Published February 29, 2012
News flash: the perfect mom doesn’t exist. And striving to be one will just leave you feeling exhausted, hopeless and unhappy.
“In so many other areas of our lives, today’s moms are used to being very competent and in control. The problem with motherhood is that it just doesn’t work that way,” according to Dr. Amy Tiemann, author of Mojo Mom: Nurturing Your Self While Raising a Family. “Being a mother is about making peace with chaos,” she said.
Yet between parenting books that tell you what you should do be doing and judgment from other moms—on top of the pressure you put on yourself—how can you let go of your perfectionism? Here are five ways:
“You can’t be firing on all cylinders at all times, it’s just not going to work,” according to Hollee Schwartz Temple, a law professor and co-author of Good Enough is the New Perfect: Finding Happiness and Success in Modern Motherhood. Temple said to decide what goals are important to you, focus your energy on those and leave the rest behind. So if fitting in a workout is a priority for you, but making an elaborate dinner isn’t a big deal, through some ingredients into the crockpot and go for a run.
2. Rid yourself of the guilt.
“If you set yourself up for perfection, you will always feel like you’re failing since that’s an impossible goal,” according to Tiemann. But if you address the reasons why you’re feeling that way, you can deal with the guilt and move forward. So if you feel guilty because you don’t think you’re reading to your kids enough, start by making more time to do so. But if it’s something that’s out of your control like your job, or if your life is different than you thought it would be since becoming a mom, “make a conscious decision to let that go,” she said.
3. Don’t be a career mom.
Being a mom is the most important job you’ll ever have, but that doesn’t mean you have to be on top of your game at all times. Temple said that we are the first generation of mothers to professionalize motherhood; many highly educated, career driven women are applying that same ambition to motherhood. Yet according to a survey Temple and co-author Becky
Beaupre Gillespie conducted for their book, this approach comes at a cost. “They were actually less happy and less successful than moms who took a more relaxed approach,” Temple said.
4. Stop comparing.
It’s easy to fall into a cycle of looking at how you size up to other moms who seem like they have it all together, but the grass isn’t necessarily greener on the other side. What’s more, many times we’re actually comparing our real lives to a fantasy of the perfect mom. “That supermom is really a composite. We’re imaging this woman who can do it all perfectly in every arena, but in real life, there really aren’t too many women like that,” Temple said. So instead of being envious of what every other mom can do, focus on what makes you a great mom, what works for your family and what will you bring you the most happiness.
5. Reframe your thinking.
Striving for perfection can severely affect your ability to achieve a balance between work and family life. In fact, Temple’s research found that perfectionism was the single greatest obstacle to achieving a work/life balance. Instead of thinking about always trying to keep work and family equal, it’s more manageable to think about each as moving in seasons. So when work is super busy, it’s okay if you’re not able to devote yourself 100 percent to your family. Yet if you’re finding that your seasons never change and work is taking over your life, try to find ways you can achieve more of a balance and ultimately, make you a happier mom.
Julie Revelant is a freelance writer specializing in parenting, health, and women's issues and a mom. Learn more about Julie at revelantwriting.com.