Do you have a picture in your head of what your perfect life looks like? You know, the one where you get the be the main character in your story? The one where you get to do all those things you’ve dreamed of doing, but don’t have the courage or the time to do?
You see yourself giving a killer speech in front of a packed-out audience that results in rapturous applause…
You are the perfect wife and mom who keeps the house neat as a pin, your children are never found playing in dirt or mud puddles, and every toy is put away exactly where it belongs before the children are tucked in bed at the correct bedtime every night…
You create the perfect homeschooling plan and have incredibly creative, engaging activities that your children adore with each and every thing that you talk about…
You are the one that all your friends come to when they need advice and your words are the pivot point that changes the course of their life for the better…
You are the perfect mom, the perfect wife, the perfect version of yourself and you are able to do it while showering every morning, doing your hair, keeping your nails clean and manicured, and with perfect makeup that never runs.
Let’s be honest here: You fancy yourself as Wonder Woman or Super Mom. You want to be able to be all things to all people and to do everything perfectly well. You want to be able to juggle being a mom, working, raising wonderful children, keep a clean and organized home, cook homemade dinners for your family every night, grow your own garden, be a great friend, and have time for anyone and everyone who needs you. All while being able to take time for yourself without having the house explode into chaos.
You want to be perfect no matter what you do.
And when you can’t reach that standard of perfection in your head, the guilt sets in…
Call it Mom Guilt. Call it not meeting expectations. Call it not living up to perfectionist tendencies. Call it whatever you want, this feeling of guilt, left unchecked can become completely debilitating! How do you end up here? How is it that you fall into this trap so often and find yourself looking around thinking, ‘What in the world??’
My Friend, this trap is a nasty one! And what makes it even nastier is that so many times it is a trap of your own making. If you’re not the one that made this particular trap, you certainly are guilty of escalating it!
Think about it: Is your expectation of yourself higher or lower than someone else’s expectation of you? Most likely, you expect more of yourself than anyone else does!
I’ve found that there are a few things that really feed this guilt, this sense that you are not enough, that you are not doing all you should be doing.
Comparing yourself to others…
Feeling inadequate thinking that the solutions you provide for your family are not enough or not the right solution for them…
Getting lost on social media and the highlight reel of other people’s lives and wondering why your life isn’t picture perfect…
Setting unrealistic expectations for yourself and then allowing yourself to feel bad when you don’t reach the expectation that was incredibly high in the first place…
My Friend, all of these things will feed that feeling of guilt. And continuing to do these things is not a good strategy!
Reset Your Expectations
Can I tell you a secret? Wonder Woman isn’t real. Or, if she is, she has a team of professionals around her, doing a TON of behind-the-scenes work to make sure that she looks good on camera!
We are all human. We all make mistakes. One of the guarantees in life is that you will mess up at some point in time, in some way, every day – most likely multiple times a day! I’m sorry to be the one to burst your bubble, but we need to take a good, hard look at reality if we’re going to be able to learn and grow from it.
You need to first recognize where you are. You need to recognize some misconceptions that you have allowed yourself to believe. And you need to see that you are uniquely designed to be you and no one in the world is better at being you than you!
So what do you do when all those expectations threaten to take over your mind? How do you stop the deluge? How do you begin to set realistic expectations?
Choose Your Mindset
The first key to this puzzle lies in shifting your mindset. Your mind is an incredibly powerful thing. In fact, scientists are finding out more and more every day how our brains work, but even so there is a huge depth of knowledge that they have just barely begun to understand!
What they do know is that your mind is incredibly influential when it comes to your attitudes and behaviors. The things that you choose to think about, the things that you choose to dwell on effect you. It is true that you cannot control every fleeting thought that comes into your mind, but you can decide what to do with them when they arrive.
When those negative thoughts arrive – and, believe me, they will! – you can choose to focus on them and let them have control. You know those thoughts that I’m talking about: The ones that tell you that you’re not good enough. The ones that tell you that you’re not doing enough. The ones that make you feel downright bad about yourself. The ones that come complete with a pile of guilt.
You can choose to focus on those negative thoughts. But, here’s the danger: When you focus on these thoughts you give them power. You start to believe them. You start to agree with them. And then the guilt starts pouring in, taking over and even more negative thoughts come flooding in.
On the other hand, when those negative thoughts arrive, you can choose to focus on something positive. When you start to flip the script in your head, you are refusing to give power to the negativity. You can focus on the fact that you are the right mom for your kids. Focus on the fact that you may not know everything, but you are always learning. Focus on the fact that you have so much to be grateful for. Focus on the fact that you are you. You are uniquely created to be you – and you’re good at it!
