By MGAL Guest Becky Beaupre Gillespie
Co-author of Good Enough Is the New Perfect: Finding Happiness and Success in Modern Motherhood
I was so determined to be the Perfect Mother — you know, back before I became a mom and learned that such a person doesn’t exist.
It seems ridiculous now, but I entered motherhood poised for a win, thoroughly determined to astound people with my feats of maternal prowess. My baby was never going to take a bottle or use a pacifier. She’d take baby ballet and Gymboree and swimming lessons, and she’d eat only organic food. Not mostly — only.
My discipline methods were going to be firm but compassionate, and always consistent. My baby would remember to say “please” and “thank you,” quite possibly in several different languages. Oh! And she was going to appreciate my effort and sacrifice. And buy me one of those World’s Best Mom coffee mugs, which would be really special because, in my case, those words would actually be true. Also, I was going to work full time.
I’ll give you a moment to wipe the tears of laughter (or the annoyance) from your face. Then I’ll tell you what happened: Perfect failed me, utterly.
The story of my undoing, and my subsequent effort to rethink things, is detailed in Good Enough Is the New Perfect: Finding Happiness and Success in Modern Motherhood, my book with Hollee Schwartz Temple. But suffice it to say that my definition of Having It All has changed in the past decade.
The truth is, perfectionism has been our generation’s single greatest obstacle to juggling motherhood and work. When Hollee and I surveyed 905 working moms for our book, the “constant need to be the best at everything” outweighed all other factors, including financial pressures, inflexible bosses, and spouses who didn’t contribute enough at home. What’s more, the moms who let go of that need to be “the best at everything” were happier in their marriages, more satisfied with their choices and just as likely to advance in their careers.
Not only does perfectionism wear us out, but all this competition makes it hard for us to focus on our own priorities. The fact is, there are a lot of right ways to be a good mom.
But the key is rejecting the urge to conquer every “right way” and to simply choose the “right ways” that fit our own values. And then to cut ourselves a little slack there, too.
I’ve learned to stop using words like “only” and “always” and “never.” Some of those early goals really did work out, but only if I’m allowed to measure them by “mostly” and “sometimes” and “close enough.” I didn’t do anything perfectly. But I’ve done a lot of things well enough.
And that, I’ve found, makes me happy.
Good Enough Is the New Perfect: Finding Happiness and Success in Modern Motherhood, is available at http://amzn.to/newperfect . Becky and her co-author blog about parenting and work/life balance at http://TheNewPerfect.com.
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