Photo by Mel B.
I try to avoid gender-specific posts, but today I have to go ahead and ask this question of all you women (men, there’s probably a version of the question for you, too, but I’m not a man so that’s hard for me to nail down):
What non-physical trait in your mom is the one she would never want to pass down to you? In other words, what was/is her greatest personal struggle—the weapon she used to regularly shoot herself in the foot, and make her life and relationships and everything else more difficult than they needed to be?
I wanted to call my mom this morning and ask her, but she and I are incapable of a short phone conversation and my day is packed, so I decided to guess. (Maybe she’ll stop by and comment, and let me know if I was right.) Here it goes: I think my mom would say she never wanted me to go through the pain and stress of being a perfectionist.
I’ve learned to do without perfect, but what’s enough?
In general—thanks in part to my mom’s transparency about her struggle with perfectionism—I think I’ve fared OK in this area. I’d rather have people over for dinner a couple times a month in a less-than-spotless house than never have people over (because there’s no point in waiting for this house to be spotless). I just finished knitting a sweater that had a few, umm, shall we say “funky” areas (aka:holes that weren’t supposed to be there). Rather than pulling out rows of stitches to go back and “do it right,” I decided I could go back later with a needle and yarn, for some classic knitting band-aid action. (Anyway, I’ve convinced myself that mistakes give knitting that undeniable handmade look.)
For me, just having kids and working, even part-time, sent all hopes for “perfect” out the window years ago. During my years as a single mom, I’m pretty sure the word “perfect” left my vocabulary entirely. (How can you shoot for perfect after a divorce?)
But even though I lowered the bar to a reasonable level and ditched the word “perfect,” another word took its place: “enough.” “Is this good enough?” Am I a good enough mom? Am I spending enough one-on-one time with my kids? Am I doing enough on my blog? If I just do the laundry today, is that enough? Do I call my parents enough? Do I exercise enough? Could I be doing a little bit more of all of these things, a little bit better?
The answer to those exhausting questions seems irrelevant—who decides what “enough” is, anyway?—yet they still hang over me. Do they hang over you? If so, I think you’ll be as intrigued by the title of this new book as I was: Good Enough is the New Perfect. I haven’t finished reading it yet, but I wanted to post about it today because the authors, Becky Beaupre Gillespie and Hollee Schwartz Temple, are going to be in town tonight, at a Chambana Moms event.
Accepting “good enough” as the new perfect
As the introduction explains, “This is not a book about settling. Or mediocrity. Or about anything other than getting exactly what we want as mothers, professionals and women. (Not everything we sort of want, but the things we want most.)”
What I love most about the premise is that it doesn’t hold up a standard for all women to reach for, in a “you are powerful and can do anything” way. Sure, we are powerful and can do anything, but maybe all those anythings aren’t things we really want, or things that will make our lives better. As the intro goes on to say “This is a book about refusing to live by other people’s rules,” and, “It’s about knowing that what’s good enough for one woman isn’t necessarily what’s good enough for another.”
So I guess that’s where we begin. I stop looking around me, at what other women are doing or not doing, and I decide what’s important to me. It’s about knowing who I am and what I love, and setting priorities based on that knowledge (very much like the Love List, isn’t it?). It’s about saying no, moving on, making choices, and shutting down the guilt monsters. And it’s about balance: work and play, self and others, present needs and future hopes.
I still have lots of thinking to do around these matters, but I’m excited to figure out what my own, personal “new perfect” might look like. Are you in?