Apples, Oranges, Bananas

Photo by Ambro at www.freedigitalphotos.net

Have you ever felt like everyone else was comparing apples with oranges and you don’t even fit in the round fruit category? Perhaps you’re a banana?

When I had been married for just a few years, my husband and I bought our first home. We moved into a lovely little neighborhood where it felt like everyone was the same age as us. The women around me were starting their families and were all perfect homemakers. They had a quilt club, embroidered darling wall hangings and pillows, were chefs in their own right, made handmade cards and scrapbooks, and decorated their homes so tastefully. I was thrilled. I had always wanted to be a ‘Domestic Diva’!

I joined their quilt club. I started a card club. I copied all their recipes and painted every room in my house. I read the books for book club. I went to the play groups. I made sure I fit in perfectly.

Over time, I couldn’t keep up. I made the quilt blocks, but the quilts never got made. I copied the embroidery pattern, but never had the desire to stitch. I had boxes of paper, but lost the drive to make anything with it. I had a closet which came to be known as my UPC (unfinished project closet). I felt guilty that I didn’t measure up and even felt like I’d let my friends down. I looked at these amazing women and wondered how they could do it all?

Eventually we moved across the country. (Yes, the UPC came too.) One day I was talking to a friend who enlightened me with a beautiful new understanding. We discussed how when we compare ourselves to others strengths, we’re usually not comparing ourselves to just one woman. We take the collective good of all the women we know, embody it into one person and then expect ourselves to measure up. We expect ourselves to be the whole fruit basket.

I shamefully looked back at this ‘Domestic Diva’ I was trying to be. While I was spending hours on my sewing machine, my babies were getting sick of the same toys on the floor. Their fussiness only added to my frustration and I frequently lost my temper. When I was staying up all night to cut paper and design cards, I was sleeping in the next morning, only to be aggravated when I was awoken by little guys who needed some breakfast. I was carrying guilt for the hours of T.V. they were watching, while I was diligently devouring the next book on the club list.

When I piled up all these collective qualities and tried to be great at every one of them, it only caused stress for me and my whole family. This is not to say that these talents or skills are not good. They are all wonderful, and add so much to the beauty of a home.  But, I was trying to accomplish them all at once.

Suddenly, I realized that ‘homemaker’ and ‘mother’ are not synonymous terms.  You can be a fabulous mother without having a June Cleaver home.

A burden was lifted as I realized that I don’t need to be everything. I discovered I only needed a change of focus. I needed to stop pretending to be something I wasn’t, decide what I did and didn’t like to do, and then balance it with my family’s needs.

Photo by jking89 at www.flickr.com

It was time for some introspection.  What was I good at? I quickly realized I am not a ‘Domestic Diva’, but I do love to teach my kids. I’m good at ‘table time’. This is where I sit down with my boys at our little round, blue table and we learn. We do patterns and multiplication with cereal or jelly beans, count dice while we play Yahtzee, spell with magnetic letters, or do a SUDOKU puzzle. I can throw a bang-a-rang ninja birthday party! I love to snuggle and read books with my kiddos. These are things I can be good at, even if I can’t keep a clean and beautifully decorated house.

It’s okay if I’m not my friend down the street who makes the fabulous fresh bread. I have a neighbor whose children are involved in many sports and she makes it to every game. That’s not me.

One of my friends has the patience of Job. I don’t think she has ever raised her voice with her children in her life. I assure you that is not me either. It would be awesome to be my friend who takes her kids on ‘adventures’, but we call it ‘going to the store’.

I know moms who are wonderful about getting down on the floor and playing, wrestling, or being silly. I see mothers who work and still sacrifice time to take their kids to art classes or soccer clubs. Mothers all around me have great relationships with their teenagers, or give up their future dreams to raise a grandchild.

There are a myriad of qualities that make up the fruit basket. I’ve come to the conclusion that there are so many yummy fruits out there, and each has a unique taste. Although we may be born a certain type of mother, we can always learn from the other mothers around us. Ultimately, we need to take what we are, embrace it, and share the flavor with those we love.

