Behind Closed Doors

September 18, 2013 by Michelle

FL2W disclosure

We all know those families.  They’re the ones whose children are always dressed in matching clothes with the hair perfectly done.  Their grades are always at the top of the class, and they are the stars of their respective sports teams.  The moms are just as perfect with their hair and nails done, always dressed in the latest fashions and dinner on the table.  And yes, dad is a high powered something or other who manages to balance work with being involved in his kids’ lives.

And they make us feel like we’re failing.  Or is it just me?

Little Miss’s hair is baby fine and there isn’t much of it.  The second she brushes it, the hair rearranges itself into a rat’s nest and looks as though she’s never brushed it.  She wears what makes her happy, and that doesn’t always match, and rarely fashionable.

Little Miss doing homework

The wee ones are in a single sport each, and at the moment neither is competing for anything.  My nails are chipped, though I do my best to ensure I have dinner on the table.  And my closet leaves a bit to be desired.  My husband is a schoolteacher, so we’ll never be the ones buying our kids new BMWs for their 16th birthdays or jetting off to Italy for my 40th birthday party.

Most of the time, I’m fine with that.  But every day?  Nope, some days it seems like everything I do doesn’t work, and I feel so icky.  That’s when I start to look at those other families and feel sorry for myself and wonder why I can’t be like them, too.  I start judging them by the little bit that I see.

But I can’t see behind closed doors.

That’s what I have to keep reminding myself.  I don’t know what happens once they walk away from me.  I have no idea if they spend time with their kids just playing.  I have no idea if there is physical or mental abuse or worse.  I have no idea how they make their families work – or not work – because I’m not there.

This isn’t a comparison, and I can’t pretend like I can see or know it all when it comes to other families.  I have to keep my focus on myself and my own family.  If they grow up well-adjusted and eventually liking me, then I did my job, and I should be proud.  Focusing on the important things – setting boundaries, ensuring schoolwork is done, interacting with them, helping them to learn responsibility and independence safely – is my goal, not being like the Jones’s.

We all choose what’s most important to us.  And yes, this was dinner tonight.  It was all homemade – homemade dough, homemade sauce, arugula from the food swap, goat cheese mozzarella from the food swap, and prosciutto.

prosciutto and arugula pizza fresh from the oven

Except that’s not what my children ate.  So don’t misjudge our lives when you see those photos.  The wee ones had no embellishments on their standards pizzas, though Little Miss at least tried prosciutto (meh, in her flawed opinion) and arugula (not her favorite).

We did our homework tonight, though I had to text Mister Man’s teacher to confirm that there was more homework than Mister Man told me there was.  And he was messing around and “fell” out of his chair because he didn’t want to do the hard geography research part of his homework, so I sent him upstairs to chill out for a little while before we were able to get back to work.

Mister Man doing homework

It’s not perfect.  It never can be.  And if someone tries to tell you it is, know that it’s all just a pack of lies.

This post was inspired by the really creepy book “Mother, Mother” by Koren Zailckas for the From Left to Write book club.  I wrote a full review of Mother, Mother on 5 Minutes for Books, as well, that will be live in a couple weeks, so check for it!

Mother Mother by Koren Zailckas



  • Maria

    Perfect is all an illusion. To me, a perfect family is one that has a loving set of parents who are willing to spend time with their children, teach them how to have fun and set rules in order to give them the tools they need to be successful in their lives when they are adults.

    You, my dear, do have the perfect family. You show that to everyone with your daily actions. XXX

  • Lisa - Hannemaniacs

    So very true! You also learn what happens behind closed doors from overly chatty nannies, which I always try to keep in mind.

    • Thien-Kim

      Maybe I should starting chatting up the nannies! LOL.

      • Lisa - Hannemaniacs

        For real! I had no idea, but apparently that’s the way to really learn about a family. I hate the idea of being all gossipy… but if it means I learn something that makes me think twice about sending my kid over there on a play date, then I’m cool with it!

  • Shannon

    Perfection is overrated. The times my children remember most (and fondly even) are those when things got a bit messed up. After all, perfection, or the illusion of it, is awfully hard to live up to.
    Everybody has their trials, even the Joneses.

  • Kelly @ Cupcake Kelly's

    I always try to remember “Don’t compare your low moment to someone else’s high”, it’s so hard to not compare, but the only person we are disappointing is ourselves. But the other thing that helps me is that people post things like homemade meals, flowers from their lover, the perfectly coordinated outfit on facebook, twitter and instagram not just because they are proud but because it is out of the norm. I mean if getting flowers from my husband was an all the time thing I probably wouldn’t be posting about it you know? Food for thought.

  • Thien-Kim

    Living in the DC area can feel especially competitive. I used to worry I wasn’t being a good enough parent because we couldn’t afford extra nice things or put the kids in 3 different sports, etc. Now I’ve stepped back and realize that if I wanted to put my kids in 3 different activities each week, we’d all go crazy. Perspective, right?

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