Wednesday, January 7, 2009

I really, really want to be perfect

I mean, I try really hard and sometimes I think I've almost got it, but every now and then a ray of truth pierces the image I've built around myself. And let me tell you. It's quite painful.

I wish that I wanted something different. Like to be strong. Or to be friendly. Or to be anything remotely attainable. But this longing for perfection sure is the pits.

Sometimes I quietly tell myself that there is a society of perfect parents and with just a few more credentials I just might be able to join the group. Perfect parents are the ones that don't let their kids watch TV, drink juice or eat sugary things. They never lose their cool and have quick answers for tricky situations. I don't think I've ever met one and when I am thinking clearly I know that, like fairies, their existence is questionable, but when I'm not thinking clearly they are a very real presence that I use as a way to measure my parenting performance.

Yesterday I lost my cool, didn't know what to do in a tricky situation and I let Andrew, actually made sure Andrew watched too much TV. We also each drank juice and I sure ate my fill of sugary things (cinnamon buns! cookies!) though I can't remember if Andrew actually had any. Yesterday seemed to be the Grand Finale of the weeks of blah I've been having. And, lucky me, friends were here to see the great unraveling (Hi Melissa!!).

So, the bad news and the good news is that I'm not a perfect parent. The trick is to stop wanting to be so perfect. A friend recently told me that she knew she couldn't be a really good mom, but she thought she would be excellent at being mediocre. I think I should try for that.

Robyn Rice: consistently meeting new levels of swig of apple juice at a time.


Loralee said...

Hmm, you're not being too hard on yourself or anything, are you? You are such an amazing mother--I look at what I'm doing sometimes and think "I wish I had a little more of the mothering/homemaker traits as Robyn." More than sometimes--everytime I read your blog.

It's incredible how much sleep matters. Timothy went through a three month phase a while back where every other or every third night was really bad. And I was a basket case. I felt like nothing was going well, I had a short temper, I had no energy to do the every day stuff that had to get done let alone the rest of it. While those three months seemed to be an eternity, we're through it (just in time for a newborn!), and I'm not quite as overwhelmed as I was there for a while.

Just don't sweat it. I have a similar desire for perfection, but as you know, it just can't happen, and everyone else feels better knowing that we don't have to be perfect either.

Oh, and mediocre? You are far from it, my dear!

Susan said...


I think you are on the right track in not striving for perfection--but don't go too far with the shooting for mediocre. Because, really, that's no way to live. You should be striving for excellence. The important thing, I think, is to realize that "striving" does not mean "I will always be there." Or even, "not everything will be there all the time every day." You do many, many excellent things every day. And if you have a day that is really so bad that you can't point to even one excellent thing? That's okay. It doesn't mean that you can't be excellent tomorrow or at the end of Isaac's cold or after you get over the post-partum blues or whatever might be dragging you down at the moment.

I think you are probably not giving up but I do think that mediocrity is too-often and too-readily accepted by our culture. You don't have to go there to have sanity in your life! You can be laid-back about striving for excellence and know that Stuff Happens. You are not always in control about your life circumstances but you can control how you let if affect you.

I'm probably reading too much into your blog post . . . :) Happy New Year Friend!

Anonymous said...

Robyn -

I often try to be "perfect" too and those are the days when I lose my cool the most and the days where I don't play as much with the kiddies, because to me the perception of perfection is to outside people, if I cook a good meal or have a clean house or made something crafty and those are the days where I spend less time with my kids, more time trying to be perfect for others' eyes...and those are the days I hate the most. Here's to mediocrity. Maybe that should be my mantra of 2009. Hang in there. I'm sure Andrew and Isaac think you are pretty perfect and that is all that counts!


Melissa said...

I know you, and I know that you wouldn't give up on being a good mom. I don't think you could NOT be a good mom if you tried. I read an article recently about striving to be a "good enough" parent. There is ideal parenting (which often is a hallmark ideal, unfortunately), and there is parenting in our real lives (meaning, balancing one sick baby and one trying toddler with our own fatigue and need for space and hosting an entire family in your tiny little HOT apartment).

I try my best, in my weak moments, to set an example to Atticus and Enzo for how I hope they would act if they felt the same (i.e. cry if they are sad or overwhelmed, or express their frustration in a healthy way if necessary). But in my weakest moments, I lose it. Last week, I got so frustrated that I yelled at Atticus. I think I only said two words "Stop it!" as I hung up the phone in frustration (because he was interrupting me like crazy). Before I even finished, I felt horrible. Atticus and Enzo both burst into tears, and i was saying sorry over and over again. With tears in all of our eyes, I told Atticus to look me in the eyes and I told him I loved him. He said, "You don't love me when your a mean mommy."

