“There’s no way to be a perfect mother, but a million ways to be a good one.” -Jill Churchill-
Why is it that more of us don’t stop beating ourselves up for not being perfect and start celebrating the fact that we can be very, very good?
Society drives us and pushes us towards perfection. We end up thinking that “good” is not enough. It frustrates me and frankly, it often angers me. I think the joy of learning, of playing, of building, and creating too often takes a back-seat to the perfect execution of whatever it is kids (or even we adults) are doing. For instance, putting the focus on grades instead of the efforts behind them is hazardous. If kids are already giving 100%, then that C is the same as an A, and it should be enough. If they’re giving 70%, and have a C – then focusing on their effort will naturally bring the grade up. Insisting they be more than their best, however, is dangerous. We push them to become future adults who are discontented with themselves, their accomplishments, or anything they are working to achieve, unless they are absolutely flawless. Ultimately what is sad is that perfection is not an achievable thing. It is the unreachable goal. Someone will always be just a little better if you look for them hard enough. Striving to be better is a good thing – but striving for perfection is unhealthy.
I see it around me, in the schools, in sports, and in the magazines, and I realized that it is has been infecting my motherhood. I’m constantly trying to be better at some part of mothering, and I am not implying the good kind of improving, but the beat-yourself-up-for-not-being-perfect sort of thing.
See, I find I am not perfect at getting my laundry washed and folded and put away quickly. It takes me forever! But guess what? My kids rarely wear dirty things (only when they insist upon it!) and usually I have more clean clothes piled up to be dealt with than dirty ones. That’s a good start anyway.
I am not a perfect cook and always feel I am lacking in my meal prep and planning, most especially in the execution of it. But no matter what – I am fairly perfect at getting the same response from the kids when we sit down to a balanced meal, whether I slaved all day or just 15 minutes, “Ewww, yuck! I don’t like this kind of stuff.” Yep – I got one thing down perfect. If it is healthy, I get complaints – so I am doing something right!
But seriously, I find I second guess myself over everything I do – from the cakes I make for birthdays to the way I’ve potty trained my kid. I am sure some other mom has it more right than me and that I am grossly lacking somehow. But then I stop – and read that quote…
No way to be perfect – but a million ways to be very, very good… Suddenly it seems that maybe my kids will turn out okay and I will not only be an okay mom, but a good one even.
From the love notes my daughters seem to write me daily, I am guessing I am getting something right… heck, maybe I am even getting something close to perfect – but who cares. That’s not what it’s all about.
So in our house – we focus on giving it our best, each and every time… and we try really hard not to worry about doing anything perfect. And know what? We get NOT being perfect – absolutely dead perfect – every time.
Published in the May/June 2011 issue of Parenting In Fort Wayne Magazine
(Taken from my personal journal of February 18, 2007)