The other day I saw a video clip in my Facebook news feed of a car stuck on the snowy railroad tracks with a train coming toward it. Some good citizens abandoned their cars to assist the driver in the disabled car. I noticed the driver was determined to stay in the car, not give up and just kept driving until they moved forward. But it was with great assistance that they got off that track before the train passed where they were seconds later. I thought that is such a perfect metaphor for life. Especially for me, being a recovering perfectionist.
I can’t tell you how often I get stuck on my own track, completely focused on my own expectations, trying to force a particular outcome. I am determined to stick to that singular path before me. Whether it is pushing the kids to get ready for school on time, or finding a solution to a new parenting challenge. It can feel like life is that train barreling toward me and I am just stuck. When I am really lucky a friend, or neighbor will help steer me in a new direction before I am pummeled. Sometimes it is just a kind word, or even a blunt question that can snap me out of my one track thinking.
Life with kids moves at a quick pace and I don’t always take time to slow down and really appreciate that my hard work counts for something. Being a perfectionist I often discount my efforts, or second guess my parenting skills. It is so much easier to tear myself down than it is to build myself up. Sometimes it is easier to stay “stuck” than it is to persevere and move forward. I often think there is only way to be a good parent, but that mindset is so limiting. I am actually good at many different parts of parenting, but I am not a perfect parent.
So what do you do when you feel stuck on a one way track to perfection?
Take a break. This doesn’t always have to include a sandy beach and little umbrella drinks (though that is awesome), sometimes simple quick things can get you off the track in front of you. Read a chapter of a new book, take deep breaths, go for a walk, just get yourself away from that stressful sticking point. Sometimes I find better solutions when I hop off that one way track. I can stop worrying about my struggles for a little bit and find a new perspective.
Remember what you are good at. Maybe you can make any situation funny. Or maybe you are really good at caring for your kids, or keeping everyone wrangled. Maybe you are good at loving your kids through their really horrible moments. You may not be perfect at every part of parenting, but celebrate the parts you are really good at. I know I am really good at seeing the best in my kids even during a meltdown. That does nothing to keep my house organized, but it is one thing I am good at!
Cut yourself some slack. So you forgot to pack lunch the night before and there are dishes still in the sink before breakfast, but everyone has clean socks today! Perhaps you forgot there was soccer practice right after school today, but you remembered to grab a granola bar and bottled water for kid snacks from the store on your way! Giving yourself options keeps you from feeling like you just got pummeled by that train. I am getting much better at giving myself credit for the things I did do right in my day.
Talk to another parent. I always find the best parents to talk to are the ones who have already been down my road. They can offer practical advice that worked for them, and share a sympathetic ear. Sometimes it’s just good to know you are not the only one who struggles with parenting (and perfection). Join a group online, in person or talk to parenting friends at work. I am really lucky to be surrounded by so many people ready to guide me.
I hope this is a good time to remind you that you are a great parent just as you are! No one is winning a prize for having themselves more put together than you. No one else is putting pressure on you to give more than you can. No one else works as hard for your kid(s) as you do. So, take a deep breath and don’t let perfection keep you from moving forward.
Have a great week everyone!
The Whatever Mom is a twin mom learning to let go of perfection. She shares her real life struggles with parenting through her blog and contributes her time and talents as a writer toHudson Valley Parent and Masshole Mommy. When she isn’t writing you can find her chugging coffee, folding laundry and not judging other parents. Don’t forget to subscribe via email so you never miss a blog post again! You can also find her work featured on Mamapedia