I am a recovering perfectionist.
I’m recovering, not in the sense that I’m no longer a perfectionist, but that I’m starting to understand how being one isn’t necessarily a strength. Where once I would plaster the title at the top of my resume, now I’m learning to curb the tendency to control all the minutia of life—particularly as it applies to life as a mother. (And all the recovering perfectionist mothers said, “Amen!”)
Motherhood is messy, messy business. First there’s the general messiness of, well, birth. Then there’s a lot of poop and other bodily fluids involved. We don’t have to get into it. It becomes a neater endeavor in some respects as your kids grow and learn to wipe their mouths or eat blow their boogers and use the potty. Of course now it’s, “Clean your room!” and “We do not throw food!” that serve as indicators for how clean life is still inherently not.
And the dirty parts aren’t the only inhibitors to alleged perfectionism; because, see, what I’ve also learned more and more as my kids grow is how they are people. They have their own tastes and opinions and ideas about who they are and how life should be. Truthfully, it is one of my favorite parts about motherhood, my front row seat to all of that personality and discovery.
But what about when their opinions look nothing like mine? What do I allow to dictate? That perfect sense of style, opinion, and identity I’m so sure I’ve cultivated? Or the gorgeous and new sense of style, opinion, and identity that is growing inside of them? Obviously, I’m striving for the latter. And in an effort to let them be both little and themselves, I curb my own self in the smallest ways, letting them shine through in the biggest ways.
Read more by Sarah after the jump
In our house, at least currently, this revolves around expression through personal style. I am a minimalist, a classicist, and tend to love my neutral colors. I want my clothes to say that I am put together, that I strive for chicness, and that I’m ready for anything not tied down by weird fits or layers or inappropriate shoe choices.
“Mom,” my eldest complained one day, at the ripe age of only just three, “Why do you keep buying me black clothes? I don’t have any color in my clothes.” And the thought had never really occurred to me that I was growing her closet like I grow my own—a miniature version of mine. I cringed then remembering times I’d turned down the hot pink shirts plastered with cartoon animals or other such scenarios where I’d perhaps stifled her self-exploration all in the name of my own perfectionism. And what’s so wrong with a three-year-old wearing a shirt with a metallic looking squirrel on it?
Thus began my first experiment in letting go to watch them bloom. And both of my daughters have risen to the occasion. We’ve been out on the town dressed head-to-toe in princess attire or flying superhero capes while wearing shorts and church shoes. I’ve seen color combinations I never imagined were possible and hung up little shirts boasting whatever our latest princess obsession may be.
“You really don’t care what your kids wear, do you?” a mom at play group said to me one day in the park. I looked over at my girls, who had climbed a dirt mountain wearing tank tops and ripped tutus and multi-colored wellies.
“I like them to feel proud when they leave the house,” I said, happy that I really meant what I said. How could I not be when before me was the most beautiful picture of childhood? They were finding their own way and showcasing who they are in a way they’ll likely never be quite brave enough to do again. They were telling their own stories in colors and with imagination, positive that explorer-ballerina is a real thing—and that they were it. The mother remarked that she loved their creativity but thought they were old enough to learn how to properly dress themselves, and I just laughed, watching her tug at the hug bow clinging to her six-month-old’s head.
“I just had to decide that I’d rather be the mom with the crazy-dressed kids and free spirits than the mom with the prim-and-pressed daughters who knew nothing of themselves.”
And that is what I think. Oh, sure, there are moments that call for my intervention. “No, you may not wear your swimsuit to the play in the snow,” and “I think for picture day, Mommy will give you a few things to choose from.” But mostly I’ve realized, what I’m giving them is a gift. It’s an age-appropriate little step in saying, “I’m so proud of who you are, light of my life!”
It’s encouraged me, as well. My clothes tastes haven’t much changed since high school, so I doubt they ever really will; but it has shifted my attitude. Why am I wearing this? Because I like it! And am I going to let someone else’s opinion or personal taste effect my sartorial expression? No! Because maybe chic-put-together mom is just an imaginary thing, but if my clothes make me feel that way, then so be it.
(Sarah Ann Noel is a good friend and an exceptional writer and mother. She is also working on her first book!!!! I’m happy she agreed to share some of her beautiful words on the blog. Thank you so much Sarah! )