The Writing Mamas Daily Blog

Each day on the Writing Mamas Daily Blog, a different member will write about mothering.

If you're a mom then you've said these words, you've made these observations and you've lived these situations - 24/7.

And for that, you are a goddess.

Sunday, November 18, 2007


Perfectly at Home

Today I find myself in the unenviable position of having to entertain guests in my home. These are not just any guests, but guests I haven’t yet personally met.

Three weeks ago I placed in ad on craigslist announcing my intention to start a parent-run childcare co-operative. At the time, I felt at the end of my rope parenting my toddler alone day after day. I suspected there were others out there who felt similarly and that they would be as reluctant as I am to pay for a daycare service. Through the Internet my suspicions were confirmed and I was able to electronically communicate with parents who responded to my ad and who were interested in building this thing with me.

Tonight is the night we will meet in my home, and there is only one problem: I don’t feel ready.

For one thing, there are dirty dishes in my sink. Also, my carpets are grimy and overdue for a steam cleaning. Oh, and there is a basket of laundry I wanted to fold and put away before welcoming strangers into my abode. And I stink. Did I mention I didn’t have the chance to take a shower today? Which means that in addition to stinking, I also have greasy hair.

What will happen when these mothers come to my house and see my greasy hair and dirty carpets? Will they feel that they couldn’t trust their children with me?

When it comes to art, my aesthetic is to value that which isn’t perfect. I adore the handmade ceramic bowl with an out-of place blob of color that splashed up when the potter lowered the bowl into the glaze. Sculptures crafted from rusty, decaying bedsprings that have been ‘reclaimed’ and reborn as art. Abstract paintings that look so primitive and simple, a child may have painted them.

But when it comes to my home and my appearance, my aesthetic takes a radical departure. I envy the washboard-flat; slightly concave abdomen flashed by a supermodel over the tire that is my own abdomen. I lust after the light, airy, and uncluttered homes I see in “Sunset” magazine, complete with rooms painted in impeccably matched earth tones. I voyeuristically observe the dinner parties featured on its pages, the Pacific Rim cuisine looking delicious, the napkins on the table matching the ceramic “accent” vase poised on the mantelpiece. This is how entertaining should be.

Yet, I’ve rarely been entertained this way. I’m sure the food at such a gathering would be amazing, but would I be able to tell an off-color joke? Drink one too many glasses of wine? Break into an arm-wresting match with my husband and son, bystanders shouting their bets over us? In short, would it be that much fun?

There is a simple remedy for all my imperfections-throwing money at the problem. A housecleaner can sterilize my home and put it into order. Laser treatments can zap the errant hairs from my chin, and a tummy-tuck can help me approximate the concavity of a movie star’s belly. So I can work, and spend, and become perfect, but to what end? Would there be a medal at the end of it all, or a spread in Sunset? Would I win the envy of my peers? Because “perfect” is only perfect when there is imperfection out there.

A perfect home is only enviable because most homes aren’t that way. Most people at some point value their time, their relationships with others, and their lives too much to spend all their time, and money, on making their bodies and homes appear perfect.

The truth is -- I’ve never been close to those who are perfect. I find it impossible to enjoy intimacy with some one unless I can see that they are imperfect, human, and vulnerable. In turn, I cannot expect others to feel intimate with me unless I am willing to be vulnerable with them. Which may mean I have to let them see a dirty dish in the sink. Or notice that when I smile, my teeth are stained yellow.

Tonight I hope to embark on an imperfect relationship with imperfect people. I expect to feel nervous when they enter my living room and see the carpet. But I hope that despite their own imperfections, they are able to sense that I am really nervous because I want them to like me, I want this co-op to work, and I want to like them, too.

And from there we will move forward.

Ellen Catalina

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