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.
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?