What Happens When I DIY… Self-Sabotage Edition

Shannon wrote a few weeks back about how when she DIYs, it’s a form of self-care. More power to her! But as we know, each mama is different, and it got me thinking about what happens when DIY… and I’m coming to accept that for me, it’s apparently self-sabotage.

This past Christmas, I tried to make one of these for my kid: 

Screen Shot 2016-07-18 at 11.11.27

So cute, right?

True to my high-enthusiasm-low-follow-through tendencies in this area, I bought the felt, cut out the shapes, and then was faced with the issue of how/where to attach it, but it was still early December, so I had lots of time to figure it out. No big deal. I decided magnets would be best so I could put it on the fridge. Yet somehow we got to Christmas and the pile of folded up tree and ornaments just sat in my dining room… for no other reason than I simply never got around to going to the craft store and getting the damn magnets. I fretted about it occasionally, that cut felt mocking me whenever I noticed it, reminding me about how I never follow through on craft projects… it felt shitty.

Go a little further back, to my son’s first birthday, and I really wanted to make him a cake. I know I’m no master in the kitchen, so I thought I’d keep it simple. Boxed cake, plain icing with a giant #1 on it in sprinkles… that was all. Still, I ended up with something like this coming out of the oven:

Screen Shot 2016-07-18 at 11.21.46

… and had to go get another box mix cake, then call my good friend – who is a master in the kitchen – to come help me get it out of the pan because I was too stressed out and scared to do it myself. And yes, it is super embarrassing to admit this in public.

Recently, though, I thought I might have beat my odds. We were heading on our first long car trip in awhile, and we try not to do many screens for our toddler (because he transforms from his sweet self into a horrible tantrummy monster when screens get turned off), so I decided to make an activity center for his carseat. It was, by my standards, a big DIY project, and man, did I ever rock it! I took one of those soft carseat trays (I couldn’t find any firmer ones, probably due to crash-safety regulations), attached a dollar-store puzzle frame to it with strong velcro to create a bit of a board that he could play/eat on securely, and then filled the pockets with the puzzle pieces from the frame, a book with lots of pictures to look at, some simple building blocks, and a pad of paper with stickers and crayons:


I saw what I had made, and it was good. My piece de resistance was the addition of crayons attachable with a clothespin and yarn so that if he dropped them while drawing, I or he could easily get them back:


I know, right? I am a fucking genius.

But then, in practice, the other shoe dropped. We were a couple of hours into our trip, just having got back on the road after a dinner stop, and it seemed like time for an activity. His favourites are puzzles, so I got the pieces out and he seemed pretty stoked about it – good job, Mom! He finished the puzzle, then agreed it was time for sleep – good job, toddler! – and snuggled up with his lovey. As soon as I got the activity center put away, he looked at me with wide eyes, said with a quiet quiver, “Mommy….” and then promptly vomited his dinner all over himself, his carseat, his pyjamas, and his lovey. Apparently my son will not be someone who can read in the car. We spent the next hour pulled over north of Toronto at a convenience store cleaning up puke – oh, and of course, that’s when I realized I had forgotten to pack extra pajamas, even though we were going away for a whole weekend.


I write a lot about ‘doing me’ as a mom, about accepting the kind of mom I already am, and about claiming things as #goodenough. But it seems I’m getting ‘signs from the universe’ (which I don’t really believe in, so I’m using it more as an expression) that are saying, hey Lindsay, you should maybe quit while you’re… well, not ahead, but…

Should I take these hints that I maybe shouldn’t try to be that DIY mom? Why do I still do these things if they usually seem to blow up in my face? Each time I try, I end up feeling stressed and defeated. (This is probably why pinterest fails are one of the funniest things in existence, in my books. They give me a super charge of catharsis.)

It’s hard to accept this. So much of the du jour culture around being a “mom” requires that we be crafty, artistic, DIY afficionados. So when you can’t even bake a box cake without messing up 50 percent of the time, it can really make you feel like you don’t measure up. This is why remembering that we’re not homogenous “moms” as a group, but rather unique individuals who all happen to be moms is super important.

I’m not really sure what the ‘takeaway’ is here. Maybe it’s just that whether you’re like Shannon, who loves her some DIY because it makes her feel awesome, or like me, just wondering with each failed birthday cake or unfinished project sitting in your dining room why the hell you bother, or somewhere in between or somewhere totally different, it is actually okay. Figure out what makes you feel good, decide how much time and energy you’re willing to expend on it, and then let the chips fall where they may. Celebrate it if it goes well, and let it go if it doesn’t.

My son’s second birthday party is coming up, so I’m currently trying to decide if I’ll just buy some bakery cupcakes, or maybe beg one of my better-in-the-kitchen friends to come give me a lesson in box-baking (or at least supervise me). Either way, it doesn’t really matter – at the end of the day, friends and family will sing happy birthday to my kid, and then eat something full of sugar. A happy ending for all involved 🙂


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