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How I fail every day

by Karen on March 12, 2012

In the past few weeks, I’ve made a few new wonderful friends in my community. We met through a playgroup at the public library, and they’ve become a wonderful support network not to mention a fun social outlet for me. I’ve shared this blog with them, and last week a conversation with one of my new friends made me realize that I may be failing my readers. Big time.

“You can never see my house! I read your blog,” she told me. Her point was that she feels disorganized and messy compared to the posts I write about organization and simple living.

I should say here that I have seen her house since that conversation (she welcomed my family into her home to hide in her basement during last week’s storms), and it was nowhere near as bad as she made it seem. She’s become a dear friend to me, and I’m not writing this post to make her feel bad (if you’re reading this, do NOT feel bad). But she made me realize something: my readers only see part of the story. I’m not purposely deceiving you guys, but I think of you as guests in my life. Of course I shine everything up and make it look pretty before you come over.

When I write about organization, simplicity, parenting, and even money, I write about what I strive to be. I don’t think I make myself look perfect, but I definitely do make myself look better than I am. Don’t we all put our best feet forward in public? I’m nowhere near where I want to be, though. Not by a long shot.

Over the past four years, the readers of this blog have built me up, supported me, and helped me to become a better wife, a better mother, and a better person. The very last thing in the world that I want is to make any of you feel inadequate.

So I want to share with you some of the ways that I fail, and how I want to become better.

I’m not as organized as I seem.

Like I said, what I write here is what I strive to be. It’s true that I’m pretty tidy in general when it comes to our living space, but when I write about organization tips, I’m sharing the ideas I’ve had for how I can get better. In a perfect world, I would follow these tips to the tee. I don’t, though. My drawers are overstuffed with clothing. My closets are packed to the brim (and sometimes so stuffed that they’re hazardous to open). I’m trying to get better, and when I write here about organization, it motivates me to get it together.

I’m thankful that children are so forgiving of their mothers.

I love my son and I’m so thankful to have him in my life — that much is absolutely true. But when I write glowing posts about the joys of motherhood, I leave out a lot of the normal challenges. He is a toddler now, and he can be frustrating. Sometimes, he drives me absolutely bonkers. I feel terrible admitting it, but I have raised my voice at times when he’s repeatedly getting into things, even though I know he’s not able to understand why I’m angry and I know that kind of discipline doesn’t work. I try to interact with him and play with him as much as I can, but there are days when I’m exhausted, sick, or busy and he watches one too many episodes of Sesame Street. I learn from my mistakes, and I like to think I’m becoming a better mother every day. I certainly don’t think my failures are doing any permanent damage, but I do fail him daily. I wish I didn’t, but I do.

My financial choices aren’t always the “right” ones.

This is admittedly a particularly sensitive subject for me, because I have gotten comments from trolls in the past, and the last thing I want is to get so sensitive about it that I don’t want to write about my personal finances at all (on what is supposed to be a money blog). But here are a few choices I’ve made that I know aren’t considered “right” by most finance experts:

  • We’re not in a huge hurry to pay off our remaining student loan debt. In fact, we took a big vacation to Europe, had a baby, and bought a house while making minimum payments on that debt. I have no regrets, but I know I have readers who feel this choice is irresponsible.
  • We financed a used car last year instead of saving to pay with cash.
  • We bought a house before we had a full 20% down payment.
  • We purposely set our tax withholding too high, because we’d rather receive a refund than a tax bill every year.

I’m sure there are other choices I’ve made that personal finance experts don’t agree with me on, but I’ve always stressed on this blog — my financial choices are my own. They have worked for my family, and even if we’re not perfect, our goal is to strike a balance between smart financial choices and quality of life. Could we build wealth faster if we squirreled away every last penny into savings? Sure, but it’s not for us, not at this point in our lives. So we save some, spend some, and try to balance future security with present happiness.

I don’t always make healthy choices.

In the interest of full disclosure, I’ll tell you now: I don’t know exactly how much weight I gained during my pregnancy with Judah, but I stopped looking at the scale after I’d gained 60 pounds, and that was only 2/3rd of the way through my pregnancy. I’m still struggling to lose quite a bit of that weight. It’s true that I try to eat healthy and exercise, but there are days when I hit the snooze button instead of rolling out of bed at 5 a.m. to go to the gym. There are days when I eat one (or four) too many cookies. And yes, sometimes all I want in the world is a cheeseburger and french fries. If I didn’t make the wrong choices a lot of the time, I would have been back at my ideal weight months ago. But I really do just love a good cheeseburger.

As for Judah, I had all kinds of plans for his diet when I was pregnant. He was going to eat organic fruits and vegetables, no processed food, organic milk, yada yada yada. Then he started having weight gain issues. We offer him fruits and vegetables at every meal, but the truth is, he doesn’t eat them as well as I’d like. When he fell of the charts for weight, I was so desperate for him to eat anything that I became much more lax with his diet than I’d like. I let him eat chicken nuggets and other processed foods, because he would eat them, and all I wanted was for him to gain weight.

He’s been doing a lot better with his weight recently, so I’ve been encouraging him to eat more vegetables, but his diet isn’t perfect. I let him eat Teddy Grahams and Goldfish crackers and, yes, chicken nuggets (they’re not even homemade or organic!). It’s another area where we strive for balance. I don’t think any picky 15-month-old eats a perfectly balanced diet, but we’re trying. We do our best to set a good example, and that’s the most important thing, I think.

I struggle with chronic anxiety and depression.

I try to keep things positive around here. The last thing I want to do is complain because I know just how blessed I am. But the truth is, I do struggle with an anxiety disorder and at times in my life I’ve been clinically depressed. I don’t tell you this for sympathy, but I hope those of you who struggle with these disorders (they’re common, to be sure) can relate to me a little better. I am happy overall (at least I have no reason to be unhappy), healthy, and blessed, but there are days when I feel sorry for myself for no reason at all. Even if you don’t struggle with anxiety or depression, we all have bad days. I am no exception.

The point of this post isn’t to beat myself up by any means. I’m proud of a lot of things about my life, and I like to write about what makes me proud. I don’t focus on my failures on this blog, because I think we should all focus on what’s positive about ourselves and our lives even as we strive to be better. But I wanted to be honest and clear with you guys that even though I don’t write about it all the time, I fail daily. No one is perfect all the time, and my life isn’t always sunshine and daffodils.

We all have weaknesses, but we also have strengths. I choose to focus on my strengths on this blog, and I strive to focus on my strengths in life. I think if we can all succeed at that, we’ll be much happier and healthier.

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