When Idealism Gets in the Way

Note from Kat: This post is from monthly contributor (and our new HelloMornings Director!) Katie Orr.

I’ve had this love-hate relationship with nutrition over the years. Most of my early twenties were spent finding the ideal diet. My meals consisted of salads, vegetables, whole grains, and fresh fruit. I ate very little meat, most of which was fish or chicken. I kept the carbs at bay, avoided high fructose corn syrup, partially hydrogenated oils, yadda, yadda, yadda. 

Healthy eating pursuits

This was fun and easy way to eat, as a single woman in a big city. I was able to keep this going for several years into marriage and mommy-hood. My husband found the steal-of-the-year, a Champion Juicer for $15 at a garage sale (Oh yes he did!) and I would make vegetable juice for us all to drink. My son and daughter’s baby food was home-made, and I breast-fed until both of them were well into their first year of life. When my oldest was seven months old we went to Asia for 6 weeks and I even made his baby food there!

Fast Forward to French Fries

It is now about four years from the end of that “golden age”. My kids eat a piece of candy every day. My third child was on formula and ate peas from a jar. McDonalds and Hungry Howies are in our diet just about weekly. Need I go on?

There are many factors to the changes. As our family grew and job situation changed, it quickly become too expensive to eat as well. We were up-rooted five times in 6 years and lost all semblance of “normal”. There was also a year of living with (wonderful) family who didn’t quite understand the whys behind our lifestyle. The area in which we lived changed from the artsy suburbs where healthy choices abound, to more rural areas where “greens” are boiled in pig fat and served brown. Did I mention that somewhere along the lines I began my struggle with depression?

I just became too weary to fight for what was healthiest.

It’s Gotta Be All or Nothing

The juicer stayed packed away, I ignored nutrition labels, and what was healthiest was replaced with what was easiest. I gave up the pursuit of the “ideal” stay-at-home mom, but the guilt ate at me every day. It was a struggle to know the way I was “supposed” to be living, but not doing it. Ignorance is bliss took on a new meaning to me; self-condemnation abounded as I was constantly aware of what I “should” be feeding my kids.

What I feed my kids is just one of many layers of the “shoulds of motherhood” I struggle with. You see, I tend to focus on all that I am NOT doing. Instead of noticing the things I do as a mother that are meaningful, important, and astonishing, I look at my failures, short-comings, and dysfunction—and I let them define me. I’ve gotta be all, or nothing.

God has graciously intervened, and I am learning to see that my worth is not determined by what I do or don’t do. I cannot be it all—the perfect wife, mom, and homemaker—and I am in the process of removing all the ideals—the “shoulds”—from my  to-do list. Because that list will never be accomplished by any one woman. Nor should it be.

Finding the Right Amidst the Wrongs

So, today I am going to focus on the things I still hold on to in our diet. I am going to celebrate the things I am doing “right”, and ignore all the “wrongs”.

  • We eat fruit; cold cereal and fruit is our breakfast staple. My kids regularly ask for an apple or orange for a snack. They love fruit and are (mostly) content to eat it.
  • Vegetables are a big part of our diet. My oldest son will eat spinach and other baby greens with nothing on them—and likes it! My daughter asked me for a whole cucumber yesterday as a snack. My two-year-old is finally starting to eat the spinach and not throw it on the floor! (Now THAT is a cause to celebrate!)
  • We often get FRESH vegetables, fruit, fish and eggs. Living in a rural area, EVERYONE here has their own garden. We’ve had salads from greens that were picked just hours before. Watermelons given to us fresh from the vine. We even have our own (itty-bitty) organic blueberries bushes in the backyard. My husband has tried his hand at fishing with the local boys and brought home dinner for the evening. Tonight I am buying a dozen free-range chicken eggs from a boy in our church.
  • We don’t eat much meat. We have swung a bit back and forth with this over the years, but of late we are getting back to eating mostly chicken, turkey and fish; we serve many meals sans meat.

Finding a New Ideal

While our diet may not be perfect, I am doing something nutritionally right. Instead of wallowing in everything I am not or cannot be, I am trying to take a more balanced approach to what I focus on. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing.

So, we will eat hot dogs at the ball field and drive through McDonalds because it is cheap and convenient. I will let my kids enjoy sugary treats and the occasional Sprite (especially if I can get them to do something for it!) and their snacks will not have to pass my hydrogenated-oil inspection. Nutritionally, it’s not ideal, but it is ideal for getting through these crazy, early years of motherhood.

Although, I did recently find the box with my Champion juicer in it, so look out carrots!


What ideals of motherhood do you struggle with? How have you settled into your own ideal? What “right” are you doing amidst your “wrongs”? Share it with us in the comments.

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