Confessions of a Former Perfectionist Mom

When I thought about becoming a mom, I imagined things being a bit messy but still fun. I imagined kids being noisy, toys everywhere and maybe a couple of pets adding to the mix.

This is what I got- but I didn’t count on anxiety, depression and other things happening. I became a perfectionist mom and I didn’t even realize it. I wasn’t happy, I didn’t even like myself at one point.

Bear hug quote

Becoming Someone Else

Things started getting out of control shortly after Lily began First Steps therapies for her developmental delays right after her first birthday in 2009. She had occupational, speech and physical delays- she needed speech therapy until she aged out of First Steps at three years old in 2011.

I was deeply anxious about getting things right with her after feeling like I had messed up. I felt like I hadn’t spent enough time with her. I blamed myself for having her at 37 weeks. (This was not a reason for her delays)

I wanted to get things right. I wanted to be a better mom. I paid close attention to what her therapists did and said. I made sure the boys were occupied during the sessions to avoid interruptions, the house was clean and that dinner was ready to be made as soon as they were over.

I had the sessions scheduled for the same time every week. In fact, after speech therapy ended, we felt weird on Wednesdays at 4 PM because Denise wasn’t coming over anymore. It was like something was missing.

This somehow spread to more than just trying to set up a routine and keep things smooth. I felt the tension between Matthew and I build in this time and he was in denial. To avoid more of his anger and lower my anxiety, I started cleaning more, to the point that I had a sheet on my refrigerator detailing what had to be cleaned each day. I wouldn’t go to bed for the night until it was done.

It was the only thing I could control. If something wasn’t done before Matthew got home, I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t sit down and eat dinner. I’m glad the kids barely remember this time because all they would remember would be me running around the house cleaning up behind them as they made a mess.

As Lily’s delays were resolved, Julian’s behavioral issues became obvious. In fact, the two issues overlapped for a time. I barely functioned because I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t sleep. The fights got worse, no matter how clean the house was.

I kept the house spotless but it wasn’t enough. I worked full time, cooked, cleaned and took care of the kids. It was never enough. Running around after three kids wore me down. I just wanted out.

A Turning Point

I had a mini-stroke in 2013. This was brought on by a migraine that went terribly wrong- you can read about that in Invisible Changes According to my (then) new neurologist, I needed to make some serious changes in my life and fast. I was only 30 and way too stressed out. Being a perfectionist was not working for me.

Confession #1: I probably should have gone to therapy at this point but… I got there in 2015. I wasn’t into self-care nearly as much as I should have been. I was just trying to keep going. I did, however, toss that damn cleaning sheet and have never made another one. I’m lucky if the kitchen floor gets wet mopped once a week. I’m still pretty intense about cleaning my countertops and hate vacuuming but the house doesn’t look bad.

Dr. Plato also recommended doing what makes me happy. I realized that keeping my house spotless was not making me or the kids happy because I was constantly yelling at them (yes, yelling, something I am still working on) to keep things clean all. the. time.

This is also not a thing anymore, and their rooms are slightly less than clean. I have a teenager and two preteens so I will let you imagine what these bedrooms look like. Confession #2: I make the kids clean their rooms once a week. Lily’s room looks like a kid’s version of the show “Hoarders” whether it’s clean or not, so this just helps keep it down a bit.

I clean daily, and I run a daily tab in my head of what I did get done in my head. This gives me a small sense of satisfaction so that I don’t feel useless. I also developed a routine of not cleaning anything after 8 PM. If something isn’t done by then, it’s just not getting done.

The first tip was something that my former therapist helped me with, because I hate the idea of feeling useless, and this helps a lot now that I am staying at home. The second one was a rule that I started to help me sleep better (and more) at night because one of my biggest migraine triggers is not sleeping well. Confession #3: These things help me from slipping back into being a perfectionist and counts as self-care, so yay for me.

