I Want to Be Better (and by Better I Mean Worse)

I’m not sure how much it comes through in this blog, but for those of you who know me offline, you may have noticed that I’m a bit (just a tad) of a perfectionist. Some clues you may have picked up on include my need to constantly schedule and plan get-togethers, always have enough diapers/food/warm clothes/toys for Bean on an outing, and juggle motherhood, work, blogging, household, exercise, marriage in perfect harmony.

Wait – isn’t this what being a mother is all about? Trying to care for your family and yourself, with a bit of fun to boot?

Well, this drive to be a perfect mom (and woman) is strangling me, and perhaps my family.

The proof came when we recently took our first flight with Bean. The day before, I spent hours packing and making sure we had enough of everything, because there clearly were not going to be any diapers, formula or baby food where we were going in the desolate city of Newport, RI. Turns out our hotel was next to a gigantic grocery store. But it would have been uncharacteristic of me to travel somewhere without every last thing we could possibly need. Unacceptable!

But my husband rightly pointed out to me that my drive for perfection is slowly wearing us thin. I am using a lot of energy making sure everything is in order, when we know that life is eventually going to throw a curve ball (i.e., Bean having a diaper explosion at the least convenient time and place, Bean throwing up on me in the hotel lobby, us running out of diapers although we calculated how many she’d need).

I know I’m not the only woman who struggles this with. I have taken to heart an article written by Washington Post columnist Brigid Schulte: The Test of Time: A busy working mother tries to figure out where all her time is going. This magazine piece made me laugh at the situations moms can find themselves in when they try to do too much, feel frustrated that our culture doesn’t honor a slower pace, and commit myself to trying to live with more leisure. My favorite part that made me laugh out loud with empathy was the following excerpt about how she keeps a stream-of-conscious time journal:

“Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2009. 4 a.m. Wake with a start. Familiar panic. What am I doing with my life? … Realize it’s raining outside, throw on some clothes and run outside to take patio cushions in. …”

I can relate. But I think I shouldn’t. I think I need to keep working on being present and not worry about taking care of Every Last Detail In The Universe.

So in order for me to be a better mom, I essentially have to be a worse mom – at least in my mind. I need to let go of perfection – not let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

How do you let go?

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4 thoughts on “I Want to Be Better (and by Better I Mean Worse)

  1. As a recovering perfectionist myself, I highly recommend Brene Brown’s book, “The Gift of Imperfection”.

    I am a soon-to-be Vienna mom and I just found your blog. I can see that I’m going to be coming back again and again because there’s lots of good info here.

    Like

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