that way, had your kids involved, and then as a family got a milkshake and as a family found a solution. THIS is such wonderful reality parenting and teaching about life. The number of perfect ice cream making outcomes versus milkshakes and solutions events that happen in the VAST majority of lives is absolutely lopsided in showing that solutions thinking, willingness to try new things and have unexpected outcomes, openness to laughter and joy in the unexpected …. well, lessons for lifetimes and generations.
    SO impressed.

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