Watching this video this morning solidified one of the aspects of motherhood with which I struggle. It’s a common theme to be addressed around Mother’s Day: perfectionism. I didn’t think I had it, but I do. While taking this journey to learn more about myself as a mother, it has been brought to my attention that one of the reasons I am often unhappy is because perfectionism is a myth, especially as a mother.
I ran into an old mission companion of mine at the library the other day. I tried to pour my heart out to her explaining how stuck I am feeling. I said, “I just don’t enjoy being home.” And then I asked, “Are you happy at home?” She responded that she was for the most part and that she just needed her creative outlet and she was good. “I painted a picnic table yesterday”, she said with a smile. “I was good for the day.”
I was like, “Wha–, What?” I just don’t get it. “That’s it? You get 10 minutes of crafting a day, and then you’re good? You don’t ever feel resentful. You don’t have any further ambition that you feel is being stifled?” She looked me straight in the eye and said, “Not really.” I couldn’t tell if she was being truthful. I am sure she thought she was, but I just couldn’t believe the answer. “She had to be lying to herself'”, I thought. I tried to search within myself for the truth. She said, “You just need your own creative outlet.” I said, “I’m not really artsy. I don’t like crafting. I don’t do home decor. I love to write, but it’s all I can do (as I pointed to my 3 year old climbing the shelves) to get out a blog post, which usually takes me less than a half an hour. I don’t feel any kind of release or accomplishment when I do that.”
And then came my answer and I was so glad I had ran into a listening ear. I continued, “If I could sit and write a book all day that may give me some happiness. I also love photography, but it doesn’t necessarily make me happy. I think for those two things I feel like if I can’t sell a million copies or inspire people with my work, what’s the point?”
And the lightbulb knocked me upside the cheek. How ridiculous I sounded! I’m a perfectionist and it’s keeping me from my happy place.
Yesterday I read this beautiful letter from a mom to a child starting school and I had further recognition of my reluctance to admit my weaknesses as a mother and how I am unknowingly projecting that need for perfection onto my children. I loved this line:
We do not care if you are the smartest or fastest or coolest or funniest. There will be lots of contests at school, and we don’t care if you win a single one of them. We don’t care if you get straight As. We don’t care if the girls think you’re cute or whether you’re picked first or last for kickball at recess. We don’t care if you are your teacher’s favorite or not. We don’t care if you have the best clothes or most Pokemon cards or coolest gadgets. We just don’t care.
We don’t send you to school to become the best at anything at all. We already love you as much as we possibly could. You do not have to earn our love or pride and you can’t lose it. That’s done.
We send you to school to practice being brave and kind.
What if the only criteria for motherhood was love? And what if I admit that I will love as well as I can and that it still won’t be perfect? Nobody can love perfectly. If I could change this one little glitch in my motherhood mantra, I believe I could change the world, one future mother at a time. I have four daughters, I owe it to them to learn to be happy being an imperfect mom because really, like the rest of us, that is all they can aspire to be.