I am recovering perfectionist. I don’t remember the last moment I set myself up with ridiculous standards but I did think I’d get all the laundry done this weekend so we’ll start there.
For some reason (perhaps my basic desire to be liked by everybody) I used to expect nothing but perfection from myself. Straight A’s, straight teeth, straight (up) bangs…I was a child of the 80s.
Along the way, I forgot a little thing called self-compassion. My perfectionism introduced me to her dark sister: lack of perspective. And we became great friends…for a while.
The funny thing is that eventually with friends like that, I became my own worst enemy when I started to have our family.
Children have this tremendous ability to bring real reality into our lives.
Think you are going to keep a perfectly clean house? Think again. Think you are going to have all the laundry folded and put away in one day? Ha! They’ll just put on more clothes. Think you are going to make meals from scratch all the time and they will love everything you make? Good luck!
But instead of being humbled and crying “uncle” to reality, I decided that I would fake being a perfect mom and no one would figure it out. I mean I have a bachelors degree in Psychology…how hard can this be?
I’m big and they are little…and they are not the boss of me!
With my self-delusion came a long list of things I would never do as a mom because I was smart enough, strong enough, and loved my kids more. After 23 years, I have to admit that it didn’t take that long until I cracked under the ridiculous pressure and started sneaking around behind my kids’ backs for a little refreshment and relaxation and sanity.
Here below is the list of my motherhood transgressions that have brought me much joy in my motherhood duties and for future reference for any counseling sessions my kids may need.
1. A secret chocolate (the good kind) stash.
It’s a life saver. If you can get through the store with a bag of the good stuff without a single child finding it and eating it, you are on your way. I placed my stash high up in a corner cabinet where a little one couldn’t see or grab. A single sweet bite of delicious contraband reminded me that I was in charge and I could get through the day…until their dad got home. Plus chocolate has good hormones connected to it…so it was healthy for my mental well being and fortitude.
2. All-day cartoons.
I didn’t play this card often but if I really wanted to clean or write or do the checkbook or do anything that took focus and time, I would put on some extended DVDs and videos and place their little bodies in front of the TV for hours of mindless entertainment. When my kids were little, we didn’t have cable so those kids would sit for hours watching shows they had never seen before. It was peaceful and delightful…and riddled with guilt…but I always came back to my chocolate stash for encouragement.
3. Boring dates with my husband.
We were lucky enough to have friends who had similar-aged kids as we did so every other week one couple would keep the kids while the other went on a date. We would get take out and go back home for a few hours. It was so luxurious to be home in the quiet and have a real adult conversation about the kids…and we may have cleaned a little and taken a nap. Guilty pleasure…yes. Cheap date…yes. Lame date…yes! Worth it…100%.
4. Store-bought snacks.
I didn’t always have the time or the brain-power to bake Pinterest worthy items so I compromised. One of my darlings was part of a musical theater group and one of the most important aspects of a good production is the after-party. I took this committee very seriously. While in the meeting one day, the idea of snacks came around. One mom said she was going to bring fruit. One mom said she was going to bring gluten-free, sugar-free brownies. One mom said she was going to make gluten-free, sugar-free, dairy-free, vegan cookies. I bought Twinkies and Mountain Dew. I wasn’t invited back to that committee but I didn’t have anything to bring home either.
5. Pajama Day.
With four little ones, always having them dressed spectacularly was bit of a chore. If we didn’t have to go anywhere that day, I would call a PJ day. The kids loved the novelty of it. I loved the ease of it and honestly they were so darn cute in their pajamas. We would build blanket forts and read books under them. We didn’t get many household chores done that day and made a complete disaster of our home, but it was full of fun and joy and wonder.
Moms, we are the warriors of sanity, the keepers of the peace (or pieces), and master planners of family logistics. We can’t put the heavy mantle of perfection too.
At the time I was ashamed that I couldn’t “keep it all together”. I felt less than and even questioned my worthiness as a mom, but I now look back at those sweet moment of pure chaos and “imperfection” as unbridled beauty. The beauty of messiness and the spontenityof life was too good to miss and I doubt anyone even thought less of us…except the party committee.
Take some time for yourself in a blanket fort. Keep a secret stash of goodies. Read a book that’s not about parenting or self-improvement. Buy a treat. Get kicked off a committee. Motherhood is a long, overwhelming journey of compassion and caring for yourself and others. Eventually they will be able to find the treats, dress themselves, and let you go on cool dates. And pajama day may never go out of fashion.