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
For me, taking a break is huge. Sometimes I just need to walk away for a little bit, grab a snack or coffee and just regroup. It helps me SOOO much.
I absolutely agree!!
I think also the idea of trying to make it perfect or BE perfect can be so daunting. It can cause so many people to be paralyzed in their actions because everything just seems so much BIGGER.
I agree!! I definitely feel like the pressure is bigger when I’m trying to make things perfect.
I needed this. I have been feeling stuck on one path lately. I recently got my MS but I haven’t been able to find a job so I have been in a bit of a funk. I need to relax and refocus.
I’ve noticed when I relax more about the things I am stuck the most on, suddenly everything falls in line. Good luck!
These are great tips. It’s easy to get caught up in the “I need to keep on this path” mindset. Perfectionism is hard to overcome, especially for us perfectionists. 🙂
Glad I’m not alone! 😉 Keep on keeping on!
I really like your metaphor at the beginning of this article. It makes the comparison really clear.
This is just what I needed. I am definitely one of those who wants to be the best mom for her kids and feel like nothing I do is ever going to be good enough and I feel like there’s still something better that I could do.
Belle | One Awesome Momma
All 4 tips are spot-on. I have to do them constantly in efforts to make sure that I’m not crazy. I’ve been giving myself a lot of grace recently in the parenting aspect of life.
I think we have to really appreciate the good things we can do!
I love how you say you’re a recovering perfectionist! it is absolutely the best way to describe it. i understand what you’re going through, it is important to take a break. I love spending time with other parents with similar struggles to help me get through the tough times in parenting! Hang in there!
I love the train metaphore. I also know exactly what it’d like to get stuck trying to be perfect I’m working on it and I love your tips. I’ll get there eventually
I seriously love this post! Like you I get so focused on everything around me and what I’m doing that I forget to take a break.
It definitely feels like you’re stuck in a rut when you’ve been doing something for quite some time. I think a break is always important, it helps you relax and it’s also very refreshing.
I struggle with perfectionism. And when things don’t work out like I expect I get discouraged. Thanks for these tips, I have to remind myself to use them!
It’s so easy to want to be perfect, and so impossible to be so….We really do need to give ourselves a break and realize that we are human and doing the best we can!
Great tips! I struggle with this daily. It’s been hard to just let some things go when they don’t workout the way I want them too, but I am less stressed and happier when I finally come to terms that whatever just isn’t going to be perfect.
I agree with your tips. I know having a good support person or group of them has certainly helped me focus and get back on my path.
If we are lucky we all at least have that one friend who can turn around a bad day!
This post was great and encouraging. Sometimes I get in a rut but this has a lot of great tips. Thanks!
Cut yourself some slack – yes! I am constantly second guessing everything I do with my kids, but then I realize that obviously I must be doing something right because I am trying so hard 🙂
Needed this last week as I had a mental break, it is good to remember to take a break and cut ourselves some slack
I just came back from a month-long vacation and I really do feel rejuvenated. I am so glad I did that. Need that respite from the blogging world to get my creative juices flowing again!
Women, in general, are always hard on themselves. Any woman. Ugh. We need to be better at finding our positive stuff and strutting that! And taking breaks is major. Love the umbrella drinks, but also just 5 minutes to have tea is fab too!
Your story was so poignant and I loved how your brought it around to your own life. It was an enjoyable reading.
I love this. Definitely talking to another works. Joining parenting groups on Facebook have definitely helped overtime.
Yeah, I struggle with perfectionism, too. But it has gotten a lot better over the years, and I follow tips very much like yours. Taking a break is usually what helps me the most!!
I think cutting ourselves some slack is important. We are only human and mistakes happen so we shouldn’t get down about it.
I truly need this advice. You would think after 8 years I would have gotten off of the perfection track, but it’s so hard! As a SAHM I feel like I am my own worse enemy!
I love this! I have been beating myself up lately about working too much, etc. and I needed this reminder! None of us are perfect!
As much as we try none of us are perfect! 🙂
Im such a perfectionist and its really hard for me to accept things and walk away. I have to really pick my battles with the kids but thats really hard for me to do.
Oh boy have I learned the battles to pick!
Great advice, I really love the one about taking a break. I have a really hard time with that – I feel like I am constantly on the go all the time.
I try to schedule breaks for myself otherwise I forget to take them. It’s only when I’m overwhelmed do I remember.
Great reminders. It’s hard to stay on track & remember the important things to keep you going. Thanks for sharing.
That’s a great idea to take a break! Even a few breaths as you mentioned can really help any situation !
Sometimes you just have to take a moment and pause. With so much going on with work, kids and schoolwork it can be overwhelming. I can’t control everything and no one is perfect.
It’s so true that we do get stuck on our own tracks. You have some great reminders in here. Thank you.
While I don’t have kids, I am a proud aunt. I love spending time with the little munchkins, but even after a couple days I need to remember to take time for myself and relax. Their constant go, go, go can leave you feeling drained.
This is such a thoughtful post. I’m not a mum but can totally relate to all of these. Bless xx
I read this once already but really needed to reread it today, I needed the reminder that not being perfect is ok too and to give myself a break!
Thanks for reading and re-reading. 🙂 Breaks are so important!
It’s so easy to fall into perfectionism. I always get caught up trying to please everyone and do everything and it can get exhausting.
This is right on. I need a lot of help from friends. Mommy are friends are a lifesaver.
These are great tips. I often get stuck on my own track too and life goes so fast, especially with kids.
Life is a blur with kids! 😉
These are some great tips.I often find having 7 kids can be very go, go, go when my husband works long hours, so taking a break even if its just to sit down and sip on a tea is so beneficial!
Taking a break is not something I’m great at. I feel like I should always be doing something productive. I needed that reminder! Taking a break could be integral to my productivity!
I always need to feel productive. So I schedule myself for down time. It takes time to settle into it, but I’m always more productive afterward.
Great read. I agree with all points. It’s about perspective and realizing that being a perfect parent wouldn’t be a good thing for your children anyway. They need to see you making mistakes sometimes so they know it is normal and you can move beyond them.
Yeah I suppose parenting is hard and you should show grace to yourself. But every step of life is that way, child or no child. I like this advice for moms and non-moms alike.
Absolutely! I was a perfectionist before I was a mom too. For me it’s hard to balance being both now.
I can be so overwhelming thinking of being perfect and doing everything right. Sometimes it’s best to just take a break for a wait then come back with a fresh outlook and mindset.
We are often really hard on ourselves. I agree with you that we need to give ourselves a break and not be so hard on our own efforts.
I think we often feel like we are being self centered if we recognize our efforts. I think it’s healthy to appreciate what we are good at.
I always make sure to take a moment to regroup and start over. I actually took a year off from blogging to focus on some other priorities. So yes I totally agree with taking some time to ourselves. It will only make us a better person.
I am so used to multi-tasking and taking it all on at once I forget there is an option to take a break. Great reminder! Thank you!