I’ve always been on top of my game… until I had kids. Then the game changed from “do it perfectly” to “get it done.” But it’s been hard to let go of my perfectionist mantra. I held onto it after my first child was born. I clung to it after the birth of my second. I gripped it for dear life while working full-time with two small children. It wasn’t until I left the corporate world for the world of all-day, every day child care that this mantra unraveled and I was forced to redefine my view of what perfectionism is.
It’s in my DNA to do everything to the best of my ability so rather than giving up on doing things well, I adjusted the way I viewed my goals and accomplishments. I’ve recently upgraded to a new form of perfectionism I like to call Perfectionism 2.0. Although not as flashy as its predecessor, Perfectionism 1.0, I’ve found 2.0 much more satisfying:
Perfectionism 1.0: Ready for the white glove test! Car spotless, house spotless, kids spotless.
Perfectionism 2.0: Car, house, and kids are polished, but not quite spotless. They look great, but look a little lived in. Baking and art projects are a lot more fun when I’m not hovering with a bottle of spray cleaner.
Perfectionism 1.0: “My children will never…” Just fill in the blanks on this one, and I know we’ve all been there! “Never watch more than an hour of TV.” “Never nap in the car.” “Never eat fast food.” My list of “nevers” was never-ending.
Perfectionism 2.0: “My children will never not be taken care of.” Sometimes taking care of them means a car nap on the way back from a busy morning at the park, a movie night as a reward, or picking up take-out on the way home from a busy afternoon so that we can get to bed on time and get the rest we need.
Perfectionism 1.0: “No” is not in my vocabulary. I can get everything done and it will turn out flawless.
Perfectionism 2.0: “Not right now” is a great substitute for “no.” This has been especially true after leaving the corporate world. I used to throw myself into my job, often overwhelming myself with projects and deadlines which in turn added a mountain of stress to my already busy life. I’ve been prioritizing and checking a few things off my list at a time, all while reassuring myself that it’s OK to go to bed with a few items left on my to-do list.
Perfectionism 1.0: “I don’t need help.” I will do it myself and it will be perfect, even if I suffer in the process.
Perfectionism 2.0: “Ok, fine, you can help.” I’m still working on this one, but I made a huge stride recently when I accepted help from a couple who saw me struggling to pack up my massive double stroller. Normally I refuse any help with that beast and end up spending 10 minutes in the back of my SUV trying to wedge it into position to get the trunk closed. Thankfully, I did take these folks up on their offer to help that day because it turned out the stroller was jammed. If it hadn’t been for their kindness, I would have been stuck in the parking lot for a lot longer than the 20 minutes it took these amazing people to fix my stroller and set the gigantic thing neatly into my car.
Let me be clear that this is something I struggle with every day. It’s hard to change your perspective on things and I need constant reminders to just relax and readjust. I’ll look at the crumbs on the floor, my unmade bed, the home organization projects that I said I’d “get to,” and then slip back into Perfectionism 1.0. What I’ve noticed is that frustration sets in, patience gets lost, and nothing really gets done. When I “Let It Go” like everyone’s favorite princess Elsa and re-adjust my priorities to Perfectionism 2.0, the happiness sets in and more gets accomplished.