The word “perfect” has become my nemesis in the past decade.
I have spent so much time and energy trying to be “perfect.” The perfect wife, friend, daughter, employee, and now mother. Countless hours of beating myself up over things that cannot be changed. Wishing that I could be the ideal model of what I thought I should be.
It was exhausting.
Somehow, when you become a parent, strangers all of a sudden think that they have the right to tell you what they think you should be doing differently. It really, truly blows my mind. I live in Ohio, it’s winter, and yes, it’s cold. But I have things that need to be done to keep my household running smoothly. I can’t be a shut-in for four months, or pay someone to come here every time I need to go to the grocery store. Either these people have forgotten what its like to have small kids, or they don’t have them at all. I’m fairly sure none of my friends would ever criticize someone who is just trying to get things done and get home as soon as humanly possible. For example, I’ve had an older woman in the grocery store tell my son that it was “too cold for mommy to be taking you out of the house” (it was above 30 F). Two days ago, a middle-aged guy on a bike stopped us in the parking lot of JC Penney to ask my son where his blanket was, even though he was wearing shoes, pants, a heavy coat, and a thick hat. I was probably twenty yards away from my car and three feet away from the door.
Really?? I love how neither of these people could address their comments directly to me, they had to do it to him. Just one more little way that they could instantly make me doubt every single thing about myself as a mother.
What is it about becoming a parent that makes you so incredibly insecure all the time? Probably half of my friends have children now, and we all have turned to each other for support in the midst of a “I’m a terrible mom” moment. One of my best girlfriends texted last night that she was “a sh*tty mom” because both of her children (3 months and 18 months) were having a night where nothing was acceptable, they were screaming, her husband was out-of-town, and she was losing it. My heart ached for her, not because I didn’t sympathize with the situation (been there, done that for sure!) but because I felt so badly that she translated the situation into an evaluation of her as a mother. No matter how much time, love, patience and energy we pour into our children, it’s never enough for us to look back on in the dark moments and not think “I’m the worst.”
I actually looked up the definition of the word “perfect.” No joke, this is what kicked back for me in Google:
1. having all the required or desirable elements, qualities, or characteristics; as good as it is possible to be.
“she strove to be the perfect wife”
Man, oh man.
Bottom line is, there is no being “perfect,” at least in what I picture for the traditional sense of the word– pearls, heels, beautiful and immaculate house, flouncy 1950’s dress and apron, handing out warm chocolate chip cookies. There is only being the best version of yourself, and you can only achieve that if you are happy. No one that is obsessing over the fact that they have faults, doubts, or weak moments, as every person on this Earth does, is ever happy. I don’t necessarily disagree with the definition above– notice it doesn’t say “without fault or imperfection.” I try to do my best every day to make sure that everyone that I care about is taken care of, has their needs are met, are happy, and knows how very much that I love them. And THAT is what I know they will love me for, not for whether or not I did all the laundry even though I was sick (yup) or whether or not my nails are manicured (not since September).
Oh, and one final thought– I’m pretty sure that “perfect” doesn’t serve spinach to their husband in a bowl with an elephant at the bottom because they forgot to run the dishwasher. And I’m good with that.