Photo credit: Anna. She took it for the Art Expressions Contest of my favorite hill. She is my inspiration for not giving up, just keep plugging away, and laughing delightfully when she doesn’t get it quite right yet. That is a whole other post though.
I am not in general a perfectionist. I get teased by my husband and my mother (both with more perfectionist leanings) about various things, like how I load the dishwasher, the state of my Tupperware drawer etc I actually had to wait to stencil our wall in our living room until my husband wasn’t around. He couldn’t stand it not being completely perfect, while I knew that if you stood back no one would notice any slight imperfections. I was also relegated to taping etc when we painted our cabinets,which I am very grateful for. Those cabinets did need to be done with a perfectionist eye. All the teasing is done in love btw – they both wish they could let some things go more easily and weren’t quite so OCD. I once had a dear friend comment about how much she’d learned from me. I was so flattered and touched. Then she followed it up with something along the lines of, “I can now leave my kitchen a mess and just go outside and play with my kids.” Still flattered and touched, but not in the same way I originally was:) I am also a terrible party planner. I think I have everything thought of, but when the day comes the decorations never have quite the same effect as I was going for, the food doesn’t actually go together very well, or I’ve forgotten some key item. The party usually goes off just fine – I just don’t think I have a future in party planning. And I am absolutely OK with all of those things that are less than perfect about me. I would rather be spending time with my kids, or reading or writing, or learning something than making sure every drawer is perfectly organized or that every function is perfectly planned.
However, there are some things that I do want to strive for excellence in. I definitely don’t want to be mediocre at everything. I obviously want to be excellent at mothering and wifing. But aside from those I do have other dreams and goals I would like to be more than just good at. For a long time I struggled with how. How do I work on my other goals and interests? I have little ones running around all day, whom I adore. During nap/quiet time I usually need to lie down for at least a minute (I’m an early morning exerciser and between staying up to spend time with my husband and getting up at 5-5:30 to exercise I am a devout napper), If I don’t take a cat nap I’m usually crabby, which helps no one. Then if my catnap is even only 15 minutes long there are usually bills to be paid, a minute for scriptures and prayer, dinner to be started etc etc for the rest of nap time. And at night I kind of like the guy I married and want to spend time with him, again leaving not much time for personal goals. Not to mention my goals and interests are too varied. I want to fix up/decorate our house, build things out of wood, do family history, be involved in community affairs, keep up on current events, be a better friend, volunteer, write, learn photography….. there are so many with similar lists. I don’t feel trapped, I am very fulfilled in my role as a wife and mother, but I did/have feel/felt restless sometimes. Like there is more that I need to be doing. I don’t want to do things only part way, but I wanted/want to do things well. Two things are helping me.
We moved into our first house 2 years ago. I had budget every month to spend on improvements and my excitement could not be contained. I wanted to paint every room, re-do our fireplace, put up wainscoting, back splash etc. First I tackled the living room wall. With my lack of perfectionist tendencies I get into a state where I just want things DONE. As long as it’s looks OK it can be checked off the list and we can move on. My sweet husband pointed out that in working on our house that was not going to make me happy in the long run. It might take longer but if the kids are begging for attention, I’m getting frustrated, or something else needs to be done I shouldn’t try and hurry and finish but instead just walk away and come back when I’m not rushed. That was so hard! But it’s getting easier and I am more happy with the things that I do get done. It took me over a month to paint that wall with the design I wanted. It took me over two weeks to do the wainscoting and paint in my daughters room, and over a year to get her a rug, curtains etc. I admire the women who can pull of room makeovers in a weekend, but that just doesn’t usually work for most of us, and that’s totally fine. I’ve tried to carry this over to other areas of my life, even though I’m definitely not perfect at it. I am in charge of the newsletter for our elementary school. Recently, I was trying to get it off to the principal and the PTO president while all 3 kids were trying to talk to me. Instead of helping them and coming back later I just sent it off – only to have them respond with about 15 typos that needed to be fixed. I was slightly embarrassed. Striving for excellence can be an uphill battle.
The other thing that helps is something one of my friends said at a power of moms meeting. She pointed out that we might not have a lot of time, but everyone can give 10 minutes. It’s OK to ignore your kids, put off cleaning or other responsibilities for 10 minutes. You might not ever be a concert pianist but you can perfect a song on the piano or other instrument in 10 minute intervals. You can take ten minutes to read a news article on something you’ve wanted to learn about. Even ten minutes on bigger goals like family history, if done consistently, can lead to more progress than I imagined. The time I have for personal goals and dreams will ebb and flow with the needs of my family. I honestly wouldn’t have it any other way. The demands of my family make the time I do have more precious and more deliberately spent…. at least most of the time.
So while I am still not a perfectionist, nor will I probably ever be, there are still areas that I can strive for excellence as a mother, as a wife and as a person. It might take a lot longer but it’s still worth it. Any progress brings joy.