Wikipedia describes perfectionism as: a personality trait characterized by a person’s striving for flawlessness and setting excessively high performance standards, accompanied by overly critical self-evaluations and concerns regarding others’ evaluations.
How many perfectionists are out there? Lots.
How many parents shifted into a type of perfectionism as soon they gave birth (or even found out that they were pregnant)? Almost everyone!
If you didn’t already have tendencies towards perfectionism, finding out you were pregnant shifts you far in that direction…then you start reading books and shift even further…then you start getting advice from every stranger you meet just because they had kids once (even if their kid is 40 and still living at home in their basement playing Call of Duty online)…and finally, you get the ultimate in conflicting advice from your mother and your mother-in-law (where one of them will know you didn’t follow it, yikes!). You get paralyzed by perfectionism.
You become convinced that if your baby doesn’t sleep through the night at 4 weeks, with the house temperature at 74, alternating sides to keep their head perfectly round and wake up to eat every 3 hours during the day on the dot then they can make nothing of themselves and will forever be doomed to be a failure. You get paralyzed by perfectionism.
Or you’re sure that if you toddler doesn’t say please and thank you every time, go into time out with just a simple look and come out when their timer goes off contrite and remorseful then they’ll never get A’s in school and will be a juvenile delinquent by the age of 14. You get paralyzed by perfectionism.
So, you spend all your time reading and reading and reading (Babywise and the 4 S’s and attachment parenting and…) and asking everyone your know for advice in person and on Facebook. You spend hours and days figuring out the perfect sleep schedule/plan until you are about ready to start about 4 months and your baby sleeps through the night anyway…or they don’t and at 9 months you’re still thinking about starting to think about starting a plan for your sleep arrangement. You’ve been paralyzed by perfectionism and haven’t done anything.
After sleeping gets itself ironed out, your 2 year old is screaming “No” and throwing themselves on the ground at the drop of a hat. You’re reading and reading and reading (Love and Logic and books about time-out and books about spanking). You friend says you should never spank for any reason but your mom and dad say, “We spanked you and look how you turned out.” Wait, do you mean that in a good or bad way, Mom? You end up not doing anything specific and your child doesn’t respond because you’re not being consistent. You’ve been paralyzed by perfectionism.
You can see how easy it is to have your life ruined by trying to be perfect…by trying to live up to your own expectations or someone else’s expectations so much that you can’t get anything done. Well, I have a solution:
Shoot to be the World’s Okayest Mom (WOM)
(It could also be the World’s Okayest Dad-but I haven’t seen that mug yet so if you’re a dude, read WOD every time below.)
The WOM doesn’t care about making everyone else happy (except herself and her kids to a degree).
She realizes that she can’t possibly live up to her own expectation’s, let alone everyone else’s.
The WOM reads and talks with others to get advice but she adjusts that advice so that it works for her and her family.
The WOM picks a plan for her life and her kids, tries it out but is flexible enough to make adjustments along the way to make it work for her.
The WOM knows that, in order to be a good mom, she needs to take care of herself and her needs sometimes and not put her kids first 24/7. She needs an occasional break so that she can be her best when she needs to be.
The WOM occasionally loses her temper but she goes back and apologizes and uses the opportunity to train her children.
The WOM tries hard but doesn’t beat herself up when she falls a little short of what she intended.
The World’s Okayest Mom loves her children enough to love her children and to be active with them despite her fears which actually makes her the World’s Best Mom!!
World’s Okayest Mom-Feel free and ask for her autograph when you see her. (FYI-She’s actually a great mom too!).
Justin Smith, M.D., is a pediatrician at the Cook Children’s Neighborhood Clinic on 2755 Miller Ave. He has a particular interest in development, behavior and care for children struggling with obesity. In his spare time, he enjoys playing with his three young children, exercising, reading and writing about parenting and pediatric health issues.