the untold truths of a handmade life : on failure

I had a meltdown yesterday.

Full-on, bawling-my-face-off, completely-lost-the-plot meltdown.

It happens.

When I finally pulled myself together, looked around my disaster of a house; the half-made applesauce on the stove, the chicken carcass in the fridge waiting to be made into stock, the empty bread drawer, my mile-long grocery list, the mounds of laundry, my wailing kid – in short – the complete and utter chaos . . .

I couldn’t help but wonder if this is what life is like for other homemakers, homesteaders, full-time parents and the like.

Does everyone else live on the razor’s edge between pure bliss and calamity? Or is it just me?

When things go right on the homestead – ooooh how they go right. The house smells of fresh bread, soup bubbles on the stove, the cookie jar is full, the pantry stocked, the laundry fresh and folded, the child bathed and fed, the chickens happy in the field . . .

When it goes wrong . . .


I certainly would be the first to say I’m a pretty crumby homemaker. I’m handy in the kitchen, but that’s about as far as it goes.

I try hard.

To tell the truth though, on a day like today – pouring rain outside and the house a hot mess – all I want to do is say Screw It, drink coffee and watch hours of PVR’d Real Housewives of New Jersey surrounded by mounds of unfolded laundry.


This morning I headed out to do my chores in the barn, after an epic struggle to fit fat little feet into uncooperative gumboots. I’m supposed to work today – you know, so-called REAL work, PAID work.

Of course, my little man senses my rush and decides it’s time to drive his push car through every puddle on our (very puddly) gravel drive, instead of follow obediently to the barn.

He is thrilled. He squeals Splash! with every puddle, his pant cuffs darkening, sipping puddles like a wick.

Finally, finally we make it to the barn, both of us soaked from puddles and landslide-inducing rain, to feed the animals, check the water, gather eggs . . . I promptly dumped the entire contents of the chicken waterer all over myself and the pole barn.

Ya know, it’s nice to be good at the things that fill your day. But sometimes, that’s just not the way life works.

Let’s face it. It sucks to suck.

In a world of digital one-upmanship, keeping up with the Joneses on Pinterest, sanitized and polished blog posts, prideful displays of domestic prowess on Facebook, and the real-life scrutiny of family and friends, it’s hard to admit that I’m not All-Domestic-Goddess All-The-Time.

It’s easy to look outside your door and think – Well SHE can do it. She keeps a clean house, makes time to do yoga, never yells at her kids and canned every single apple on her trees before the rats got them.

I duno. Maybe some people really are capable of that. Good for them.

I’m not.

I forget my laundry on the line. I start projects before checking if I have all the required components. I burn baking, ALL THE TIME. I sometimes yell at my kid. I’ve never had a year that some of the produce from my garden didn’t go to waste. My attempts at multi-tasking generally result in multiple unfinished chores. I use disposable diapers more often than I’d care to admit and I suffer huge pangs of guilt when I buy bread instead of baking it at home. Most days I’m lucky to get a shower and a brush through my hair.

Sometimes I DO say Screw It and watch hours and hours of Real Housewives.

I want my life to be the way I want my life to be, and I want it right now.

That includes my skill as a mother and wife and farm girl. I want to be able to bake bread, raise children, tend chickens, run a business, keep a household, run the farm, be a good wife, and do it all with confidence and grace.

How’s that go?

If wishes were horses, we’d all ride.

The truth of the matter is this:

We all like to read books and blogs about super-women who are living amazing hand-made lives; raising free-range kids in loving homes, home-schooling while canning all their own food and butchering game they killed themselves while sewing multiple quilts, knitting all their own sweaters, milking the cows and shooting beautiful photography for their nationally-acclaimed food-blog in their immaculately kept home.

You heard it here, first, folks :

She doesn’t exist.

Every homesteading / homemaking / stay-at-home-mothering woman out there I am lucky enough to know is learning as she goes; teaching herself, teaching her children. There is a beauty in that.

