What you don't see, when we all march into church on Sunday morning, is the chaos of the morning that happened just 10 minutes earlier.
What you don't see, when you look at my four little boys in their suits, is that the 7-year-old is wearing Dad's socks because we couldn't find his. And they go all the way up to his knees.
What you don't see, when I pull out the lovely quiet book I made a few years back, is that below it, in my church bag, are five baggies of smashed raisins because I haven't cleaned out the bag for months.
When you enter my house, with its shining entryway, you don't see the three loads of laundry dumped on my bed. Or the dirty pots I stashed in the oven. And you will never see the interior of my minivan, not until I find the time to vacuum it out.
When you admire the hand-sewn pajamas I made for all the kids, we don't talk about the three nights I got no sleep to make those.
If you look on my blog, you will see pictures of homemade chicken noodle soup with homemade noodles. You won't see my confession to popping in a frozen pizza THREE times last week for dinner.
Or the night we ate Cheerios for dinner, dry, because we were out of milk. There is a zoom on my camera for a reason. There is a delete button for a reason.
I don't think we're all playing a part. We naturally want to put our best selves forward, so that is what other people see. They don't see what's going on behind the scenes. I like to think that good parenting is like a duck on the water. What you see is the gentle, almost effortless gliding, not the furious paddling that happens underneath.
I keep a mental list of about ten people I want to stalk by camera, from morning to night, to see how they do it all. Are they up at 4 a.m.? Can they survive on three hours of sleep? Do they have a housekeeper? Because I drop balls just as fast as I can grab them. My intentions are of pure gold, but they come out as tinkling brass, at best.
I started a blog last fall. I dragged my feet into it for many reasons. One of the main reasons I hesitated was I didn't want to be another contributor to the cyberspace guiltosphere out there. Especially where mothers are concerned, do we need one more reason to feel guilty?
Because from the looks of things, other families are happier, their houses are cleaner, their marriages are better, their clothes are more stylish and their craftiness is even more crafty. Their lives are perfectly lovely, while my kids are running around screaming in their diapers.
My worst fears were confirmed last week when I got an e-mail from a friend who asked, "How do you do it all? Your column, your blog, all the things you do with your children? You're amazing!"
I looked around at my house, at the six bins of winter clothes waiting to be transported to the garage, at the sewing projects stacked against the wall, at the state of the toothpaste crusted to the sink ... I let things go, a lot of things.
A spanking-clean house is not a high priority for me. I'm a big believer in mud and its importance in a child's life. The time I take to write is time away from scrubbing that bathroom sink. I would rather read with my kids than shop at the mall, so I am certainly not up-to-date on the latest styles. I've been listening to the same music for 20 years because I can't seem to keep up with the latest music scene. And I require a lot of sleep.
We all have priorities. For some, it is keeping a spotless house, and they are good at it. For others, it is writing, or exercising, or serving others. And yes, there are some who seem to do it all, the Benjamin Franklins of the world. I tell myself I don't have to be them. And also, Benjamin Franklin was not much of a family man. Even he let things go.
What we don't see, when we look at each other on Sunday, or on blogs, or in our shiny kitchens, is that we all have different talents and unique situations. I tell my kids all the time: Life is not a race. The only person you are competing against is yourself.
What we forget to see, when admiring others, is our own personal finish line.
You can find the article here.