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Mommy Magic

Recovering Perfectionism

Why Parenthood Doesn't Have to be Perfect

September 01, 2010
I used to get my feelings hurt when people (i.e., my kids and husband) did not appreciate the fact that I spent 200 hours getting each child's scrapbook perfectly, well—perfect. Why didn't they care that, on top of pulling carpool duty, baking goodies for Field Day at school, helping sell Girl Scout cookies, and the laundry list of everything else I do, I make each kid's scrapbook—each containing all 500 photos I took of my girls at Disney World. By the way, I'm in none of these photos because I was the one capturing all of the magic on film. It was beyond me why they didn't stand on their chairs and applaud when I glue-sticked the last magical memory in place. After all, with three kids, that is a lot of magic to cut and paste. Why wasn't there a party in my honor to celebrate this accomplishment? Why did they smirk—indeed, act downright ungrateful—when presented a perfectly perfect scrapbook from our family vacation? Why? Why?! WHY?!

Feeling empty and hollow, I did some soul searching about all this perfectionism. What I realized is that sometimes I am ridiculous. I also realized that perfectionism comes with the territory of being a mom. The fact of the matter is that perfecting something that is already pretty perfect is kind of silly. Plus, kids (my kids, anyway) don't care about having everything perfect all the time. So, why do we kill ourselves trying to make the perfect scrapbook, Easter basket or birthday cake? Trying to maintain that standard of perfection is not only hard, exhausting and ridiculous, but it makes us sometimes feel like we are going crazy, as well.

Letting go of perfection is hard—especially as a mom. To be honest, I like perfection, but being perfect all the time is impossible! Besides, perfection is a standard WE put on ourselves. Our kids just want to be loved, feel safe and have fun. Would I like to think that someday they will appreciate my efforts and flip through their Disney scrapbook with fondness? Sure, what mother wouldn't want that? Do I think they will nit-pick it to death? No. Do I think they will care what color marker I wrote in or what glue stick I used? No! Do I think they will remember all the great fun we had as a family? Yes! Kids don't care about perfecting perfection. In fact, it kind of bums them out, which then bums me out, too.

So with that, my name is Mary Susan Buhner, and I am a recovering perfectionist. I do have momentary lapses of perfectionism, but I try to stop and laugh at myself. Perfectionism isn't just ridiculous—it's also kind of funny.

I ask all moms reading this column to learn from my mistakes. First, don't be so hard on yourself. Providing a loving, safe and nurturing home counts big time! Second, give up on the notion that everything has to be perfect for your kids. Each child is built differently and we have to honor the chaos sometimes. After all, perfecting perfection only stresses us out and makes us seem ridiculous to our children. Instead, take a few minutes each day to make a list (a mental one in your head or you can write it down) of all the wonderful things you did today to make your child happy, feel safe and loved. It may not have been perfect to you, but to them—it's magic!

Mary Susan Buhner is a Life Coach for Moms and author of "Mommy Magic: Tricks for Staying Sane in the Midst of Insanity" Visit www.Mommy-Magic.com for more information. Become a Fan of Mommy Magic on FaceBook!

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Tags: Parenting

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