QUESTION: Which fruit are you? What qualities do you have that make you different from other mothers? Are there things you’re trying to do that are just not “you”? Are they making you a better person, or would you be better off letting them go for now?

CHALLENGE: If you’re trying to be too much or something you’re not, identify what you can let go of. Make a list of the mothering strengths you have and think about how you can use those strengths to make your family better.

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Comments

  1. Stephanie says

    This is such a great article and it really hits home for me! I strive to do everything and wind up getting nothing done. I run this self-induced rat race in an attempt to live up to that imaginary mom you described. I, too, carry guilt for the consequences that has had on my parenting and energy. Thank you for these real words that I plan to really let sink in… I have been looking for a way to let go of my need for perfection. I think I’m getting there :)

  2. cheryl says

    Great perspective! Our kids were given to us because we are the perfect Mother for them..not the Mom down the street but US! I am a UPC’er as well but I finally threw them all away…so liberating!

  3. says

    Oh, I can so relate Elsje! I think for me, growing up without having any real identity of my own made it worse. I wanted to do everything that other women were doing – not only in crafts, but in being a wife and mother as well. It’s hard when you think your house always has to look perfect and kids and husband have to be looking like “Little House on the Prairie” or other such ‘perfect’ TV family.

    It was a hard reality for me that none of this is realistic. I have a lived-in home and it looks it especially with two dogs (one of which is a big Old English Mastiff). And I have learned to not care if my house isn’t in perfect array all the time. I thought I’d love getting into quilting, but that so didn’t fit in with my lifestyle, or patience for that matter. I discovered that I’m an ‘instant results’ girl. I have to make stuff in a day, or forget it. There was one time I crocheted a full size blanket and that was brutal for me – I did finish it (after about 3 months) and I haven’t cared to do it again. Maybe I will one day again when the kids are grown and moved out. My passion is writing and scrapbooking and making cards. When it comes to being a wife and mom – I stopped comparing myself to other women – it was just too exhausting. I chose to be just be ‘me’ being the best mom and wife that ‘me’ can be, and let’s face it – even that can be a challenge all on its own without having another woman set the standard for me.

    Life is too short to be someone else. Above all else, I choose to love my family – another thing that’s not always easy when the stresses of life invade one’s atmosphere. To love and love well – this is the primary thing … all else is a bonus really.

    I choose to ‘just breathe.’

  4. Mary Jenkins says

    Elsje, this is great! I can absolutely relate to this. I lived in a very similar neighborhood and I always felt like I didn’t match up to all these amazing women I was surrounded by. It took a while but I finally realized that I was comparing my worst with their best. Everyone in my old neighborhood loved to run and I hate running with a passion. I do it if it’s my goal for a race or something, but just running for fun? No thanks. I joined their running group, bought a jogging stroller, and forced myself to go out everyday for a few weeks to run. I was so miserable and did not enjoy it at all, and quite honestly wasn’t very good at it either. After a great talk with my husband I realized I don’t have to be that person. I can be good at something else, something I actually enjoy, and I can let my friends be the runners. And that’s ok.

  5. ziff130 says

    This is great! Today, I’m struggling with the fact that I cannot have biological children and cannot adopt again until we move into a larger home which means selling this one. Meanwhile, this morning, my SIXTH friend called me to inform me of her pregnancy. *sigh* I’m a banana and need to look at other things I can do as a mother. Birthing them is not everything and I really need to remember that. Thank you for this article.

  6. Dawn Wessman says

    What a great article- really got me thinking! Thank you for sharing your experiences. Sometimes I get really caught up in what I perceive I “should” be doing as a mother, instead of thinking of my unique family situation and needs. Then I get discouraged, burned out and feel like I’m going really fast…in place. I’m excited to learn from your example of table time- what a great talent and idea.

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