Before we had children, I would spend hours on special projects, both for work and around the house. I would work on something as hard as I could with perfection in the back of my mind. Although I wouldn’t really admit it, I was operating like a perfectionist in a lot of areas of my life. Once we had children, it took about 2 hours of parenting for me to throw this approach to living completely out the window.
It even started in the delivery room with our oldest son. My doctor came in the room and said that after 15 hours of labor, my water had been broken for too long, I wasn’t progressing quickly enough, and unless he was born in the next 2 hours, I would need a C-section. “Do I have a choice?” I asked. “Not really,” she said, “he needs to come out.” “But I did months of prenatal yoga!” I cried. She smiled understandingly, walked out of the room, and a few hours later I had a C-section and a beautiful baby boy.
A few days later, I was at home adjusting to the first few days of motherhood in a mixture of joy, sleep deprivation, and trying to figure out how to nurse. My mom was staying with us, and she said something I’ll never forget. As she helped me and watched me navigate our baby’s sleeping and eating schedules, she said “You’re a mom now. Be flexible or die.” She said it matter of factly, with kindness and experience. And it was exactly what I needed to hear. Perfectionism was not going to help me at all. What I needed was to learn to be more flexible, resilient, and creative than ever before.
As we went from one child to two, I felt another shift … this time exponentially so. I made a conscious decision that whenever I felt perfectionism trying to creep in, I would switch gears to joy and simplicity instead. Perfectionism is such a trap, because there is always another step you can take to make something more perfect. Forget about it! I don’t have time for that kind of living. Instead of time-consuming gift wrapping, I’m grabbing the gift bag. Instead of making a cake that takes hours, I’m making colorful chocolate covered pretzels in 10 minutes or just picking up already made goodies from the store. Spending time with my family laughing and playing takes priority over cleaning the house or folding the laundry. The things that need to get done will get done, but they don’t have to be perfect.
Now my mom goals are more like this: Enjoy every stage of my boys growing up; love them for the unique and wonderful people they are; take care of myself; have fun with family and friends to refuel and reenergize; take time to revel in what my boys are learning and discovering.
What I also realized is that I don’t want my boys to think that they need to be perfect either. They are miraculously and beautifully their own people, and they make our lives so much richer. Simplifying helps me to live more fully, and to be more present and joyful in every aspect of life.