Who wants to be Mary Poppins anyway?
Please read the following, with your tongue firmly planted in your cheek.
- All the meat we eat is pastured, organic, soy-free, GMO-free, and home raised.
- We formulate and hand mix our livestock feed.
- We never pick up rotisserie chicken from town. Because, no matter how badly life gets the hiccoughs, I am perfectly prepared at all times.
- Our garden is lush, green, and weed free. Any gigantic Texas grasshopper attempting to sample the goods immediately poofs out of existence when it crosses into the Brassica Triangle. Produce is harvested daily and immediately eaten or processed for storage.
- My children always do their schoolwork with a smile. They never get behind due to dawdling, farm emergencies, or Mama being out-of-pocket just as math looms large.
- Oh! Oh! Our schoolbooks, pencils, notebooks, and pens never wander off without leaving a forwarding address.
- Laundry is done on schedule, folded immediately, and put away the instant it’s finished. Dishes are put into the washer as they’re used and never accumulate in the sink. If anything needs hand-washing, I wave my magic wand, and teenage dish-fairies scrub them cheerfully!
- Our Christmas gifts are homemade, wrapped in fair-trade brown butcher’s paper, and tied with twine recycled from grain sacks.
If you believe any of that, you should also know that I can eat mountains of chocolate without my bum expanding, AND I can sing the aria from Madame Butterfly in perfect pitch! (That sound you hear is my family snickering.)
Whether on blogs, Pinterest, Facebook, or just chatting with friends, it is easy to compare what others share of their lives, with the gritty details of our own. Rarely, do I go to work and announce that we ate take-a-way because the chicken I took out to thaw was still an iceberg at dinnertime. I typically don’t share, that when wiping down the kitchen counters, I discovered a week old dirty dish my teens had stashed to avoid hand-washing. It is natural to want to share our triumphs. It is also natural to want to minimize our mistakes. We simply have to remember, that those seemingly perfect people do the same.
Another dangerous comparison is to liken our goals to another’s skills and successes. My daughter is learning to crochet. She is good for a beginner, but it frustrates her that I’m faster and better at reading patterns. I crochet fairly well, but I get frustrated that I’m not as skilled as one of my best friends. My friend can work quickly and beautifully, but can also read any pattern or create her own. Jon Acuff says, “Don’t compare your beginning to someone else’s middle.” I think that’s marvelous advice, but I would put add an addendum to it. Also, don’t compare your hobby to someone else’s passion. My friend, the Crochet Guru, is a mediocre cook. It is safe to say I am mediocre at crochet, but I love to cook. I play with recipes the way my friend plays with crochet patterns. We have shared interests, but different strengths and passions.
It is also dangerous to compare yourself to someone, who is in a different season of life. I’m in my mid-forties with a husband, an adult son (who lives away from home), an adult son (who still lives on our farm), two teenagers (who are homeschooled), a small farm, and a very high-stress full-time job. My goals, priorities, and available time differ dramatically from other seasons of my life.
When I was the young mother of two homeschoolers, I was able to take a sabbatical from work and stay home full-time. I would love to say, that during that time, my home was perfectly decorated and all our meals were lovingly crafted. However, that would be a lie. At that time, being home with my boys was my priority. When you chose a priority, something else has to give. In that case, it was money. There was no money to decorate. So, my home was a toy and school supply strewn blank slate. Our food was homemade because it’s cheaper and I like to cook. Yet, I shudder to think of the number of nights we had beans and cornbread for supper.
(Side note: In Texas, we like beans and cornbread. It is a great supper! It is also great ‘poor food.’ You can tell how well a family is doing financially, by using beans and cornbread as a gauge. If we’re flush with cash, there’s ham in the beans. If things are a little snug, we put bacon in the beans . If we’re broke, most families will spoon a little bacon grease in for flavor. If we don’t know how we are going to keep the lights on, the beans are naked. We ate a LOT of naked beans during that time!
Later, I was a young-ish mother with two kids homeschooling, two kids in diapers, a full-time job, and just to keep things interesting, Liam and I were full-time students. I had days where if everyone was fed, clothed, reasonably clean (at times my definition of ‘reasonably’ was questionable), and the kids didn’t try to kill each other, I called it a success. Our priority was to improve our quality of life. We wanted jobs that paid enough to buy a place in the country, give us financial stability, and put ham in the beans. Focusing on that required sacrifices in many areas, but the benefits have been far reaching.
We have family friends, who have a small farm similar to ours. The husband has an outside job, but the mother, teen, and tween are home full-time. They do some great things on their farm. They have an impressive rotational grazing method and home-fermented feed system. I would love to incorporate something similar on our place. However, Liam and I regularly work at least forty hours a week. Our focus is currently on eliminating our mortgage. Our jobs mean, that for now, our farm needs a more hands-off approach, than is our long-term ideal. Neither family’s choices are better or more correct. It’s simply a matter of walking the path that leads to your chosen destination.
The main point I want to make is: Enjoy living where you are in life. Take time to plan and make priorities. Don’t waste a moment comparing your family, home, car, budget, skills, or life to anyone! The only valuable comparison is between your life and the life you are working toward. See the progress you’re making or the areas calling for a change in priorities. I don’t want to eat naked beans, but I’m glad we did it. It allowed me time with my kids that I cherish. I love my home in the country, so I don’t judge that mom who considered schoolwork to be décor. Each of those ‘sacrifices’ put our family one step closer to our dream! Our dream isn’t a home or a material thing. Our dream is to live our ideal life. Be sure that you’re living your dream, not chasing a shadow of someone else’s.
When you enjoy living where you are, life is incomparable!
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