Post-Partum and Embracing Imperfection

Today at our parish we had a guest speaker, Georgie, from the  Pacific Postpartum Society. She came to spread awareness about postpartum depression and to give some insights on helping families cope with it. During the presentation, we did an exercise where we compared what “the perfect mother” would do, as opposed to what the real mother would do. “Always be patient and smiling” vs “losing her temper sometimes,” “always making gourmet meals” vs. “ordering pizza or making Kraft dinner sometimes,”keeping the house gorgeous all the time” vs “coping with mess.” You get the idea.

We did this exercise to emphasize the pressures we put on ourselves to be “perfect”– to be “leave it to Beaver moms” who always have a clean apron, a bright smile and freshly baked cookies in our hands. Georgie talked about how our happiness is greatly effected by our expectations, and how far we fall short of them. This is compounded by all the images of seeming perfection we see online, where we only glimpse into people’s lives after they have been edited and airbrushed. Someone joked we need more realistic magazines, like “Mediocre Homes and Gardens.” Recently I saw a funny meme that had a cartoon woman and read “World’s Okayest Mom.”

Why do we keep going after perfection like rats after poison, when we know how miserable it makes us to compare ourselves to others? There are many sayings to help us: “the perfect is the enemy of the good,” “best is good, better is best,” etc. Being gentle with ourselves and humbly accepting where we are at is much more likely to bring peace to our families than striving for unattainable perfection and then beating ourselves up for falling short. As the cleaning guru the Flylady says, “You’re not behind, you’re where you are: now jump in!”

My buddy Monique and I have a “one awesome thing” check-in. We call each other and share the one awesome thing we did that day. It could be anything…that we sent an important email, that we cleaned out the fridge, that we did a cool art or baking project with the kids, that we had tea with a friend who really needed a heart to heart chat, whatever. The point is to focus on the little successes, rather than the long list of “not yet done’s.” As a bonus, the joy of celebrating those little accomplishments is energizing and helps us feel brave enough to try a little more.

Embracing our imperfection allows us to appreciate real life and to accept it, mess and all. And it gives other moms permission to do the same. Rather than wasting time wishing we were like someone else, we can pour our energy into becoming more ourselves, and fulfilling the unique missions we all have. Now that’s beautiful. So next time you wish you were a perfect robot, like Data from “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” remember that for all his intellect and calm demeanor, what made him really special was when he developed the ability to feel emotions. We feel pain, we are weak, we struggle, we laugh, we love–because we are real. And teaching our kids to deal with their real life emotions and direct them towards love is likely the most important thing we will do as parents.

Taking care of ourselves and learning to love ourselves as we are, while always trying to grow better, bit by bit, will be the first step on this journey. Fellow moms, let’s walk it together!

 

 

 

 

Bad Day Mama Blues

Sometimes when you’re tired it feels like the world is ending, even though everything is actually ok. So this is a shout out for all the moms out there who had a bad day, or even a bad week, and don’t want to feel alone. If you’re tired of airbrushed social media images of perfection, this post is for you. 

So it all started with running out of coffee. Think alarm bells and

Code red, code red: mom down, mom down!

  

A disaster of epic proportions…leading to an immediate need to at least consume extra chocolate. So how ’bout you join me? Here’s a chocolate quiz. Eat one chocolate for every time you answer yes (chocolate chip or chocolate bar? That’s up to you!).

  1. Did your baby spit milk on you within 3 minutes of getting dressed? (Hey, good job getting dressed!)
  2. Was there a civil war at breakfast over who was looking at whom, followed by the building of a cereal box wall?
  3. Did you have to chase your naked toddler around the house to get his or her clean diaper on, right before you had to leave?
  4. Did you wonder if climbing the piles of laundry counted as a homeschool sport?
  5. Did your dishes magically reproduce the second your back was turned?
  6. Did you daydream about hammocks and drinks with little umbrellas in them?
  7. Did you feel inadequate or incapable…especially late in the afternoon, during that “witching hour” before dinner?
  8. Are you getting a toothache yet? 🍫🍫🍫
  9. Did your kids run screaming or getting suddenly faint and ill when you mentioned chores?
  10. Did it take three tries to call your child by the right name when correcting them?

