Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Response to Pathetic and Overwhelmed

First off, I would like to thank you all, from the wet side of my underarms, for all of your helpful advice yesterday. I will take it all under advisement, study it out, then take the results to my lab for tests.

Yesterday, a dear friend of mine posted on her blog. You can read her entry here.

I know Jenn well, and I know she was truly looking for advice, not trolling for compliments about how wonderfully functional her life is. But it made me think about perception.

Someone once said that it's hard to know what's really going on in a ward because everybody comes to Church with their "Sunday face" on. When Brad mentioned that comment to his sister, whose husband is finishing up his second tour of duty, this time in Afghanistan, she replied, "You see my Sunday face every day."

This comment has stayed with me.

Recently, I was picking up one of my kids' friends to come play. Not to reveal any identities, but Mom of this house is very soft-spoken and patient and kind. In public. But the last few times I've come to the door to pick up her child, I've overheard her impatient voice and sour attitude. Shocking. Truly shocking. She's not like that all day every day at home? Wow. Never would have known.
Another example--Since I've spent the last six months serving as YW president, I've sat in on meetings where family discord and trouble are routinely discussed. You mean they have issues? Sometimes it surprises. Other times, the findings already fall within my preconceived boundaries.

I guess where I'm headed with all of this rambling is here:

We all try to put on our Sunday faces for people. Even our friends. Even our extended families.

We don't want anyone to know how often we yell at our kids.
We don't want anyone to know how infrequently we scrub the toilets.
We don't want anyone to know that we serve cereal or corn dogs to our families for dinner more often than not.
We don't want anyone to know how rough it is to get all the kids out the door to school in the morning.
We don't want anyone to see our houses in their normal state, apologizing and making up random, farfetched excuses when anyone witnesses its state of normalcy.
We don't want anyone to know how often we miss our daily scripture study or prayer or FHE.

We don't want anyone to think, ever, that we don't have it all together.


Is this just a Mormon woman thing?
Or have we watched way too many sitcoms and movies where "normal families" interact? Their house is clean, they love and enjoy their kids every moment, they have it going on.

Here's a little secret: No one has it as together as we think they do.
And we are doing better at life than we give ourselves credit for. Really.

I have lapses and foibles and struggles and flaws. I can get as obsessive and unhappy and miserable as the next gal.
The key is to keep this tool of Satan at bay whenever possible. Because that's what it is. He wants us to be miserable and inadequate and unhappy when it comes to taking care of our families. Strong families are one thing he cannot tolerate. He has to get at this premium demographic of women somehow. And this is an effective way to do it.

How to we keep his influence on our perceptions of ourselves and others at bay?

I don't have all the answers. But I find that when I recognize he's using that tool, then I come out more prepared to fight. That's just my feisty personality.

Sometimes, we just have to let things go and enjoy the moment. Does it really matter if the house is clean before school today, or does it matter that your child leaves home happy? Does it really matter if the sink is filled with dishes or does it matter that you spent the morning at the park with your little ones? Does it matter that you've finished everything on your to-do list or does it matter that you had time to spend as your family wrestling on the floor? Does it matter that all you've used to make dinner is items from your long-term food storage, or does it matter that dinner's on the table and that everyone is there? Maybe you don't think that perfect mom in your ward has to make this concessions, but I'm sure she does.

Sometimes you have to say no. I love to accompany the ward choir whenever I get the chance. And I hardly get to play the piano at all except for the 30 seconds it takes to de-sticky the keys for a practicing child. But I was asked to play for a special number in the Christmas program. "O Holy Night," my favorite of all carols. Of course I said I would. Later that night, when everybody left the rehearsal, I was holding Baby A (baby girl we had for a week in November), trying to figure out what to do for our YW Christmas lesson, balancing Christmas decorations in one hand and a baby bottle in the other. And it hit me. I just didn't have time to do the music. Between my family and my calling and the holidays, something had to be cut. So I emailed the director and politely told her no. I didn't think it was that big of a deal, but she emailed me back, asking permission to forward my email to her daughter, who "really needs to learn how to say no." If we aren't there in our children's lives, no one will be.

Sometimes you have to let yourself fail, and know that it's ok. We're all human, even if we are Mormon mothers. Even the Stripling Warriors' mothers made mistakes. I mean, they were reformed Lamanites! But they did their best, and raised the greatest battalion of soldiers in the scriptures. We won't see the fruits of our labors in scripture I would venture, but our children will rise up and call us blessed. They won't remember the stressed mornings and lack of vegetables at dinner and temper tantrums as much as they will remember the love they felt from their moms.

Epiphany #45--We all are imperfect and flayling around, but we're doing better than we think and do more than we ever give ourselves credit for.

Kudos to you all. You totally rock!


  1. This made me remember a comment you relayed to me some time ago...remember when you were told "I could never live in this ward, all the women are too perfect"? What is up with that, why do we look at everyone else and see success and at ourselves and notice every flaw in the universe? Maybe part of the answer is to start being willing to show our own flaws, and strip down our own weaknesses for others to see. Let me be the first one here (on the comment page) to do so...I am a competant, lazy, unmotivated dinners are uninspired and a little boring, but they get made 5 nights out of 7, and that's an accomplishment! I know you are right on target with this post, thanks again for keeping it real, even in the blogosphere! Jamie PS let me know when you deodorant thing figured out and we can have lunch...

  2. Very well said! Thanks for the time and thought you put into this. I do think too often "mormon" moms are extra hard on themselves because we have this false idea of perfection being needed. I for one say bah on that! I watched someone very close to me literally have a nervous breakdown in her life because she couldn't say no and was so sure she needed to be perfect and do too much. It's not worth it. As I always say when I teach lessons, or I'm just saying...all we can do is the best "we" can do. It doesn't matter what anyone eles does, everyone has different levels of ability. We can NOT get caught up in the idea of perfection, because we will NEVER achieve it. So, once you let that go and relax, you realize that you CAN get through life, just do "your" best, whatever that may be.

    By the way, got myself a prescription for a Z-pack, hoping to finally be rid of this for good!

  3. AMEN SISTER. i loved your post today. I for one have got to the point in my life where I would like to think I do not put on any false pretenses. Maybe I do but being a convert to the church I grew up with a different thought process. Being 10 out of 11 kids with my dad being a fireman space, money, and life in general was tight. My mom always kept her house clean i mean we dusted and vaccumed every day. She did not want people to look at our house and say they could tell 13 people lived there. We went on a family vacation every summer and my mom cooked everyday. Life can be tough but we all need to learn that it is tough for everyone. Thanks for the post Jenny.

  4. I love this post - I think we need to not only give ourselves a break, but give the women we know, barely know, see in the store a big break. You never know what is going on in someones life behind the "sunday mask" and I think we are all to ready to believe the media instead of reality!
    Love ya

  5. I really needed this today. Thank you, more than you can imagine, thank you.

  6. Jenny,
    thans so much fot this and also your comments on my blog. You are so wise and you made me feel so much better!

  7. I'm with you all the way, Jen. Women need to be more gentle with themselves. I think Michael Maclean even has a song about that...a very beautiful song, by the way.

    A nice side benefit of being more gentle with ourselves is that we will then have a full enough cup to be more gentle with others...