Avoiding the Hole of Perfection

  • Set limits for yourself. If that means you have to set a time to stop a task, do so. It is worth it.
  • Remember that you are worth more than what you get done each day. I forgot this- big time. I thought my worth was only found in what I was able to get done each day and how well I could do it.
  • You are not a failure if you don’t do something perfectly. I would get so upset over not getting the living room spotless or one of the kids’ rooms was dirty hours after I got it cleaned. Life happens. Everything isn’t your fault.
  • Self-care is important. It is okay to take 15 minutes a day to focus on yourself. The dishes can wait while you read, do a face mask, or nothing at all. You’re worth it.
  • Some things can wait. It is also okay to not do those dishes at all in the afternoon- let them wait until after dinner. Let the kids help or even your partner. You don’t have to do everything yourself.

It may be a bit difficult to try being easier on yourself, but the weight off your shoulders is well worth it. Perfectionism, as a mom or not, can put a damper on your daily life.

Do you struggle with perfectionism? How do you deal with it?

Twin Mummy and Daddy

Not Just the 3 of Us
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After Thanksgiving Goodies

This is a good month- I love Thanksgiving. I am so happy to see Demi Lovato, one of my sobriety role models, out of rehab. Enjoy the posts and leftovers!

The Road to Authenticity

5 Ways to Conquer Self-Kindness

Healing Through Creativity: Art and Hippo Therapy

Broken Wings Part 5: What I Wish My Spouse Knew

Song Lyric Saturday with Britney Spears

Wonder women

My Experience with Body Image Issues

I’m 35 with three kids.

My body has been through a lot of changes.

The Mommy Bod

Before kids, which now seems like eons ago, I struggled with my looks and weight. I’m 5’2″ and not the most athletic type. I have curly hair which I used to hate. Growing up, I rarely saw models in magazines that looked even close to me. If I did, they were skinny with straightened hair.

I just wanted to look like everyone else but that was not possible. I couldn’t change my skin tone, hair or any other physical characteristics. I got busy with school and work but stayed at a decent weight. Over time, I even started liking my curls.

These pictures represent my weight loss and gain in the last few years. After kids, I got up to almost 200 lbs. I was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in late 2009 (which I no longer have thanks to diet, exercise and losing weight) and got serious about my weight. I wanted to be healthy for my kids.

A Sharp Turn

In 2013, that weight loss took a different turn. My anxiety kicked into overdrive because of the issues I was having with Matthew. I began thinking if I was skinnier, things would get better. I tend to not eat much when I’m stressed so this became a bigger issue. I would eat one meal daily for days on end due to stress. Sometimes it felt like I was punishing myself in a way for not being the wife and mom I was “supposed” to be. I may have been punishing myself for making Matthew so angry. I also spent lots of time in the gym- at least an hour four days a week. I’d have done more if I had time.

At my lowest weight, which was August 2015, I was 125 lbs and a size 4. I was so small that my co-workers asked if I was sick. My doctor told me that my pancreas, already not able to produce all the insulin I needed, might give out entirely and result in Type 1 diabetes if I didn’t stop losing weight and pushing myself so hard. I’m not sure I cared. I loved the way I looked- I finally fit into a string bikini but I was so nervous about it I didn’t want to take off my cover up. (A friend yanked it off, but in a good way.) I don’t think Matthew cared either way- he had seen me before and after three pregnancies. It’s not like he saw me naked much at this point.

Jake was worried- one of his last worries about me was that I was too skinny. He told me I was still gorgeous but I needed to gain “like 5 or 10 pounds.”

Jake got his wish, but he didn’t live to see it. I gained 60 pounds after his death. I ate, drank and didn’t think about exercising for a long time. I was deep in a hole of grief and depression.

Comeback of the Curves

I stopped drinking and move around a bit more these days. My pancreas survived and it’s functioning quite well. Thanks to having RA, it can be a bit rough but I do what I can to exercise. One of my medications has a side effect that messes with my appetite but I’m not going to be upset if I lose a few pounds. I don’t weigh myself- there isn’t a scale in my house. I’m not entirely sure what I weigh,my best guess is around 170. I’m a size 12/14. I’m okay with this. I’m happier, I’m funny again, I love food, I’m healthy as I can be, and I got my curves back. The second picture is me in Daytona Beach in August. I look much better.

