Dear Idealist: Life Can Be Messy and Good At The Same Time

What expectation 'picture' are you trying to live up to? Where did you get that picture? You're an idealist, so you've got to be extra careful or else you'll spend all your time striving for the picture and miss out on real life.

Dear Idealist,

You see the world as a beautiful would-be, a dream to be fulfilled, an expectation to be lived up to. Sometimes, that’s really great. You’re a dreamer, a planner, a visionary, someone who hopes for the best and always pushes to achieve it. Without you, our world would quickly become stagnant, lost in the cares of today, or else drowned in negativity. We need you to keep asking what would happen if.


Sometimes reality doesn’t live up to the sight you beheld through your rose-colored glasses. Sometimes life turns unexpectedly in another direction. Sometimes the actual dream is too far out of reach, or even *gasp* not meant to be. What then? How do you keep up your idealistic optimism when you can’t reach the goal? It’s hard to be satisfied when the dream is unfinished.

I know. Because I’m also an idealist.

My idealism is a big part of why I deal with depression. I have this picture in my head of what life or marriage or motherhood is supposed to look like. I work and strive to make that picture a reality, but it rarely ends up looking just the way I wanted it to. Or it looks just like the picture for 4.7 seconds until the baby needs a nap and dinner needs cooking again even though I haven’t done the dishes from last night yet. From one idealist to another, I have three things to say.

To the idealist mother | What expectation 'picture' are you trying to live up to? You're not alone. Find out how to balance what you hope for with real life without spending your time burnt out and frustrated. Click the photo for more.

1. Life is a film, not a photo.

The problem with focusing on that picture in your head is that life never stands still like that. Just like a real, actual photoshoot, you might come away with a couple of perfect shots, but they don’t capture the chaos that is smiling like a scary clown for an hour while waiting for the three kids to all look at the camera at the same exact moment, while your ragged photographer waves a diaper over her head to catch the babies attention because it’s literally the only thing you had in the diaper bag. Like that photo session, life includes some really great moments, but it’s 99% messy and loud and unpredictable.

Enjoy those perfect moments when they happen. But don’t sit around waiting for them. Enjoy the craziness in between; the cheerios on the floor, husband and wife moments interrupted by a small cry from the next room, the bathroom sink that needs plunging because the kids tried to clean up the rice sensory bin on their own. Those are the real-life moments. No one strives to live up to these images because they’re not exactly pretty. But that’s life. Messy, inglorious, and beautiful.

2. There is no rewind on the film of life.

You don’t get a second chance at this moment right now. There is no redo. This moment will be a memory before you know it. What kind of memory will you make it? I spent the first four years of motherhood in desperation; lonely, depressed, upset, and too-often frustrated. I wasted a lot of time, and a lot of it was stolen from me. Yet, despite all the hard times, I have some real gem-like memories from that season. I am who I am today because of that portion of the movie.

You won’t get it right every time. You probably won’t get it right most of the time. But you’ll hit the goal sometimes. And in life, sometimes is pretty darn often. Enjoy it. You can’t control everything, but you might miss it if you keep trying.

3. Know where you got the picture.

Who handed you the photo you’ve been trying to live up to? That’s a difficult question to answer, but it’s an incredibly important one. Even though life is a film, it is okay to have a standard you wish to achieve. Just make sure it’s a standard you understand and truly value. If the images of perfect motherhood portrayed on social media are outlining your perfect image, toss it out the window on your way to Crazytown! You don’t need that kind of unreachable pressure on your shoulders!

Know your ‘why.’ Why is it important to you that your family eats dinner at the table every night or that your kids get straight A’s or that you stay-at-home or that you work full-time? Why does it matter that you head up the PTA or lead a bible study or bake the brownies for next week’s sale from scratch with organic flour? I’m not saying any of those things are or are not worthwhile. It doesn’t matter what the picture is. What matters is why it matters to you. Is it truly valuable to your family? Will this make you or your spouse or your children happier, better people? If the answer is yes, keep aiming for it. If it’s not, well… toss it where you toss those dirty diapers.

Loosen up the reigns, just a bit.

Motherhood, marriage, and life, in general, are difficult enough pursuits apart from the added pressure of idealism. If you want to be content and enjoy the life you have right now, loosen up your expectations. That doesn’t mean you have to let them go. Just let them become more flexible so you can enjoy all the awesome stuff before and after the perfect shot.


Another Idealistic Mom


What did you think? Does this line up with your experience as an idealist and as a mom? What would you add for other idealists? Let us know in the comments.

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