Choosing real instead of perfect

Writing contribution by Christina Stallard

Not too long ago I got a last minute text letting me know that company would be coming over to our house about thirty minutes after I’d arrive home from work. I rushed to my house in a frenzy, then hurried to to pick up toys, toss out trash and the remains of packing lunches still left on the counter from that morning. I shoved most of the mess haphazardly into a baskets that I stuffed in a spare room no one would venture into. I hoped that the few rooms in my house our guests would see had some semblance of order in spite of the real mess lurking behind the other doors.

real perfect

After everyone left that night, I sat rifling through our storage ottoman looking for my son’s shoes that I had thrown somewhere in my haste, and it occurred to me what a metaphor for my life the evening had been. There I was—scrambling, trying to make sure that anything anyone else would see looked good and that I had it all together.

But like most of us, there have been messes in my life. When I was little girl, my mom died, and after she passed I felt the solid ground of family go shaky under my feet.

Foster care, moving back and forth across the country, going through a couple of stepmothers, and trying to navigate a difficult relationship with my dad created quite a bit of clutter in my life.

Marrying my high school sweetheart, graduating college, becoming a teacher, and then starting a photography business helped me sweep a lot of that clutter under the rug and forget about it, though. It was easy to push away sadness while things were going well. Life was good, and when I found out  my husband and I were expecting a baby, I couldn’t have been more over the moon! I spent hours designing the nursery, researched all the best baby gear, read books on parenting, and had my hospital bag packed two months early. I thought I was more than prepared and speculated that although I might end up feeling a little tired at first, motherhood would come easily to me. Ha!

real perfect

Nothing prepared me for just how life-changing bringing a tiny human into the world would be. I remember in the final weeks of pregnancy I was basically a crazed lunatic wanting to clean every nook and cranny of my house. We dusted the walls. I painted the fireplace. I literally scrubbed baseboards with a toothbrush. Babies have this way of making us want to get everything clean and just right, and I was determined not to let even a speck of dust disturb my new baby. We did all we could to make sure we would bring our baby home to a pristine house.

Though the house was free from clutter, I had neglected a lot of mess in my own heart.

Sleep deprivation and adjusting to motherhood is enough to make anyone go a little crazy, and for me, it did. For a long time I felt like I needed to present this perfect life to the people around me. Even though I had experienced tragedy growing up, I wanted to show that I could manage to piece my life together and polish it up pretty for everyone to see.

I couldn’t bear the thought of others seeing me fail.

When I had my son, I struggled to keep it all together, though; I was exhausted, I was lonely, I was scared, and I had no idea what I was doing. I looked around at my messy house, in the mirror at my messy hair, and inside at my messy heart, and I found myself in a complete state of overwhelm.

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Years of trying to maintain perfectionism by pushing struggles out of sight finally overflowed when I had to start taking care of a baby.

I couldn’t do all the things that I thought I should be able to do on top of being the “perfect” mom and wife. Balancing motherhood, my career, my business, my marriage, and all of my other obligations felt impossible. I missed my mom. I wanted my dad around to watch my son grow up. I wanted to sleep. I wanted to feel like I was successful in my work. In spite of my sheer exhaustion and struggling with PPD and PTSD after giving birth, I still tried to put up this front that everything was fine, that I was thriving in the midst of the mess. I’d laugh when people would ask if I was getting any sleep. I’d spend my evenings making homemade baby food and post cute pictures of it on my Instagram even though I’d collapse onto the bed crying because I was so tired. I didn’t want anyone to think that I couldn’t do it all. And even though I’d say with a smile that everything was going great, I was not fine and I definitely didn’t have it together, and tucking those “messes” away every time someone would ask how I was doing or if I needed anything made me feel even worse.

I wish I could go back and tell myself that there is beauty in the mess, and that there’s no shame in not having it all together.

I wish, instead of feeling like I had to do it all and do it all perfectly, that I would have rested instead, that I would have shared my heart with others, that I would have embraced the chaos and clutter of life instead of fighting against it.

Sharing our honest stories, our shortcomings as well as our successes is what brings us together and gets us through the tough times.

If I could tell other women experiencing the same feelings, it would be to take the nap. Don’t worry about the mess—your friends will love you anyway. Your baby doesn’t care if his food is homemade or not. You don’t have to take on all the work. The messy bun look is HOT.  And it’s okay to hide in the bathroom to eat a candy bar in peace.

It has taken time and the encouragement from other women to learn that being real  is so much better than trying to be perfect.

About Christina.

Christina is a wedding and lifestyle photographer and runs Christina Stallard Photography. She lives in small town Kentucky with her husband Sam, two- year old son Harrison, and saucy feline friend, Scout. In her spare time, she loves to travel and eat good tacos.

You can follow along with all the realness of her life here and here.




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  1. Christina Stallard
    April 16, 2018, 4:41 EST

    Thank you so much for giving me a place to share my heart! I hope all the lovely souls who read this find beauty in the mess and give themselves some grace.