Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Little Fails Can Feel Huge

I am so disappointed.
And frustrated.
And feeling useless and ineffective and unimportant.

I've been very busy these last few weeks - in the spare moments between raising three kids, paperwork for job #1 and writing freelance pieces for job #2, school commitments, parent council commitments, managing both boys' rep soccer teams and six practices a week, playdates and babysitting, teaching fitness classes for staff on vacation and squeezing in the occasional blog post - getting ready to enter a national parent and child crafting contest.

The task was to create a short video demonstrating the craft. The judging criteria was based on originality and creativity and the child-friendliness of the craft as well as clarity of instruction and appeal.

The contest was made for me, a mom blogger whose entire brand and identity has come to revolve around creativity and crafting and activities at home with her kids.

I picked out two favourite crafts that I've done with the kids and dug them out of storage. I gathered supplies from the playroom and craft drawers and ran to the dollar store and craft store and hardware store to pick up the odds and ends we needed to recreate the craft. I planned out where and how we'd do our demonstration, I wrote out a script, I staged the video "set" (kitchen table) and rigged up the camera (smart phone) on a stand and spent ages fiddling with the distance, height and levels. I practiced with Middle Child - my creative little crafter who's always coming up with clever new ideas and loves to create them with me and despite his overwhelming shyness wanted to help with the videos.

We shot our videos over and over - dozens of takes over two days in between school and soccer - while Eldest Child kept Baby occupied and out of the camera's earshot. Neither Middle Child nor I are the most comfortable on camera (super awkward, actually) but we finally came up with a video for each craft that we were more or less happy with on the afternoon of the contest deadline.

And then I went to submit the videos and discovered the files were too large for submission. Four hours later, my much-more-tech-savvy-than-I husband had exhausted every conceivable option for compressing, reconfiguring, and changing the format of the files. It couldn't be done. And then midnight hit and the deadline passed.

We didn't make it.
All that work, all those hours.
All the talking, all that planning.
All that excitement and nervousness and hopeful anticipation.
All for nothing.

I can't even begin to describe how disappointed I was. And still am.
I know it sounds silly - it's just a contest.

But it's not - not for me.

For me, this contest came at just the right time as my blog is beginning to take off and my contract is ending at work and I'm struggling a little bit for income and identity and figuring out what I want to do and be and how to make that all happen.

For me, this contest was a justification of what I do, what I'm working toward as an at-home mom and a mommy blogger as I flounder around trying to forge an identity and brand myself and my blog.

For me, this contest was showing that all these crafts and activities I do with my kids serve another purpose in the world, that my little mommy blog isn't a silly waste of time, that maybe what I'm putting out into the universe matters a little bit and my choice to make my life all and entirely about my kids and our family is valid.

And that's what I realize is at the crux of the whole stay-at-home-mom issue and why I and other at-home moms are so defensive; it's the feeling that those of us who choose to make our children the centre and focus and priority of our lives - sacrificing our own careers and often much of our own identities in the process - aren't making the wrong choice, or an unimportant choice, or a silly choice.

When our conversations become almost exclusively about diapers and eating habits and sleeping schedules; when our heads are filled with theme songs from children's shows and we could assemble the animal puzzle blindfolded; when our social calendars become our kids' soccer and swim practices and our adult time is talking with other parents while watching our kids play; when showering is a luxury and a cup of coffee alone is a fantasy and we've moved so far past missing adult time that the actual idea of finding a babysitter and getting all dressed up and heading out to hang out with friends is unthinkably exhausting; when our lives have become so wholly consumed by the minutiae of our kids' lives and activities and our life as a family that our own identities are buried completely - we wonder every now and again if we're in fact doing the right thing.

Am I boring? Am I dull? Have I lost myself completely? Am I still fun to hang out with when I do see my friends? Am I still the interesting, intelligent, sexy woman my husband fell in love with? Am I losing the person I once was as I turn myself into a satellite around my kids?

It's hard not to look at those career moms with their freshly blown-out hair and lovely new clothes and hours of child-free time and adult-only conversation at the office and the gym and feel a little...insignificant. Shlumpy, in our yoga pants and running shoes. Silly, with our worries about parent council politics and soccer team schedules. Unimportant, maybe. We're not moms and teachers, moms and accountants, moms and lawyers. We're just moms.

I do think the choices I've made with how I prioritize my life, my identity and my short-lived time with my children as children is the right one for me. I am proud of how I'm raising my kids and what I put out into the world as a mom blogger and parenting author. But I can't help but feel that some sort of validation would be nice. If all I'm doing is being a mom and doing mom things - is that enough? Am I good enough?

That's what this contest represented for me - a tiny little pat on the back, regardless of how my entry might have fared. A whispered little "Yes, this is important. Yes, you're doing ok at it."

Instead, I failed. I didn't even get a chance to try. I had to tell my seven-year-old, who worked so hard on this project with me, that we weren't going to have a chance because Mommy couldn't manage to submit our entry on time.

Mom fail. Project fail. Ambition fail.

It's a little thing. It's a silly thing. And in the grand scheme of things, it's an unimportant thing.

But it sure feels like a big thing to me.

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  1. Oh, I can just imagine how disappointed you were. Rest assured that what you do does have value - your readers follow your blog because you offer good advice and ideas.

    1. Thank-you so much. That's so nice to hear!

  2. You should consider posting the videos on YouTube, if you've already made them, it might at least feel like SOMETHING.