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I am a mother, a grandmother, and a teacher. But whatever happens in my life, I keep sewing. I have worked as a political communicator and now as a teacher in my formal life. I have also written extensively on sewing. I have been a frequent contributor and contributing editor of Threads magazine and the Australian magazine Dressmaking with Stitches. My book Sew.. the garment-making book of knowledge was published in May 2018 and is available for pre-order from Amazon



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Monday, November 9, 2015

High performance womanhood

Starting to think about Christmas reminded me of a conversation I had with my daughter this week.

Now I need to set this in context. 

My daughter has three kids six and under. She has a big house which is spotless, and she has a Golden Retriever. Once or twice when I have gone over the help her clean, like when she had a new baby, I would go into her bathroom and stand around in there for a bit, maybe read a magazine, and then come out and say "Done!" She would go in and inspect and tell me things looked great.

Of course they did.

My daughter also works part-time in children's oncology, crafts, entertains tons, and has great friendships. 

But still she often wonders if she is doing enough.

Her whole crowd wonders the same thing. 

A week ago one of her friends organized a make-up party with a make up artist to show them how to do up their faces so they didn't look tired. The girl who organized this is my dentist, with her own practice and four kids under five - including two twins. Boys so busy that at one stage they had to have their diapers duct taped on them.

With this life she is supposed to be tired as far as I can make out.

IMO the bar is too high and the next generation of women is bending under it.

I think we all need a little less Pinterest, a few more honest bloggers, and fewer high performance Instagram play-by-plays.

It's time we brought back slackness to modern life.

I for one didn't expect the house to look great until the kids were grown up, not knowing then that by the time they did I liked the house the way it was, dents and all.

My mother based her entire entertaining career on Twinkle cake mixes and a dip made of dried onion soup mix and sour cream if she was going all out.

Sometimes I bathed my kids in the afternoon and put them in their pyjamas for something to do. And then did it again later in the day if it was still 5:00.

I once kept my daughter home for the wrong week for spring break because I read the note wrong and she was my first.

I thought that was funny.

When my first mother-in-law went to work full time she announced they were going to take away dinner from the local Hungarian restaurant every night and they did, she had no intention of doing it all and didn't intend to try.

Life can get too serious sometimes to take the times when it isn't, seriously.

You will be remembered by how you made the other guy feel far more than what you did.

You can pin that one.


Mary said...

My god, you nailed it! I am tired just watching these kids try to be everything. What does your daughter say about this?

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the laughs...I read it too my mom and we both laughed....

Tracy King said...

Thank you for this post. From a tired Mommy who beats herself up way too often (mentally I mean).

Anonymous said...

Ah, you are my hero, Barbara. Someone needed to say this. I see so many women living as you have mentioned; doing too much and always anxious that they are not doing enough. It causes quite a bit of unhappiness for the women I know around me. The mindset also has a negative affect on their health, I believe.

We are perpetually in FOMO mode. (Fear Of Missing Out) Whether it's the newest technology or product or experience, we all seem to want more and more and fast. All the while missing out on the simplest of pleasures; like sitting with a friend or two, entertaining with just an onion dip and enjoying the company of one another.

I don't put all this on only women either. Men are just as guilty. They compete with other men about the size of their flat screen TVs and who has the biggest house, what leagues their children play sports in... I go to family gatherings and get tired of all the boasting.

The sewing process is my antidote to the present "Fast And More" mentality towards life. Sure it would be 100 times faster if I were to go out and buy a garment. Or better yet, order it off Amazon. But when I sew I put those ideas out of my mind. After weeks of sewing I will produce a garment that I will wear with joy and pride. Because it was made well, because it was made to fit my body perfectly, because it was made with love and patience. The wait was worth it and I know I will cherish it for many many years. There is nothing I can purchase that can give me this feeling.

I am doing enough every single day, I remind myself. Thanks for reminding us too.

~A new fan in Cali

Anonymous said...

Ah, I see the trend here and am adopting it: this year more slackness/fewer gifts. And perhaps less tiredness, not that make up would help anyway in my case.

Last year with a sewing intensive family wedding right after Christmas I basically gave myself a pass on gifts except for grandchildren. Everybody else is old enough to know better and as far as I know no one was very wounded by my omission.

This year all the ladies are getting lovely jewelry purchased on a vacation trip. All the men are getting origami wallets, also lovely.

Home made cookies for one super appreciative brother in law.

The end.

Now to market slackness to the younger generation.


Robin said...