Yes, I had a meltdown yesterday. Yes, I was momentarily convinced that my life is a complete failure. Yes, I lost my cool with my kid. Yes, the thought of adding to our family while maintaining this lifestyle makes me want to throw up. Yes, my house is a mess. Yes, I secretly wish I was some version of Martha Stewart meets Naomi Klein meets Laura Ingalls Wilder.

I wish we would be more accepting of telling the truth about our lives instead of the fairytales we cling to in our dark moments. We all have them, but maybe we’d all feel braver, more confident, bold, if we shared our failures with the same pride of ownership that we share our success.

As women we are our own worst enemies. We have allowed feminism to be co-opted  . . . Instead of raising us up and freeing us from our chains, we’ve internalized those chains with ridiculous expectations, guilt, self-doubt. I often thinK about the experiences I have missed out on, things that I didn’t try because I didn’t think I could do them perfectly, or because I thought my body would look wrong doing them. Instead of try and fail, I have failed to try at all.

I don’t want to model that for my kids.

I hate failing, don’t get me wrong. But writing this post brought one of my favourite Joel Salatin quotes to mind:

Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly, first.

28 thoughts on “the untold truths of a handmade life : on failure

  1. patsquared2

    Love this. I said before and I say again, you have courage. Of course we all have really lousy days, days when we wonder what the heck we are doing, why we’re doing it, and who really cares…but most of us don’t admit it. We just bury the fear, anger, sorrow and move on. You have taken the time to use it as a learning and a teaching moment.

    It’s okay to fail. In fact, if you aren’t failing, you aren’t trying and your aren’t learning. I believe that with all my heart. Some days it feels like the universe is just lining up against you. Those are the days you just laugh out loud when your tea mug crashes onto your feet and the tea gains geyser like height and covers you and your dress clothes with your favorite tea. Sometimes it is just the universe saying, take a breath.

    Sit down, watch Real Housewives then remember, you are a real housewife with all the joy and love and warmth and mess and burning, cutting, messing up that brings. Give yourself a hug and a smile…the same one you would give a friend if she called and told you how badly she was doing. Then get up and just keep going.

    And keep in mind that all of us out here have been where you are over there. It’s okay. It will pass and if you learn from it, you will find that sweet spot that says, hey, it’s okay.

    1. The Slow Foods Mama Post author

      Thanks. Your notes are always like big hugs. I wished you lived closer so I could give you a big hug back!

      The thing about this particular kind of life is that you don’t have your coworker in the cubicle next to you. I took a lot of comfort knowing I wasn’t the only one struggling; it wasn’t me, it was just hard work. At home alone we lose that reality check.

      I take a lot of comfort in knowing women like yourself who have come out the other side in one piece. I know this is all part of the process and as long as I keep moving forward things will sort themselves out.


  2. the food fighters

    You rock, girlfriend. That’s all I can say. Last night, I sat on my back porch smoking cigarettes (I haven’t been a smoker in over a decade) and drinking beer while my husband sat and listened to me cry about how crazy my students are and how they’re sucking the life-blood out of me. Not exactly the picture of domestic bliss I’d like to project, but, oh well. I’m back in the game today.

    1. The Slow Foods Mama Post author

      The fact that your husband will sit with you while you melt down is a pretty good indicator of domestic bliss, if you ask me!

      Sometimes we all just need a good cry. Yesterday was one of those days.

  3. Heidi @ lightlycrunchy

    You are so normal! I currently have 6 baskets of unfolded laundry that I have ignored for so long that I’ve worn mismatched socks to work all week. I yelled at my out of control, hyper about Halloween kids several times before they left the house to trick or treat, I composted a bucket of cabbage that I had meant to make sauerkraut with, and the dinner dishes are sitting on the counter while I watch Coronation St. and contemplate making myself a drink.

