For most of my life I wanted perfect.
When the girls were little Martha Stewart was my hero. I don’t even think seeing her in an orange prison jumper distorted my love of the perfect life that she portrayed. I’d ponder the cookbooks and work to try to make my desserts and cookies perfect. They flopped. Most of the time.
And as time went on it progressed. New heroes to follow. Blogs. The Pioneer Woman (what it is about cooking?). Pinterest. Maybe that’s why I love the Pinterest fails because they give me hope that perhaps I’m not as much of a failure of perfection than I really might be. I mean, I can’t even make cake balls. And isn’t that just smashed and rolled cake?
I got really good at hiding it. I know exactly the angles to take pictures from. I’ve been known to make my kids smile again and again to get just the right angle or expression. I know what filter to use or how to use that airbrush tool to erase that not in the convenient time I’m too old for this zit from my face. I know the right answers when someone asks how I’m doing and I know when to avoid and redirect the conversation if it’s getting too personal.
I perfected the mask. The mask of motherhood and life.
I didn’t want the world to see me.
The real me. The one who got super frustrated making Christmas cookies after batch two because it got really really tedious. The one who didn’t care too much for glitter or sprinkles or anything messy because instead of seeing the most awesome craft ever I’d just see the most unbelievable mess ever. The me who would joke about Mount Washmore and restarting the laundry again if it was left because I seemed to always be behind.
I kind of felt shame about it. I kind of felt that maybe I was the only mom sitting in her house skipping the long paragraphs in the bedtime story. Or taking the long way home just because she needed a moment more of quiet. Or not answering emails because I just couldn’t handle doing one more thing (to all of you – I’m sorry). I told myself I was overwhelmed. I convinced myself that a new storage container or shelf or room redo would solve the issue. I thought I could change things up or stay perpetually busy and then, then I’d be able to breathe.
It’s really hard to breathe when you’re clinging to a mask.
I learned that when I had to drop the facades of life.
When you’re face to face with yourself there’s no time to hold up the mask.
I’m not really good at letting people see the real me yet. I still find myself apologizing when I meet people if I feel not put together. I still make excuses for the state of my house if it isn’t Pottery Barn perfect if someone drops by. But I’m getting better. I used to think it was this magic switch I could flip in my mind and I wouldn’t care about measuring up or having everything together. And then I began to learn. Maybe it was having everything fall apart. Maybe it was in going through the Konmari method and getting rid of 75% of everything I own. Hahaha. I think that might be part of it. Do you know why?
I hid behind the busy.
When there was another project, another thing to sort, another thing to do – well then I could be busy and ignore the mask. And in ignoring the mask, the facade, I forgot about me, the girl, the mom, the woman behind it. I added more and more to my plate hoping that if I looked good no one would see that I was a bit broken. But do you want to know the truth?
Once I dropped it and once I began to admit that I’m kind of a wreck, well, then, in those moments I found freedom. And me. And I began to fight for me and for all of us who rationalize putting ourselves last.
So now, well now, now if you were to come visit me and if I apologize for the mess I’ll very quickly back it up with words about how that doesn’t really matter and please sit down and I’ll try to stop my mind from wishing I had it together. Because you know what? None of us have it together. We live. We have families. And in living comes spilled juice and half-eaten apples and Pinterest fails and laundry waiting and the dislike of glitter and still a whole bunch of love for our families. Hopefully some day I’ll just get to the point where I care less about me feeling like I look like I have it all together and more about just living.
Life is just too short to be stuck carrying a mask.
So if you’re wearing one and clinging to one right now I have words. First, I know how hard it is to stop worrying about keeping it together. I know how much worry there is in making sure that everything is right and the kids are just so and you’re not making mistakes. After all, none of us like to mess up. But messing up is part of life. When we mess up we learn and we become stronger and we gain empathy. So, I’m asking you to be brave and courageous and to peer at the you behind the mask of motherhood and life and to take that breath that just knows that you, you as you, are enough.
It was three years ago I wrote about why being a mom is enough. And over four millions views later I think we all know it. But, my friend, you are enough. Not because you have to be perfect. But because behind all the busy – even with all the insecurities and worries and anxieties – there is you. You a person who brings value to this world. A person with ideas and creativity and love for her family. You a person who is needed.
Your kids don’t care about the outside.
They just care about you.
Remember the cake balls? My kids don’t care if they are perfect.
They just loved that I made treats.
So that mask? I see it now. I’m aware. I sometimes fall into walking around with it. But I don’t live a slave to perfection anymore. I live. Hoping to do my best. Valuing my friends. Loving my kids.
Even if it looks crazy.
There’s no perfect, sweet friend. There is only real.
In chapter two of my book, “The Brave Art of Motherhood” I talk all about masks and hiding. To get your own copy (or to get copies for your book club) go here ->
The Brave Art of Motherhood
Oh God, thank you so much! You honestly made my eyes teary. As a mom and as a wife I perfectly know how difficult it is to make it all work and make it all perfect. It’s just so easy to know that we have all been there, it’s hard but we are doing it. Thank you so much for this post. I know I will come back and re-read it when times are hard.
As a single Mom of two boys, a teen and a tween, and a professional, I get so much from your blog! One of my masks is the makeup I insist on wearing all the time. I feel like if I look good then people will think I have it together. I DON’T have it together. I’m a wreck. The house is messy, I get grilled by the ex if my kids’ ears are dirty, and we don’t always eat the healthiest of foods. But we eat. And that’s an accomplishment. I’m busting my butt to get the kids ready for a three week camp, and spending a lot of my resources to do so. Luckily, we received scholarships to get them to camp. I’m hoping they have a life-changing experience. The past few days I’ve dropped that mask and expressed my stress to my parents and asked for help. Haven’t gotten much in return except criticism. Why is it that people feel like it’s okay to criticize someone working so hard?
Thanks for your blog. It keeps me going. ❤️
I am in tears as I read your post. It resembles my life . Thanks for the reminders.
Perfectionism is a real struggle for our society. I loved what you said, “there is no perfect, there is only real.” So true. I always find when I open up to people about my struggles–how I can’t ever seem to leave the house on time, how I’m always short with the kids when we are loading up (leaving the house seems to be a trigger for me), how I struggle to have my kids listen and follow my directions constantly, and how I had a postpartum breakdown that landed me in the hospital–it always seems to encourage others to realize their struggles are normal. I am all for trying to better myself and setting goals and sharing tips and tricks with friends to help each other. But we need to assure each other that we all have our struggles. No one is perfect.
Yes, no one is perfect. I think the hardest part is in dropping the mask even though we know that we all have our “flaws” and that’s what makes us real.
Yes, you are welcome.
I could have written this! Every.single.word. So thankful I was able to ditch the masks (a long and painful process) and just be the me my kids needed. They’re teens and young adults now and I never would have made it through their struggles if I were trying to also juggle that mask. Beauty and freedom in letting go.
Beautiful! My friend Sarah and I thank you.