Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Ideal vs Reality

How many times have we thought to ourselves, "I'll never be as good as _________ , they do this and this and this and look at my life. I'm a mess." We all do it, every one of us. We read about someone's day on Facebook or wherever and we compare it to our own. Worse though is that we do not compare apples to apples. We compare their "highlight reel" to our chaos, the mess and reality of our day, right down to the most embarrassing or brutal details. We allow ourselves to feel inferior because so and so makes all of their own bread or another friend takes her kids on special outings all the time, or because they are talented seamstresses or cooks, or decorators. Little do we know that they are doing the exact same thing, likely comparing themselves with us!

The truth is there is an ideal and there is a reality. Who doesn't like being able to say, "we made cookies today, went to the park and played with homemade play-doh". It makes us sound like a super mom! The truth lies in what we didn't say, "I was mean to my kids, wouldn't let them form the cookies themselves since then they would not be perfect and even, only let them eat 1 cookie each and they all cried, spent 15 minutes at the park until they all began to fight over who got to be on the swing so we left and I freaked out the entire time they were playing play-doh because they were putting it in their mouth and dropping it all over the floor and I sent them all upstairs so I could clean it up in peace." If that was what we heard from each other regularly, I think there would be a lot less inferiority complexes and a lot more understanding and love.

In the spirit of this honesty and to answer a question someone asked me, I wanted to share this with you. Every week I make a menu. I spend time figuring out what to make, taking care to spread out the types of dishes I am making (not too much asian or mexican or Italian in one week, not two days of rice back to back or changing up the side dishes), making sure I take care to plan do-able meals on our busy days and more time-consuming or complicated meals on the days I have more time. I look up recipes and research blogs and cookbooks to find yummy things to make for my family. I actually do this and I actually spend the time, about 30 minutes once a week, to make this happen for our family - I can be honest about that. Once the menu is done though, the daily battle begins. Every day I have to be sure to check what the plan was, take out the items that I had planned, make sure if I need to go to the grocery store that I make it there and that I get things prepped with enough time. I would say that out of my weekly menu, at least 2 days do not get done as written but sometimes it is much, much more. Let's look at the menu for 2 weeks ago and compare it to the reality, just to illustrate:

balsamic garlic marinated steak, bacon-cheddar-chive mashed potatoes, grilled zucchini and greek salad with homemade chocolate pudding for dessert (recipe coming - so good!)

REALITY - that is what we ate - I typed this after we had eaten Sunday

Coconut green curry chicken, coconut rice, broccoli, spinach salad and brownies for FHE

REALITY - again we ate that for dinner, I took dinner to a family from church so I made it as outlined

spicy honey pork tenderloin, oven roasted potatoes, grilled zucchini, peppers, mushrooms and onions

REALITY - the pork tenderloin with mashed potatoes and grilled zucchini but it was so not special, just the meat, plain mashed potatoes and the zucchini.

Blackened Chicken with cilantro lime quinoa and avocado cream, roasted asparagus, spinach and strawberry salad

REALITY - not this!  I think maybe we had some pasta or something but in all honesty, I cannot remember!  Jack had soccer so we were probably in a hurry to get out of the house.

Mongolian Beef over brown rice, broccoli and red pepper stir fry

REALITY - again, not this.  No idea what we ate at all, Dallin was at class and we probably had something simple like soup

black bean burritos & chicken tacos with lots of cilantro, chips and guacamole, spanish rice and corn
REALITY - not that!  We had book club at our house, the kids had a frozen pizza and we ate all the food I made for the party.

Dallin's birthday so out somewhere yummy

REALITY - we went out for Dallin's birthday since we went away for the night, it was delightful but we did not go anywhere fancy, we ate at our favourite pub in Canmore and loved every second of it.

Last week I was actually able to make all the days I had planned but one (last Thursday I planned chicken stew but I made that Sunday instead and we ate BBQ pork chops since it was a beautiful day and I wanted to grill out).  Some weeks I am okay and some weeks I fail.  This is the reality.  The wonderful thing is, this is only an outline, some ideas so that I am not sitting there at 4pm wondering what to make and thinking that I wish we could just have cereal.  Reality though?  That happens all the time.  I am like anyone else and find myself doing the 4:30 panic to throw something together,  Sometimes we DO have cereal for dinner, especially in the summer after coming home from a day at the lake or Callaway Park.  Would I change that?  Never.  It means we had a great day!  

I know we all get trapped comparing ourselves and thinking somehow that the other people in our lives live the ideal while we are stuck in an imperfect reality.  I did not want to add to that illusion by having people think that we have perfect meals around here.  We don't.  Every Monday and Wednesday I have to have dinner done by 5pm so we can go to soccer.  It is not always pretty, it is never perfect, and there is always a LOT of nagging to get everyone to eat so we can leave on time.  My kids still turn up their noses at a lot of things, complain about what I make and often don't finish their dinner.  This is reality and mine is probably a lot like yours.  You have my permission to laugh right along with me.  At the end of the day, we all get to put our feet up and say we made it through another one and prepare to start it all again!!!


  1. My ideal would be making a menu and eating a large variety of delicious foods every evening. But I also like to be outside, sleep in. And I hate going to the grocery store. So, as long as my kids get sort of close to the amount of daily servings from the 4 food groups, I am satisfied with myself. I don't care if they eat the same thing day after day.

    But some days I will make some really yummy, unique foods, and someone might come over and think that is how we eat every night and compare themselves to me. When in reality, that might have been the first real meal we have had in a week!

  2. I love you Tami. You are a beautiful person, your honesty only adds to that. xoxox

  3. I love to hear about the reality of life. It never is as rosy as it looks in print. I love to see the glimpse into how life is in your home. Even with your reality of life it is great to know how wonderful you and your family are! Through all of the craziness we help to inspire other people with our strengths. Your menus help to frequently give us ideas when I do think about supper at 4 or even 5 when we are all hungry. I appreciate your help in sharing.

  4. I love this post, Tami. Thanks for sharing. :)