  4. grammomsblog

    Stacey, give yourself a break…… There’s no such thing as a supermom. I’m sure today that you are seeing a whole different world. Someone once said to me: “on the bad days you learn and on the good days you live”.

  5. df

    My head was nodding furiously as I read this post, it’s that spot-on. My very, very favourite blogs are the honest ones, by bloggers who share their shortcomings and failures and bad days, and I sometimes have to ask myself why I don’t share more of my own. Probably because I can’t always laugh about them or help others to laugh at them with me! I feel that I share as much of the bad stuff as I can manage (like admitting recently that I destroyed a batch of blueberry jam through inattention), because for me ultimately, my blog is a place where I want to demonstrate to myself that I can try things and even do some things reasonably well enough (for me, for my family). For me, aspects of my life can feel hard enough without having to relive all of the hard moments (and with an audience too!).

    But rest assured that like your other readers here, I too am swamped by laundry and to-do lists that I can’t even seem to begin to conquer, and suffer way too many days when I feel like I’m all thumbs and the world’s worst so-called multi-tasking mother. Days when I have to ask repeatedly ‘What the hell am I doing?”.

    Retreating is a good thing to do sometimes when it all gets too messy, but better still is a blistering blog post like this one Stacey!

    1. The Slow Foods Mama Post author

      I completely share your reluctance to share the crumby stuff.

      I want to write a blog that is helpful and encouraging, not whiney . . . But I also want to write the truth . . . I really struggle with maintaining what I feel is an authentic story without becoming completely self-absorbed.

      I don’t want to contribute to other women’s guilt that we should be able to do it all, perfectly. I try to find the courage to talk about the lousy moments if I think it will help, if it might make someone else say – Phewph, I’m not the only one!

      Thinking and writing about failure in an abstract way also helps me get out of my own head and step back from my failings. I didn’t write about the heart of my upset, because like you say, sometimes you don’t want to relive it, or it is better left private.

      Dishing the details of our personal struggles isn’t that helpful, but I think sharing how we deal with them is. Writing about failure from that perspective helps me talk about things I’d otherwise not feel comfortable doing.

  6. Deb Weyrich-Cody

    Farm wives who “had it all” had the advantage of a multi-generation family for expertise and a helping hand PLUS, the more kids you have, the more they help you (and each other).
    Expecting “perfection”… Perfection is a MYTH. It doesn’t exist. But, “doing your best”… Now THAT’S a reasonable expectation!
    Burning things EVERY time? Either too much multi tasking OR your oven thermostat is malfunctioning – get yourself a stand-alone oven thermometer for 5$ to recalculate (and make allowances for) your oven’s actual operating temperatures.
    Oh yeah, and don’t forget (to take the time; ) to breathe! D.

    1. The Slow Foods Mama Post author

      Deb you’ve hit on something I think about a lot.

      When I’m feeling that overwhelmed, how on earth can I expect to do all of this in one day, I think about all the women before me who just got it done, day in and day out.

      My father always says – What’s the big deal? Raising kids and growing food and keeping a house used to just be normal. Everyone did it. They didn’t have to BLOG about it. It’s not a political act.

      But the thing is, we don’t have the systems, culture and knowledge in place that those women had. And they didn’t have a whole beast of a marketing system working 24/7 to convince them that they can’t do it, shouldn’t do it, and the tasks aren’t worthy of their time.

      Lots of women my age don’t know how to cook, we have plenty of friends in their 30’s and 40’s who can’t identify strawberries, potatoes or corn in our fields, and how many people raise their own kids anymore??

      I think our best chance for success is to re-create the systems our grandma’s and great-grandma’s had in place.

      1. Deb Weyrich-Cody

        You are SO right! That’s why, for now at least, I fire off bits and pieces of the stuff I remember seeing/hearing about from my parents, grandparents, mentors… I figure, if we all share the knowledge of our ancestors, it will once again become common knowledge for everyone who needs it.

