[Published 27 Jan 2015 on iVillage Australia here ]
“Perfectionists strain compulsively and unceasingly toward unobtainable goals, and measure their self-worth by productivity and accomplishment.” – Definition of Perfectionism
I’m a perfectionist and have been from an early age. I had good grades at school while also being pretty okay at a few extra activities. By the time I was 30 I’d had a couple of different careers. So, you could say I was an overachiever.
However, part of being a perfectionist is being a bit of a stress head. I can never relax when something is out of place. I’m constantly writing (or typing, rather) to-do lists and tackling each day at a full rate of knots trying to get everything done. Even when there’s nothing to do, I’ll find something. And if everything isn’t marked ‘complete’, I chastise myself for it.
Now that I’m a mum things are out of place a LOT. Things have a habit of not going to ‘plan’ and it can be very stressful (read: absolute catastrophe).
There’s so much pressure coming from all angles. On top of the demands of a baby, there’s the demands of the house, a partner or husband, a job and more.
To be honest, for me most of it comes from within. I just want to be the best mummy I can be, for the benefit of my son.
But, there’s also external pressure. Staying at home with a baby means that people almost expect you to justify your existence. In my pre-baby life I remember wondering what mums did with their time. Sure, there was nappy changes, feeding, playing etc, but surely they had some spare time during the day to twiddle their thumbs and ‘do lunch’? Oh, how wrong I was. Now I know very different.
It’s like people expect us to do it all – perfect child, perfect house, perfect wit, perfect energy – with a smile on our faces, and to still look great at the end of the day. We’re expected to be Wonderwoman.
But too many times I’ve ended up in tears from the stress of not having everything done. At lunchtime my baby would be asleep in the cot after a crazy morning, I’d race around for his entire nap trying to clean, tidy and do multiple loads of washing. But, some days, there’s just not enough time, or my baby decides to wake up early or creates extra mess, and then I’m back to square one.
In addition, as a work from home mum, there are emails to respond to, work to do, phone calls to make and more. They just don’t get done. It’s frustrating and, for a perfectionist like me, creates panic.
But, I’m learning I can’t do it all.
I can’t have an immaculate home worthy of a lifestyle blog feature while giving my little guy the attention and one-on-one time he deserves.
I can’t be wearing trendy clothes all the time without them getting stained from vomit or food.
I can’t have an Instagram feed full of stylised and perfect pictures because life with a baby in reality just isn’t like that (kudos to those that do though).
I can’t answer all my emails in a timely fashion.
I can’t have as many phone calls with family and friends as I’d like.
As someone once said to me, ‘Perfectionism and parenting do not sit easily together. Done is better than perfect’. What I can do is learn to take it one task, one hour and one day at a time.
So mums, here’s to leaving the washing if we need to just chill (and put it in a place where we can’t see it so it doesn’t bug us).
Here’s to taking the time to enjoy the here and now a little longer.
Here’s to not always be thinking of what we have to do next.
Here’s to not mentally beating ourselves up for not getting it all done.
I read a quote the other day that really resonated with me:
“And every day, the world will drag you by the hand yelling, “This is important! And this is important! And this is important! And you need to worry about this! And this! And this!” And each day, it’s up to you to yank your hand back, put it on your heart and say, “No. This is what’s important.”
And with that, I’m going to go lie in the garden with my babe, point at things in the sky, enjoy his baby giggles and not reply to any emails that need to be answered….ok maybe just one ;)