I can’t say there was a moment where everything clicked and I stopped going so hard on my body. I was a little sad when I didn’t fit size small sweats in late 2015, but I had much worse things to deal with. While I was in therapy, I worked on how I saw my body. It’s been through a lot, and I realized I should have a lot more love for it. There’s three people that are on this planet because I grew them inside my body. I lived through a mini-stroke. I have two chronic health conditions but they are manageable. I’ve had three major surgeries (tubal, gallbladder removal and a partial thyroidectomy). I may have a few rolls but there are curves, stretch marks, surgery scars and tattoos.

I still have bad days like every other woman but I remind myself of where I have been. I remind myself that I’ve looked a lot worse and that I’ll probably look different in a few years. I’m good where I am now.

Tips for Better Body Image

It can be very difficult to change how you feel about your body.

My helpful tips?

1. STOP LOOKING AT MODELS FOR VALIDATION.

I’ll confess, I’m a huge fan of Tess Holliday. She’s a plus size model, and I love her message. I don’t look at her or other models anymore for what I should look like. I like her because she has amazing red hair, great makeup and #effyourbeautystandards is empowering. If you’ve never heard of her please look her up on Google. I like a handful of other models but for makeup and other reasons. Models work extremely hard to look like they do and it’s almost unrealistic for most of us to pull it off.

2. Remember what your body has done for you. Have kids? Even one kid changes your body permanently. If you’re a runner like my friend Lauren, there’s a lot of maintenance involved that I don’t want to imagine. She looks fantastic. I’m sure she will thank herself later in life for keeping herself in such great shape. (I hate running. I don’t even run to my mailbox.)

3. Realize that you are more than just what your body looks like. This may take a bit of work in the self-esteem department (lots of work for me) but it is well worth it. Everyone has interesting and/or quirky qualities about them that are likable besides what their body looks like. Do the work- make a Pinterest board of quotes, write in a journal about it. Talk to someone if you need to. The work will be worth it.

Have you had issues with body image? How did you work through it?

Quotes courtesy of Pinterest

My Random Musings

Adjusting to a New World

Many parents, myself included, envision parenting as this wonderful adventure in which kids develop at the pace they should, play instruments and/or sports, learn to drive, go to prom and all that great stuff.

But what happens when those things are altered because of a special needs diagnosis?

Cry a little

The Big Change

Some parents find out about their child’s diagnosis before or right after birth, in cases of Spinal Bifida, Cerebral Palsy and Down’s Syndrome. I know parents of kids with these diagnoses, and it has been life changing for these families. All of them have other kids without any special needs.

The adjustment is hard. I cried my way through Lily’s evaluation for First Steps the day before her first birthday, even though I knew something was not going right. I knew she needed more help than what I could give her. That story can be found in Special Needs Round Two . When her diagnosis of global delays was given, I was even more devastated. The blame game began. It took a lot of talking with Lily’s speech therapist, Denise, to realize that it wasn’t my fault that she was developmentally delayed. We are in the process of getting Lily re-evaluated. At ten, she is still showing signs of issues that we thought she had grown out of. Cross your fingers for us- we may need it.

In Julian’s case, it’s been a tougher road. His psychiatric nurse practitioner, Ann, once said that we have adjusted wonderfully as a family to Julian’s needs. I almost hugged her. I explained to her that it has not been easy and it remains a somewhat rugged path. My question is: Why not adjust? Julian is wired differently and that’s okay. If we didn’t adjust, he would feel badly about himself and I couldn’t bear the thought of this. It would also cause so much chaos for him that he doesn’t need or deserve. It would do the same for the rest of us. Why do that?

He needs the ability to feel okay about who he is, quirks and all. We’ve enjoyed watching him grow and finally develop a sense of humor. Every kid needs that, with or without a diagnosis. In a home with medical issues, this is a necessity.

I have made many mistakes in raising Julian (and his siblings). Even after reading up, trying many different things, therapy for both of us, getting Matthew on board and lots of burnt dinners in the process, things remain interesting. Julian is now 12 and puberty is kicking in.