I love this post. It is so true for younger women today. With careers, children, spouses, homes, the to-do list never ends. The guilt never ends either--when they find they can't do it all--not without a cost. Most baby boomers like myself were raised by stay at home moms. That was considered their 'job' and women took it very seriously. Even then, women would confess that they couldn't do it all. Is it social expectations or self expectations?

Jacq C said...

Goodness me, your posts are spot on over the last few days. I had a conversation with my husband this morning - I feel spread so thin that I don't feel I'm doing anything well and that's so demoralising. You are so right,I see this so much amongst the women I work know. Yet when I think of my happiest memories with friends and family they're of simple times and doing things together. I do think employers ask a great deal - there seems to be an 'if you don't like it you can leave' attitude which is so unhealthy and does not encourage loyalty and development of staff.
Thank you so much for tour thought-provoking posts

Elle said...

The phony bill of goods: you can do it all, have it all, be it all. And think it will add up to a "perfect" life--despite the obvious goofiness of the premise.

Angela said...

I love this! I have given up on the house until my four teenage/young adult sons have grown up and moved out. I am probably in the generation between you and your daughter, but my friends and I feel a distinct gap between us and younger women. They are almost rabid about food choices, child-rearing practices, etc. etc. They have taken on such a great burden to do everything exactly right all of the time, and I don't envy them. A little slackness might make us all a little happier;)

Jeanneke said...


Lyndle said...

Love this post. And a big glass of wine to all the parents who role modelled this with messy imperfect houses and loved us. I have found adulthood so much easier than some of my friends whose parents had everything perfect.

Jean S said...

So true. I see this all around me in my affluent suburb. It breeds an insidious kind of anxiety that is so toxic.

Mem said...

Oh I am with you ! The side effect of all this perfectionism is stress in the work place and in their homes , an intolerance of anyone (me) who isn't on top of everything to do with crossing ts an dotting I s . I am totally sick of it and the unhappiness this continuous performance anxiety brings to their and my life 😒God help their children and marriages . We need to all slow down and smell the roses.

SewCraftyChemist said...

Your observation is correct. At 36, I see too many women on this roller coaster.

I got off. Long ago.

As a single mom with 2 kids (16 months apart), I gave up on perfect everything; and just focused on enjoying time with my kids.

My house isn't spotless. I do not cook dinner every night. I could use a salon visit and a pedicure but I no longer feel like I need to be at 150%, 100% of the time. Quite liberating!

Marianne said...

The pressures might have changed or increased, but this is not really just a modern phenomenon; I have been plagued with the sense of "not good enough" for most of my lifetime! Maybe it is a personality trait -- the striving for perfection, the need to fix and clean up and heal. Being a mother certainly exacerbates this tendency. But yes, it is good to remind one another to let go of this pursuit.

Regarding housework, my own method to control this is to try to objectively set standards for myself, based on who I am and what I want to accomplish in this world during my lifetime. For example last week I decided that washing my windows 2x per year, inside and out, is a perfectly acceptable standard for window cleanliness. Even though I prefer to look through windows cleaned much more frequently, there are many other things much higher on my priority list. So now when my windows look dirty and spotted, as they did just 2 rainy days after cleaning, I can shrug and tell them, "well, too bad, you already got your fall cleaning!" Very freeing!

It is true that you will be remembered more for how you make people feel rather than what you accomplish but I think the young women you describe probably don't choose between those options. Instead I think they might try to take care of both, neglecting their own wellbeing in the process.

rachelg said...

But wasn't it much same for us boomers in the 1980s? We were supposed to have careers and wear power suits with shoulders and pencil in 'family' time in our Daytimers as well as have a family and a house. And back then husbands were much less inclined to 'help' with the housework.

SewCraftyChemist said...

" "well, too bad, you already got your fall cleaning!" "

I love this.

Leigh in Portland (we are not burning down) said...

Yes, we were to have it all in the 80s. All we had then was Martha Stewart on TV.

Now there's Pinterest showing us how perfect our cakes ought to be, how adorable our children should always look, and how crafty our family get-togethers should be. Doesn't show that it took 10 people 5 tries to get it right and 4 more to stage it perfectly, 2 to hold the perfect lighting, and one to photograph the perfect moment.

And then there's Facebook. Makes it seem like 'everyone' is going somewhere cool all the time. I swear on Facebook, no one has a job, they just go out to dinner all the time, take selfies at monuments and have cute pets. We forget that people love to show their once in a lifetime trip. We lose sight that it is truly for each person a once in a lifetime trip. Not every week. And how boring would it be to see the pan of ramen instead of the cocktail and fancy appetizer. No one shows the stuff that isn't perfect and cool.

Media. Puts too much pressure on us all.