I am not perfect. Nor is anyone else. Yet, we strive for and expect perfection of ourselves and others every day. My father left an intriguing comment on my post last week, Don't worry about it, Momma, which got me thinking about perfection:
I asked him about this the next time we spoke and he elaborated:
"You know, growing up on the farm there was always something going wrong. Cows knock over pails, fences fall down, nature doesn't cooperate etc. You came to expect and accept imperfection because they were a part of every day life. But, when I moved into the city everything was different. Traffic lights, garbage pick-up, mail delivery, everything was on a schedule. If things didn't happen on when they were supposed to, the whole system would break down.
I remember the calm acceptance of adversity. A neighbour looking out at dust blowing across the prairie during a bad summer drought. Tumbleweeds chased each other down the road as she looked out and remarked, "Well, its windy enough to get my ironing done now!" The farm had a wind driven generator that was the only source of electricity and people thought nothing of having to work around the weather. I also remember many missing the last game of the 1954 World Series because there wasnt enough wind for radio batteries."
I have been thinking about this ever since.
How does the way we live affect our expectations?
Do we calmly accept adversity? Or, do we get angry and frustrated and depressed? Do we vainly try to tame our circumstances, seldom finding satisfaction?
Have machines and their roles in our lives given us unrealistic and unattainable expectations? Are we set up for failure, no matter what?
I don't think the problem of wanting to be perfect is a new one, but it is certainly more pervasive in this day and age. Especially when it comes to parenting.
In North American society, we often live in nuclear family units. No grandparents next door or in the attic. No sisters, aunts, cousins, uncles.
You are all alone.
At least I was.
No one to tell me if I was doing it right or wrong. But, I did have one confidante to turn to: perfection.
If I read every book, blog, magazine, news story, and did everything they said, maybe then I would be a good mother. A perfect mother.
Everything had to be perfect. How else would I know if I was doing right? How would I know I was raising my child properly and being a good mother?
I became neurotic, paranoid, and over-protective.
When my efforts fell short and I didn't live up to my own impossible standards, I would feel depressed and inadequate.
Because, a perfect mother does not exist. Things will never be perfect. Your baby will not go to bed when you want it to. You will lose them at least once when they learn to run. They will throw up right before family Christmas photos and cry at their own birthday party. You might not have enough breast milk to feed them no matter what you do. They will tell you they don't like you even though you love them more than air and you will yell at them, even though you don't want to.
If you wait for the day you will be a perfect mother, you might end up like this:
Now that my children are older and I have managed to keep them alive, I feel that I am a good mother.
My kids are fairly well-behaved and polite, they are smart and inquisitive, loving and fun, and they love me. Even though I am not a perfect mother.
I find it a little hard to be around new mothers sometimes. I find the excessive striving for perfection hard to take and feel I, and my imperfect methods of parenting, reflect poorly in their eyes. It is still hard to shake the feeling of not being enough, not good enough, not perfect enough. All the worrying over sunscreen in every poor, militant nap times, organic everything, hats hats hats, perfect clothes, perfect food, perfect children, perfect everything.
I understand now why the mothers of older children never ever talked to us new mothers. We were annoying, neurotic, and paranoid. But, what else could we be?
We hadn't realized that we were Enough. That no one is perfect. And, as one wise person said:
"Striving for excellence motivates you; striving for perfection is demoralizing." ~Harriet Braiker
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