Well, my friends, you’re not alone! Hope you’re munching something yummy, and ignoring those little ugly voices that sneak up when you’re tired and tell you you’re not good enough. If you’re worn down and feel like you have nothing left to give, it’s likely because you gave it all already. Like a fireman, you’ve been putting out fires all day…so the smoke and dust are a sign you’ve worked hard. Battle scars!

Motherhood is a tough job, and requires all your strength and all your heart. Chances are you’re doing an awesome job…not perfect, but awesome, so keep it up, and here’s to moms everywhere, struggling to love their little ones and make their homes happy, even when disaster strikes, and the coffee runs out! 

Why Posting an Imperfect Post is an Act of Freedom

Lately my husband and I have been on a theology kick and read to each other before bed…until we get totally confused, inspired or one of us ends up drooling on the pillow (usually me!)…It’s been really interesting, and definitely gives us something new to talk about beyond how’s work and what did the kids do at school today.

Tonight we were reading about freedom, and it made me ponder what it really means to make a free choice, and how it relates to the stifling danger of perfectionism in writing…as perfectionism leads to the inability to make definitive choices and complete things. (Yes, being writing-obsessed, I manage to relate pretty much everything back to blogging…just ask my husband).

Anyway, the author described the misconception of freedom as the ability to make an endless succession of choices, without any of them ever being permanent and definitive. The idea that having options equals freedom, and the more options, the more free you are. “But why not?” you might ask…”Doesn’t that sound good?” The thing is to apply this idea and see where it leads. Here are some examples of how it changes, sometimes subconsciously, how we make decisions:

“I’m not going to choose what to study, because that way I can choose to study anything at all. I’m keeping my career options open.” Yes, and your empty wallet…Being open to the possibility of all jobs but having no job = unemployment, not freedom.

“I’m not going to choose someone to marry, because that way I can marry anyone at all…I’ll be so free.” Or so lonely and jaded, because it takes one real heart to love you and keep you warm at night, not several billion theoretical ones.

“I’m not going to post anything on my blog (ah, finally, blogging!) until I have something perfect. As long as it’s in my draft box, I have the freedom to keep changing it. It won’t be permanent.” Ah, yes, that horrific word….permanent! We are so afraid of it. It implies commitment, confidence, strength, endurance…yikes!

But tell me, is having a draft box full of unexplored possibilities really freedom?  Nothing wrong with drafts, but to really mean something and come alive they need to be released, imperfections and all, into the world. You need to say as a writer (or painter, photographer, chef, etc), “This isn’t perfect and I’m ok with that. It’s not perfect but it’s mine and I stand by it. This is me.”

That one irrevocable act of posting your little poem, photo, story or ponderings is a greater expression of true freedom and honesty than that of hoarding your drafts like treasures, choosing to hide them away lest they not shine as brightly in the light of day as you’d like. I think it was Julia Cameron who said that you need to be willing to be a crappy artist in order to become a great one. So be yourself, stand by your work, make a permanent choice to share your work and in that way really own it. Post that thing you’ve been hiding away so jealousy. Chances are what’s closest to your heart will resound in the hearts of others as well.  

Writerly Ramblings: On Not Blogging Enough Lately

20140622-210430-75870941.jpg

So for one reason or another, like in the Baby Blues cartoon above, I’ve been letting the usual business take over more lately, and haven’t been blogging very often for the last few weeks. It’s very easy to find something else more urgent on my to-do list (anything that stinks or screams jumps right to the top), but constantly choosing something more pressing than pressing publish is having it’s effect. If I went to a specialist my appointment would go like this:

“What seems to be the trouble , ma’am?”
“I haven’t been myself lately…I’m more irritable and impatient, and I feel like adrenaline is always rushing through my veins, even late at night and early in the morning…”
“I see…and have you been blogging lately?”
“No, not much.”
“No ideas?”
“Quite the opposite. Words are buzzing around my head at night. I’ve got so many ideas I can’t choose which one write about next, or even if I make a draft, which one to publish.”
“Aha! It sounds like you are suffering from an unblogged duct, caused by an excess of ideas and a deficiency in publishing them.”
“But I don’t know where to start…”
“Well, the best remedy for unblogged ducts is to write something, anything, and publish it as soon as possible. This will help overcome this flare-up of perfectionism, and get things flowing again.”
“Thank you, doctor. I’ll get write to it!”
“Once you hear that little sparkle sound of a WordPress notification of someone’s comment on your iPad, you’ll start feeling yourself again.”

