The Problem

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest movie

This morning while pondering my bloodshot right eye (infection? sign of the apocalypse? old age?), I realized what my problem is. My problem is that I have unrealistic expectations. Like, totally. (Suddenly, I am a Valley Girl, but that is not my Problem.)

Here is what I think a woman of my social class and slightly above-average intellect ought to be able to show for her time each day:

1) Sparkling clean house, including floors acceptable for picnicking upon and even licking should an errant drop of barbecue sauce splash near one’s toes;

2) All laundry washed, dried, folded, put away, ironed and mended every day.

3) Healthy dinner, complete with colorful vegetables and whole grains created by me and consumed by every member of my family, every day.

4) Children, fresh-faced and sweet-smelling, curled around the living room, enraptured by their novels. While three are reading one ought to be fingering Chopin on the piano. The cats should be purring at our feet.

5) Weed-free yard, flowerbeds abloom with perennials, lawn plush with emerald green grass and no dandelions.

6) Clutter-free surfaces, including the staircase landing, the kitchen counter (be gone, junk mail!), the end-table (where I keep the laundry baskets) and the dressers (hello, clothes, why aren’t you in the drawer?). Closets reflecting the well-ordered discipline of a woman who knows exactly where everything is, a woman who doesn’t keep clothes her kids outgrew and shoes she hates.
Now, in addition to these minimum standards (which I never, ever meet), I think a woman like me ought to also be able to:

1) Break into the world of magazine publishing;

2) Read a novel a week;

3) Write a novel within a year;

4) Organize an event without breaking a sweat or whining;

5) Teach all of the children to play the piano;

6) Create hand-crafted items with my grandmother’s sewing machine;

7) Lose the last twenty pounds in five months;

8) Organize all the drawers, cupboards, files, shelves and storage-room.

Here is reality. Here is what I manage:

1) Daily exercise, one hour.

2) Dinner of some sort, tonight quite possibly Hebrew National fat-free hotdogs for the kids (they’ll complain) and a bag of vegetables for me.

3) Wash, fold, put away three or four loads of laundry. (If by “put away” you mean stacking items on my dresser because my daughter’s drawers are full of clothes she has outgrown or doesn’t wear and so the clean clothes have no place to go. Alas.)

4) Fret about church event. (Vacation Bible School, coming July 9, SAVE ME!) Worry about volunteers. Consider deadline for t-shirt order. Wonder why sizes most preschoolers will wear. Think about going to Home Depot to scout out supplies and price PVC piping.
5) Drink 2 liters of Diet Coke.

6) Take kids to swimming pool for one hour.

7) Get hair cut. (First time since October.)

8) Read newspaper. Read Anne Tyler’s Earthly Possessions.

9) Beat up self for being unable to accomplish much of anything and lament inexcusable laziness.

10) Drag kids through two lessons of pre-algebra and a bunch of literature lessons.

* * *

My expectations for myself have always been unreasonable. I pass out slack as if were free to other people, but to myself, I offer no mercy, only judgment. I want to be normal, to live in a house free of crazed rules and impossible standards . . . but on the other hand, I want to achieve extraordinary things and I’m not just talking about getting the kids to eat vegetables. I want to be perfect, I want to be acclaimed, I want to have something to show for my life besides a stack of journals filled with the embarrassing record of a life lived with excessive angst.  But I don’t want to give up anything . . . what can I give up, anyway?  Cooking?  Cleaning?  Fretting?
Pardon me while I tuck my angst back under the bed where it belongs.
Do you have any unrealistic expectations for yourself? Or am I alone in my craziness?

[Don’t forget to vote for me . . . details in the post below this one.]

19 thoughts on “The Problem

  1. I feel like I can do most of the things I want to, but never at the same time. If my house is clean, it probably means I haven’t read a book in two weeks. If I make dinner, it probably means my husband has no clean clothing. If I’m reading, it probably means I haven’t exercised all week. Why is it so impossible to do it all? And why is it so difficult to be okay with not doing it all perfectly?

    In other words, yes, I completely understand 🙂


  2. I was going to respond but I got called away to help pick out a shirt, answer a question from a kid in the bath, direct a kid to do math without a calculator, refill some ones bowl, put cookies in the oven and whatever else I just did in the last 5 minutes. Now I don’t remember what I was going to write.


  3. You’re completely alone. I can’t even understand where you get this stuff.

    I’m heading to the water closet where I will fart lavender scented pixie dust now!

