All my life, I have wanted everything I do to be perfect. If it wasn’t, I was never really satisfied. When it came to my work, I wouldn’t care if I had to spend longer working on something, just so long as when I submitted the piece for review, that the work was of a very high standard. If it wasn’t exactly perfect, I knew that within a few tweaks, it soon would be.
Perfectionism also featured in my hobbies. It didn’t matter what it was, if I didn’t feel that I had nailed what I was trying to achieve, I wouldn’t let anyone see.
Since having children, I have learned that it is impossible to be a perfectionist. Aiming for perfection only leads to disappointment.
Prior to having had children, I would make plans for the day, and would know that I would be able to get everything done. I wouldn’t rest until I had achieved everything I had set out to do. Since having had children, I have realised that it is near impossible to get everything I want to do, done in a day. It could be that I still have a long to-do list. I might have to modify that so that it is more realistic. I’m always learning.
My biggest learning has been from prioritizing what is the most important in my life. Things that matter the most, I aim to do as best as I can. Things that don’t matter as much, I have decided, that I have to let go even more, of the high standards that I previously had.
What are some examples of things that are the most important to me? The most important thing to me is my family. I want to have quality time with the people I love. It is especially important as I face going back to work in the next few weeks. I want my girls to grow up and have happy memories of fun things we do together. As much as I would love to do everything in a day, and get everything done, creating memories is what brings me the most joy.
Even parenting in general, I have had to let go of the idea of being perfect. Some days are tough. Some days are tiring and some days feel like they never end. For the toughest days, I have had to learn that it is OK to not do everything with my children that I would have liked to do. It is OK, if every once and a while we have a day off, just to do things around the house, with no plans made or intended activities and that we all just unwind and relax together.
When my first was born, I would feel guilty if I hadn’t danced with her, read her books, sung to her or played enough with her. I was worried that my sleep deprivation would get in the way of her development. I now realise I had nothing to worry about, and that she probably didn’t even notice. It probably made it more fun to have a break from everything once in a while.
For me, possibly the biggest source of frustration is the state of my house. I would love everything to be perfect and in its place at all times. It once was, before my eldest was mobile. I have had to let go of my desire to have a perfect house while the children are small. Sure, I love it when everything is tidy and put away. It unfortunately doesn’t stay that way for long.
Realizing what matters the most has helped me to determine where my energy is better spent. When I am with my family, they get most of my attention and energy. Having fun, and creating memories is more important to me than vacuuming or doing the dishes. Sure, housework does get done. I just prefer to do it whenever there are breaks in the day, or at night when the children are asleep.
As for my hobbies, I have definitely stopped being a perfectionist in this aspect of my life too. I don’t have time to make everything perfect. Even this blog, I have decided that near enough is good enough. If I waited until it was perfect, I might not ever publish a post, or the blog itself probably would never exist.
Letting go of perfection has meant that I have had to accept my standards are not as high as they once were. I can live with that. The benefits of letting go, for me has included lower stress and lower guilt (hooray for less guilt) levels. Like most things though, it is a work in progress. It is hard to change overnight. I still get frustrated, and when I do, I remember what’s really important in my life and my perspective slowly shifts back to my new norm.