So here I am, imaginary doctor’s orders, writing. And I’m glad. I’ve been missing you all. You might think that writers are solitary creatures, only concerned about crafting words in the dark loneliness of a late night office. But the opposite is true. Writers have a great need to connect, to share their experiences, to inspire and be inspired, to encourage others and to be supported themselves. It’s about people ultimately…

20140622-205103-75063443.jpg

I’ve been wanting to tell you about our giant expedition to the park with Uncle Winston, about the inspiring homeschool conference I attended, about the Father’s Day dinner at a Chinese restaurant that ended by me being peed on by the baby, about my new Barefoot Books home business that I’m so excited about, and about all the crazy things my almost four year old has said lately, among other things. So hopefully I’ll get to all these things very soon, and let’s hope this post gets things up and running again!

And for anyone else who has been putting off writing lately, get to it! You’ll feel a lot better…

20140622-202809-73689879.jpg

I’ll tell you all more about it soon, but for anyone who wants to check out my new Barefoot Books site, here’s the link. Hope you’ll love these books as much as my kids do!

Barefoot Books: Colourful, Cultural Books for Creative Kids

20140622-211937-76777913.jpg

The Perfect Parent Lives in Timbuktu (and is likely a Sasquatch!)

I haven’t met the perfect parent. It’s not me. It’s likely not you either.
But that’s ok. Children are born of love, not perfection.

Still, sometimes we wonder if there is a scientific formula for being the perfect parent, a special combination of elements that will help us get it just right.

Our society encourages this; we are told we must have the right economic, educational, medical, emotional, and intellectual circumstances to responsibly have a child. It seems a very dangerous and risky business, and one must be perfectly prepared.

Sometimes people wait their whole lives to be perfectly ready. Baby room painted just so. Millions in the bank. 800 parenting books read. Relationship so stable it makes mountains look wispy and wobbly. Health just so, taking the right 60 vitamins, and doing yoga 10 hours a day.

What happened to something that used to be so natural? A creative overflow of love? Isn’t the sincere love between parents already giving your child a lot, especially in today’s world?

But our fear of being imperfect parents in an imperfect world really paralyzes us so much as a society. We fear traumatizing our kids and are haunted of visions of their future therapist’s couch before they even leave their cradle.

We are told we better consult the experts constantly, because we as “mere parents” (just rabbits really) know nothing. I don’t think all this fear is actually making us better parents, just less confident and optimistic ones.

If we risk having one, we think we shouldn’t have another, because we’re not perfect yet. The funny thing is though, that having another child helps us to grow better, more mature, relaxed and confident, and therefore helps our first child, too. Experience is a good teacher.

So please don’t let fear of your imperfection stop you from loving; that would be a terrible tragedy. None of us had perfect parents, but we’re still glad to be here, in this messy, imperfect, absurdly beautiful world.

While I haven’t met perfect parents, I have met perfect babies.
Actually many of them.
More specifically, ALL of them.
Each baby is perfect.
A perfect gift, a perfect miracle, a perfect parcel of love.
Each one makes the world more beautiful. That means you, too.

Siblings help each other to grow as well, precisely through their imperfection, their foibles and stubborn streaks; experiencing all this children learn, in a context of love, how to get along with, embrace and accept others.

If we are teaching our kids to love, to care for others and help them when they are down, we are doing a lot toward making the world a better place.

My kids can squabble as much as the next ones, but I was happy to see my older girls stepping up and caring for the younger ones this week when they weren’t feeling well. Here’s a picture of my 5 year old reading bedtime stories to her little sister. Without being asked. That made me really happy.

20140227-000434.jpg

So stop worrying about being perfect, unless you want to go live with the Sasquatch, who can maybe give you some pointers.

Personally, I think what you need as a parent is love, commitment, and a willingness to adapt and grow, because as much as parenting will make your children grow, it’ll make you grow more.

Happy trails! And may you be abundantly blessed in love.

20140227-000817.jpg