“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 don’t know if it’s because I was an only child or because my Dad didn’t really care too much about me (this is not a sob story, I promise) but I’ve always wanted to achieve and achieve LOTS. I had good grades at school while also being pretty ok at a few extra activities. By the time I was 30 I’d had three different and successful careers. So, you could say I was an overachiever.
However, part of being a perfectionist is being a bit of a stress head. Ok, a huge 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. And if it’s not all marked ‘complete’, I beat myself up about 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.
I’m not a negative person, and I don’t want this post to be construed in that manner. But this week I’ve been feeling a lot of take take take. Babies (children in general) just sap you of energy. For such a little person, they have a sizable ability to just drain every last living molecule of it out of you. And on top of the demands of a baby, there’re the demands of the house, a partner or husband, a job and more.
As I see it, there’s so much pressure coming from all angles.
To be honest, most of this comes from within, and I guess I’ve always been like that with anything I do. The pressure I put on myself comes from wanting to be the best mummy I can be, for the benefit of my son.
But, I also find there’s 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.
I used to work in a fairly high pressure job, so I guess perfectionism, high stress and busy-ness is what I’m used to. I’ve taken those traits into my mummy life and I have to say – it’s really not working for me.
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 your baby decides to wake up early or has other ideas about creating extra mess, and then you’re back to square one. And then, 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.
So, 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 getting vomited on. 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. I’m still going to set up a mental ‘to do’ list each day. After all, one can dream and old habits die hard! But I’ll try to make changes to that whole OCD side of me for the better.
I vow to leave the washing if I need to just chill (and put it in a place where I can’t see it so it doesn’t bug me), take time to enjoy the here and now a little longer, and not always be thinking of what I have to do next or mentally beating myself up for not getting something done.
I read a quote the other day which 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 😉
Every month Aussie modern mama and LB contributor, Shiv, talks about the realities of going from ‘Manager to Mummy’.