        Maybe one day (when I have the time and energy to seriously commit) I’ll scrape all of these scattered bits of info together and actually start blog posting… But in the meantime, I’ll just keep my fingers crossed that people don’t roll their eyes and say “Oh no; here she goes again!” xo D.

  7. Deb Weyrich-Cody

    Thanks SO much for writing about this Stacey. It’s good to be reminded, when you don’t have “coworkers” anymore, that you’re not alone, other people share in the odd crappy day here and there (and it’s NOT just me; ) Hugs, Deb

  8. hippyvicky

    I love you’re writing! At first I was reading and smirking in a ‘mmmhmm I know what this girlfriend talkin about’ then when you listed all the things were supposed to be doing I lost my smirk and instead my eyes started darting around the place at all the nothing that I’ve done so far and I got a mental picture of the rediculous pile of laundry that I hide in our spare room and expect all family members to sift through to clothe themselves until someone comes to stay and forces me to put all the clothes away. I didn’t feel guilty about that room until now, cheers for that! Seriously, by the sounds of it, I think you probably are one of our modern day superwoman who generally get all things that matter done, your bad day sounds like a fairly typical day in my home except I’ve given up sweating the small stuff.

  9. Growing Up in the Garden

    Yes, yes, and yes! Everything you said was spot on. I have been struggling with this on and off since being home. Just this week I was thinking I need to change my mind set, and reframe how I see everything. Instead of putting all my energy onto all the half finished, not started projects and chores, I have got to put my energy on something else and just be in the chaos and be okay with it.

    You also might appreciate this post from Be Squirrely. She takes her readers on a picture tour of her home in its “usual” state.

  10. Growing Up in the Garden

    Me again. Just wanted to say thanks for posting this! It came at just the right time for me. Shifting our mindset away from that image of “perfect” is easier said than done, but it is so helpful when we can see we are not that much different from each other in that respect. Kudos for putting yourself out there.

    1. The Slow Foods Mama Post author

      I’m so glad it helped you. I was reluctant to write about it, but I’m glad I did.

      I don’t know how to make that mindset shift either. It’s hard to accept that maybe this is just where you life is right now, isn’t it? I’ve found I’ve taken my expectations from my work life and applied them to my life at home and with a toddler in tow, it’s just not possible.

      I really want to be GOOD at being at home, because I look at it as my JOB. Who doesn’t want to be good at their job? Combine that with the fact that people who aren’t in our shoes look at us and think (and sometimes SAY) what’s the big deal? What else are you going to do all day but cook and clean? Why can’t you get it all done? and it’s pretty easy to get down on yourself.

      Anyway – you’re not alone and any time you need a reminder of that, just give me a shout – I’ll send you a picture of my living room. 😉

      1. Deb Weyrich-Cody

        Boy, if I had a loonie for everytime someone made a dumb wisecrack like that…
        “Walk a mile in my moccasins baby!”
        For the third time in a week, the chorus from Amanda Marshall’s “Everybody’s Got A Story” is back in my head.
        “Don’t assume everything on the surface is what you see
        ’cause that classmate just lost her mother
        And that taxi-driver’s got a ph.d…”

  11. Pingback: acceptance | The Slow Foods Mama

  12. Alex @ northstory

    Oh girl I have been there, am there, will be there. We all have days like this. The days where one day you’re rocking everything and the next you can’t fold laundry to save your life because you just do not have the time or energy or something happened that totally changed the day. I spent weeks trying to make a perfect Halloween costume and experience for my daughter only to get a last minute phone call from the doctor and suddenly Halloween was spent in the ER that concluded a very dark, stormy and super wet trick or treating with everyone on cold meds. A far cry from the light hearted decorating. Perfection is so overrated. If you want a good laugh to make you feel better, go read what happened when I tried to sew for the first time. And here I am thinking if an apocalypse happened, I don’t even know if I could sew a blanket to stay warm under.


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