Learning that your child has a medical and/or physical special needs diagnosis is complex. Some parents grieve the life they feel their child “should have had”. This is a rough one for me, as I’ve never done this. I can see this happening with kids with severe medical problems. A high school friend of mine has a child with spinal bifida and she lives a full life. Instead of being devastated and staying in a hole as some might, Shelly and her kids go out and do all kinds of neat things. Ryan is eight, and she is one of the coolest kids ever. She’s a tiny fighter. Some parents, like myself, are devastated and are not sure where to go next. Some fall into the “research pattern” and find all kinds of information to know exactly what to do.

This can be a great thing- I have read up a lot on Julian’s diagnoses and it didn’t hurt to work with kids with similar issues. (It did physically hurt some days, but that’s another story. I learned a lot from that job.) Some parents, sadly, go into denial. This can be damaging to everyone involved, and I highly recommend seeing a therapist, church member, or another trusted person. If it’s your partner, this can get really bad quickly, and I definitely know the pain of where it can go. Please do what you can to change that path. Talking can help. Easing your partner into information, appointments, and other things can help. Just don’t force them, because that can make things worse.

I recommend reading up, asking questions, and getting all the help from the medical community you can. The more information you have, the more empowered you feel to help your child. Julian’s been very lucky- he has had a great team from day one, because I wouldn’t let him have anything less. I’m a proud mama shark.

Never give up

It’s okay to feel different things- don’t let anyone make you feel different. Julian was diagnosed almost seven years ago, and some days I still feel overwhelmed. As of writing this post, I’m about to battle it out with his school over his IEP because it’s currently not being followed. Some days are better than others. Some days are absolutely great, some are so bad that you want to devour a liter of Cherry Coke, a bag of salt and vinegar chips and call it a day. (Okay, maybe that’s just me. I didn’t do all of that, but I considered it.) If you’re overwhelmed, write it out. Get someone to help you sort out your feelings.

Making The Best of Things

Daily life also changes. Depending on the diagnosis, your child may need assistance with everything, or nothing at all. This can become time-consuming and require an overhaul of your routine as you knew it. Food may need to be altered due to sensory issues- I live in a house with two kids with sensory issues, and I gave up on those battles years ago. Julian won’t eat french fries if he can see the potato skins or if they aren’t super warm. Lily won’t eat anything that resembles soup, any pasta that isn’t spaghetti, mainly because it looks different. Julian actually had a meltdown once over the shape of pasta my father in law used for dinner. These changes can be irritating to make, but they are necessary for the world our kids live in. I’ve learned to look inside Julian’s mind a bit, probably because of my work, and try to see the world as he does. It can get hard, but it’s worth it. Explaining this to others can get even harder, even your partner.

Small steps

It takes time to adjust- it won’t happen overnight. It takes time to learn how your child’s machines work, or how to get the wheelchair to fit in your van. Give yourself space to make those mistakes. I completely screwed up Julian’s 12th birthday party by inviting too many people, which cause him to shut down at the end, but I’m pretty sure he still likes me. He used to get mad at me when I would hold onto him with a death grip in parking lots and large stores, but he had a bad record of eloping. It was terrifying to have to run after a very fast 5 year old, especially in a parking lot. He was seven before I let him walk more than a foot or two away from me. (I never used a leash because I hate those things.)

If you’ve got a kid who takes things literally, you have to change how you talk to them. For example, I once told Julian to drop the jar of jelly he was holding after he was told not to eat anything. I was making dinner and he didn’t need to eat so soon before.

He dropped the jar.

Major mom fail.

Thankfully, the jar was plastic. That would have been an awful mess otherwise. Matthew and I have had to re-think things before we say them, because Julian thinks differently, and so does Lily, to an extent. We are still trying to figure out her thought patterns. She doesn’t quite think on a 10-year-old level, so we have to tread carefully.

Super parent

Final Thoughts and Tips:

If you have to buy things to keep your house, kid and car safe, do it. You’ll thank yourself later.

It really does take a village. I have friends that have kids with all kinds of physical/ developmental disabilities. A few have kids with autism, and they have been so helpful when I’ve needed them.

Being a parent of a special needs kid will make you a different person. I’ve fought for Julian since day one. Lily’s issues haven’t required so much of a fight, but I would do the same for her. It makes you tougher and less likely to take people’s crap.