I'm out of that situation now, and it breaks my heart to think about. But unfortunately, I'm sure we will have more low points in our future.

My point is, we all have stories like this.

I really think if we can all stop comparing ourselves to each other (because most moms do at least SOME comparing) we can have more of a give and take relationship- we can learn from each other about how to stay sane when our kids are sick or what to say when our child does ________, etc.

You are a good mom. And you will only get better as you make it through these times.

Mama V said...

Even though our boys have recently been sick, I think you and I both share the perfectionist bug on a general basis. What I've learned this month, though, is that this time doesn't count!! Isaac's been sick, Andrew's been sick, the holidays and the travel and the visitors and Dave being home and then not being home (and so many other factors that you haven't mentioned) have made everything crazy! And for some reason Andrew is engaging in creepy nocturnal affairs and Isaac is fussy and sleep is fitful all around and no one is rested or feeling normal. So... until all things get back to normal and to a groove again, none of this counts! Bring on the syrupy juice and sweet desserts to get you all through! (Even if it's not the most physically beneficially medicine.)

A kind and thoughtful friend -- a little byrd -- recently reminded how temporary all of this is. You will be PERFECT once again!!


Mandi Crocker said...

Geez, Robs. Pssh. You're a GREAT mom. A FANTASTIC mom. Heck, you're a way better mom than me! I don't even have kids yet!!! All my unborn eggheads are like "We hate you!!! When do we get OUT!!!??" Hmph. Ingrates.

Anyway, I want you to remember this if you've ever remembered anything I've ever told you before (unless one of our college discussions rocked your world THAT HARD that your life changed completely, forever & ever amen... and then by all means forget this craptacular tidbit, but I digress...) Ahem. Okay.... YOU are magical. YOU are one of the best people on the planet. Like. Top 10 quality. YOU have more creativity & love in your heart than the numbers of red hair on your head!

If your little champ is sleepwalking it's only because you've made his reality so magical he doesn't want to leave it for even the best of his sleepy dreams. YOU are the Great Robini!!!??? OWN IT, WOMAN! :)

Seriously. You're the most beautiful person, Robs.

Besides... everybody knows you don't start screwing up your kids til grade school. Just sayin'. Plenty of time.


Robyn said...

Mandi, I love you. You are hilarious!

un-nerved said...

Oh, Robyn.

God bless your honesty.

I feel this way all of the time and I'm not even a parent yet. Sometimes it's about what a good parent I won't be, and other times it's about what a good citizen/person I can't be.

And people try to tell me I'm good. But what really comforts me in the end, is when they divulge how bad they are too.

And not the wimpy stuff, I mean the TRUTH.

I totally agree it's hard not to be perfect. I say this to my husband quite often actually: "Today I realized I'm not perfect." Such a bummer. So hard.

Anne Lamott would say that you can't get to a good draft without a whole bunch of shitty first drafts -- and that we only really live by being messy -- and that for some reason God doesn't wave her magic wand, and we only improve one nanometer at a time. I like her.

Because I'm so uptight and self-doubting like this, the less perfect you can be, the more I'll like you. ;)

Cat said...

In French, we have a saying that says "la perfection n'est pas de ce monde". It means that perfection is not part of this world and the only perfect people are dead... I think parenthood perfection doesn't exist. I have more than my share of moments where I loose it with Jake. Sometimes it's "justified" but most of the times it's not. I then quickly appologize and try to explain what happened. I think there is a good side to this as Jake can see that adults also get angry/sad/frustrated and that there is a way to express that. Everyday I hope be more patient and do my very best. Please don't be so hard on yourself!

Seeking La Loba said...

Yes, perfection...such a desirable goal. I often tell myself, "of course nobody's perfect." And then I secretly think, "but should really try, because what other standard am I going to expect for myself?" :) So crazy.

You are an awesome Mom, Robyn. That's just the truth. I'm sorry it's been such a rough spell. I've been feeling for you.

Robyn said...

Loba!!! What are you doing posting on my blog?!?! Crazy.

Melissa said...

Mandi is still so funny! And Loba should take the time to write on blogs while she still has it! I remember being kind of bored in the hospital, don't you?

Melissa said...

Anyway- really- would you really choose to be perfect? It's just too much to live up to. And everyone around you would just feel insecure and all your friends would be intimidated by you. Or maybe that's just how I tell myself that it's good that I am SO FAR from being perfect.

un-nerved said...

Yeah, I'm over your kids being sick/sleepless too. I miss my daily Robyn fix!

kate o. said...

i will just say - amen to all that.

that, and i think it is great you have a friend who calls you "magical."

Danielle said...

Oh, you're far too hard on yourself!! Why set yourself up for failure and disappointment when you're such a fantastic mother already? Strive for excellence instead--you will stand before kings.