Before I got married, I dreamed of the kind of wife and mother that I would become one day, as I’m sure most young girls do; and in my head, I was going to be FAB-U-LOUS! I mean, really, really fabulous. I was going to keep my perfectly-decorated house perfectly clean all the time, every bit of laundry neatly folded and tucked away and every crumb swept off the beautifully polished hardwood. And my cooking was going to be so finger-lickin’ good that my husband was going to re-fall in love with me every single night of the week, except for Fridays when we’d have leftovers, and Sundays, of course, when we would go out to eat with our friends after church. My husband would walk in the front door from his long day at work, and I’d rush to meet him with a sweet “I’ve missed you” kiss in my poufy floral dress and high heels, beach-blown waves falling on my slightly-tanned shoulders. Our kids would groan and roll their eyes and beg Daddy to go play catch with them in the backyard under the big oak tree with our yellow lab named Cash while I finished setting the dining room table with real plates and real silver. Definitely nothing plastic. Definitely nothing paper. Because ewww, gross.
And then I actually got married.
I still dressed the part of the fabulous wife. I was always dolled up and always in high heels. I still gave my husband an “I’ve missed you” kiss when he walked through the door. But my real-life husband didn’t have a real-life job where he got a real-life paycheck. He was a law student, which meant two things: 1. We rarely saw each other, and 2. We were broke. We lived in a tiny rental house without a working oven, which meant that I rarely made anything fabulous, or anything at all for that matter. And, our dishwasher didn’t work either, so we had to eat our $5 Little Caesar’s pizza on paper plates. And sometimes, as embarrassing as it is to admit, we just drank our Diet Pepsi straight from the 2-liter bottle that it came in. I never did much cleaning, except on the very rare occasion that someone was coming over, and even then, I didn’t really clean as much as play a clever little game called “shove all of the crap laying around in the spare closet.” But none of this really mattered to me then. I was too busy being young and in love. I’d get it all together when we bought a house of our own and had kids and really became grown-ups. No big deal, I still had plenty of time to become the ultimate housewife.
And then I got pregnant. Surprise!
And nine quick months later, we brought our tiny baby to live with us in our tiny rental house. I was a lot of things, but fabulous definitely wasn’t one of them. I was over-whelmed. I was over-worried. I was over-weight. But I wasn’t fabulous. I wasn’t wearing poufy floral dresses anymore, and my hair was rarely washed, let alone fixed. I’d traded in my high heels for rubber flip flops and un-manicured toes. The house was a disaster. Always. I wasn’t making fancy dinners, or even going out and buying crummy dinners from Little Caesar’s. I couldn’t set a dinner table, because we didn’t actually own a dinner table. We didn’t have a nursery, instead we had a junk room with a pile of dirty clothes so big, my husband named it “Clothes Mountain.”
I was nothing like the wife and mother I’d always dreamed of becoming. Nothing. I was a whole lot more like Lucille Ball than I was June Cleaver. And it broke my heart. It absolutely ripped me up inside. I tried so hard to be perfect. I wanted so badly to be perfect. I thought that’s what my husband needed from me. I thought that’s what my baby needed from me. And I just couldn’t do it.
One particularly rough day, after a whole string of particularly rough nights, my husband came home from school and studying to find me holding our infant son, still in my pajamas, bawling my eyes out, like uncontrollably, grasping-for-breath, crying. I apologized over and over and over for not being perfect or even anywhere near the realm of perfection. I apologized for not showering that day and for wearing sweatpants all the time and for being covered in spit-up. I sobbed and apologized, sobbed and apologized. Mostly, I told him that I was sorry that I was such a bad wife and such a bad mother, and I promised to change and to start cleaning and cooking more often. And then he said something that changed my life:
“You’re a wonderful wife and you’re a wonderful mother. You’re just a bad maid, and that’s OK.”
And then he picked up my chin, and kissed me, and finally, the struggle to be fabulous full-time was lifted right off of my un-tanned shoulders. He didn’t need me to perfect. He didn’t really even want me to be perfect. He just wanted me to be me. Messy, unorganized, always-running-late, can-never-find-my-keys, me. He liked when I chose to ignore the heap of dirty dishes in the sink and cuddle up with him on the couch. He liked when I chose to ignore the vacuuming for a day and sit on the floor with our son and read “Goodnight Moon.” He liked eating off of paper plates.
And now, three years, a new house, a new town and another baby later, and I can happily say that I no longer live my life struggling to be the picture-perfect portrait of a housewife that I’d painted in my head so many years before. I let go of my unattainable expectations to keep house like Martha Stewart, to cook like Julia Child, and to look like a Victoria’s Secret runway model all of the time. Yes, I still clean when I can, and yes, I love to cook my family a homemade meal, and heck yes, absolutely, without doubt, I still love to wear my very highest heels whenever I get the chance.
But now, I live my life by this one, simple realization: You can’t do it all, so do what’s most important. Laugh at the load of laundry that needs to be folded, shrug off the toilets that need to be scrubbed and learn to live with wearing your hair in a messy bun for today. Instead, hug your spouse for a little (no, a LOT) longer than you should when they get home. Sit and actually hear your husband talk about his day at work. Get down on your hands and knees and draw pictures on the sidewalk with your kids. Go ahead and read them that extra bedtime story. And know that you’re giving them exactly what they need from you: not perfection, not fabulousness, not a squeaky-clean house. You’re giving them, you.
This post was originally posted at In and Out Beauty by Amy