Breathe and find something that makes you laugh. Comedy will get you through anything.

Get a binder and organize all of your kid’s paperwork. Julian and Lily have their own binders.

You are not alone, and get help if you need it. Take time for you, because your kids need Mom at her best. If you’re tired, sad and cranky, that’s not your best.

If you have other kids, let them be involved in adjustments. It’s not easy to be the sibling of a special needs kid. My kids have been pretty good about Julian, but it can get hard for us as parents. Cameron and Lily have a post about this in The Siblings’ Turn

Allow your child to live their best life. If they can do it- let them. My friend Laura Leigh’s son, Levi, is seven. He is in a wheelchair due to Cerebral Palsy, and he is an awesome kid. He smiles for days, gives his younger sister Presley wheelchair rides and loves school. I let Julian run cross country in the fifth grade and he loved it. We have a rule that his diagnoses aren’t excuses for not behaving. He does have bad days, but he doesn’t get to say, “I’ve got autism, so I get to act like that”, “I forgot my ADHD meds, that’s why I’m like this today”.

Most of all, love and accept your child the way they are. It might sound weird that I wrote that, but it is saddening that many parents don’t. Acceptance and love matters- it’s everything.

Quotes courtesy of Pinterest

Recommended Reading: The Spark: A Mother’s Story of Nurturing Genius

Twin Mummy and Daddy

The Dangers of Ignoring Mental Illness

Mental illness can lead to difficult situations if left untreated, but yet millions do so. Why?

Reasons To Not Find Help

  1. Shame. This leads many to hide symptoms. In many minority communities, mental health issues aren’t discussed very often, if at all. Those who do have issues are made to feel that something is “wrong” with them. You can read about this in Men and Mental Health and Breaking Down while Black.
  2. Poverty. Many don’t have money and/or health insurance to cover the costs of therapy and/or medication. This can be another major stumbling block. I was very lucky in that I had insurance to cover two years of therapy for a very low co-pay. Julian is on state health insurance. It’s hard to get help when you can’t afford it.
  3. Embarrassment. This is still a big reason that people avoid treatment. I’ve been very open about my struggles with mental health, drinking, and loss. Many people, however, want to hide that they have a drinking problem or anxiety. It makes them “look weak”.
  4. Side effects from medications and/or not feeling comfortable with a provider. Side effects from psychiatric medications are less than fun. Some are so bad that people simply stop taking them. It’s recommended that they don’t without speaking to the prescribing doctor, but this is not always done. It also helps if you feel like you can open up to your mental health provider. If you can’t, it makes you less likely to want to go back. It’s okay to want to switch. There’s someone out there for you.

The Dangers Below the Surface

When you leave your mental health unchecked, things can go very bad. The things on this list are possibilities:

  1. Worsening mental health status. As time goes by, your mind can go into some dark places if left unchecked. It may become harder to treat the issues. Longer and more intensive treatment may be needed.
  2. Unexplained physical symptoms. Sometimes our bodies begin to show wear after a certain amount of time of not being cared for. Our muscles stay tense, sleep becomes restless or harder to come by, eating may become irregular.
  3. Job and home instability. During a severe mental health episode, it may become difficult or even impossible to go to work. This can lead to losing a job and/or home.
  4. Incarceration. During episodes, there may be behaviors that lead to arrests, like indecent exposure, assaults, etc. These would not occur otherwise but in an altered state, people may not think clearly. There are millions sitting in jails and prisons with mental illnesses, many with severe mental illness (SMI).
  5. Victimization. Sadly, some with mental illness are more likely to become victims of violence than others due to past incidents and/or altered levels of functioning.
  6. Suicide. Many suicides are attributed to untreated mental illness. It’s not a failure or a lack of coping skills. Sometimes you get stuck in a moment you literally cannot see yourself getting out of. That’s when tragedy strikes.

Mental health treatment is well worth the time and money. You are worth the time and money.

Have you had problems with accessing mental health services?

For more information on accessing online therapy, please see Better Help

Pics courtesy of Unsplash

Information courtesy of Psychology Today