    Good luck to you with that perfect thing. 😉


  4. Still trying to clean up the mess left after reading Jennifer’s remark and snorting ice water out my nose.

    It’s a zoo here and I am the warden. Let’s just hope that there’s no inspection anytime soon.


  5. I found myself laughing through your initial list — “yeah right! Give yourself a break!” I’m thinking. And then I realize: My list is exactly the same.

    You are not alone, girlfriend. There ain’t none of us that can do all that!

    (You turned into a Valley Girl. I turned into a hillbilly. Go figure!)


  6. I have the same problem. My husband (who is great) always reminds me that I am the only one who is expecting me to do everything.

    And I am so glad to hear that I’m not the only one who drinks 2 liters of Diet Coke a day!


  7. Once I learned that there was NO prize for ‘doing it all’, I quit trying. I DID NOT quit WANTING to have it all done, just the trying part. Which, by the way, is indeed ‘trying’.

    When I die, I want one of those ‘beloved mother’ type banners draped over my coffin that will say “What Matters Now?”.

    Hopefully then, a lot of mother’s will go home and speak kindly to their children and hug them more often and just step over the art projects in several stages of rot.


  8. My expectation list is very similar to yours with the exception that I’m a brownie leader instead of a VBS organizer (I got out of that because we were supposed to be on vacation). Unfortunately my accomplishment list isn’t even as long as yours though I did manage to do 4 loads of shirts that were donated for the used uniform sale.

    I hate being so freakin’ human. . .

    BTW, what do you have to eat to fart fairy dust?


  9. You are so totally, like, not alone! I imagine myself in a home that is weed free, dust free, clutter free, organized, lovely, and fresh smelling. What I have is dust bunnies roaming freely about the floors, clutter everywhere, oftentimes it appears that ToysRUs and a Dollar Store have vomited its belongings in the house and yard, one girl who would rather walk on glass than brush her hair (she’s 12), and another girl who despite her girliness is a slob of mega proportions (shes 4). And let us not forget the massive amounts of laundry that a family of only 4 can generate…especially with girls who change 5 times a day and are in sports and dance. Hello? Grass Stains? Um, yeah, go home!

    Go have a diet Coke and relax in the fact you are not the only one 🙂 (I’m a Diet wild-cherry-Pepsi gal myself.)


  10. I managed to actually clean the one and only bathroom we have today. Oh, and I washed dishes (no dishwasher in my house). That’s it. To have everything on my “list” all done on the same day means we are having a party. June Cleaver I am not…but then again – I really would not want Wally and “The Beav” for kids, either. I like my chaotic yet predictable life..


  11. Well, I don’t drink diet coke. But then I take your list and top it with doing all the home repairs with my husband and make a CD of songs I’ve written.

    I have decided to rotate things. Sometimes I’m doing more of this and others more of that. And I have taken some of flylady’s routines so the house never is a complete disaster.

    Yes, unrealistic expectations. And your day seemed quite full to me.

    I’m teaching myself to treat me as gentle and polite as my best friend.


  12. When it comes to my business, I am highly goal oriented…when it comes to my household, it’s another story altogether. We have a yard that hasn’t been mowed in a month, a living room floor perpetually scattered with a smattering of toys, supper (if cooked these busy days) is usually late and my laundry (although folded) is rarely put away the same day it’s washed and dried. There, make you feel better?


  13. My problem is that I feel exactly the same way, but my reaction is (unfortunately) not “do the next thing”. My reaction is sit at the computer and pretend I don’t have a problem, which of course only makes the problem worse…. stuck in a cycle of chaos and mentally berating myself for being so lazy and disorgranized. This coming from a woman who runs a successful home business and runs a lot of stuff at church! Home – that’s another thing altogether.

    You know – along the lines of “dieting naked” – I find it very encouraging to see so many women struggling with the same thing. Something about “I’m not alone and shamefully dysfunctional” helps relieve some of the pressure we put on ourselves. Do all women secretely do this, or do those superwomen we know really have pristine closets and homemade snacks ready every day?

    So now I’m going to go unload the dishwasher and set something out for dinner.


  14. You know I have a very similar list. Know what else? The only people I know who keep that list are grandmother’s who have no children left at home, but when they do come to visit they sit quietly reading and playing Chopin. (okay, so it’s usually singing folk songs atmy granma’s)and eat their vegetables

    It helps me to remember a.)that they they will not be here forever and b.)for every thing there is a season and that my season to write a novel or do the other things that I want to do can come later. There will most likely be time when they grow up and leave.


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