When you choose to focus on the positive, your outlook and mindset begin to become increasingly positive. Notice I did not say that everything will go right, because things will still go wrong! You are still human, after all! But when those things do go wrong, they become much easier to work with and have a much less devastating effect on your mindset and outlook.
Give Yourself Credit for Trying
It is so easy to fall into the trap of thinking that whenever you try something new, you have to be fabulous at it right at the very beginning. Thinking that there is no room for error. Giving yourself no margin for attempting something that might have a less than perfect result. For refusing to try something if there is no guarantee that you will master it right away.
But think about this for a second: How did you learn to ride a bike? One day did you just walk outside, hop on a 2-wheeled bicycle with no training wheels and take off, balancing perfectly, never to fall off your bike? No! Not at all! You may have started on a tricycle, learning the concept of pedaling and steering without the fear of tipping over. When the time was right, you graduated to a 2-wheeler with training wheels to learn balance. Finally, after much practice, the training wheels came off. Do you remember that day? Do you remember that sense of accomplishment that was a long time in coming? If I don’t miss my guess, there were many spills, false starts, maybe even some tears and scraped knees in your process of learning to ride a bike. But you didn’t give up. You got up and tried again.
You celebrated the attempt. You tried and tried again. You celebrated the small wins that brought you closer and closer to that big goal of riding a bicycle all by yourself. Why is it that this mentality of celebrating the small wins, celebrating the attempt seems to disappear the older you get?
Do you give yourself credit for trying?
What if success was measured, not by how well you finished something, but by having the boldness to show up and try something in the first place?
What if you gave yourself permission to try something new, knowing that you probably won’t get it right the very first time, but simply made the choice to step out of your comfort zone and try something?
Recognizing and Owning Your Mistakes
Again, we come back to this undeniable fact that you are human. I am human. As human beings, we will make mistakes. It is a universal truth of being human: You will mess up. I will mess up.
The question then changes from “What if I mess up?” to “What will I do when I mess up? How will I respond?”
It throws it into a whole new context, doesn’t it?
When you walk through life with the expectation that you will mess up from time to time (not trying to, but knowing that you will), there is a sense of freedom that comes. It is accepting yourself for the human that you are and realizing that messing up, making mistakes is not the major issue at hand. The bigger question is: What will you do when you realize that you’ve made a mistake?
You can choose to give up and stop trying. Which won’t get you anywhere. In fact, that is a great way to get stuck and stop making progress entirely!
Or you can choose to own your mistake. To acknowledge that you messed up. To admit it to those that saw you mess up that you did, indeed, mess up. To allow them to see you owning your mistake. And to apologize to those people that were hurt in the process.
One of the most powerful things that you can do as a mom is to admit your mistakes and ask for forgiveness from your children. Yes, this is a humbling experience. Yes, this will push you out of your comfort zone. But the foundation of truth and trust and openness and honesty that this creates is unparalleled. It shows your children that you are real. That you are not prefect. That you openly acknowledge that you do mess up, but you are choosing not to give up. You are always striving to learn and get better at what you do.
It also sets a precedent for your children to have the freedom to come to you and openly admit their mistakes. It removes that unspoken expectation of perfection from their shoulders as they are learning and growing and trying new things each and every day.
Seek Harmony, Not Balance
Balance seems to be this standard of perfection, doesn’t it? The mark that you have arrived when you finally achieve balance in your life. I’ll be honest, I joined this bandwagon for longer than I care to admit! I kept thinking that if only I could find balance in my life that things would be better, that things would even out, that everything would be the way it was supposed to be and I would feel so much better about, well, everything!
And then I got to thinking: Is balance even possible?
More than that, if I keep everything in perfect balance, then I am giving equal weight to everything in my life. If I’m giving equal weight to everything in my life, then what I’m really saying is that there is no one thing more important than anything else.
Well, that’s not true! My family and my faith are the most important things in my life. But there are other things that are important, too, like making sure my dog gets fed, cleaning the house, and making sure that the bills are paid. But if one of my kids needs my help because they scraped their knee riding their bike, the dog gets to wait for his dinner!
The more I thought about it, the more this concept of perfect balance just seems to be an illusion. Something unattainable. Something that isn’t even that desirable.
Then I stumbled upon this word: Harmony.
Think about it: When you listen to a really great piece of music, particularly a piece of music that is played by an orchestra, do you hear every instrument at the same volume level the entire time? For that matter, do you hear the overall sound of the music at the same volume level the entire time? Of course not! Any good musician (or conductor) will make sure that there are dynamics in the music – that the music gets softer and sweeter at parts and louder and bolder in others and sometimes it hits a mid-range, almost like it’s giving you a break waiting for what’s coming next.
On top of that, you don’t hear all the instruments at the same volume at the same time. In some cases, the drums take over, in other cases you hear the violins and cellos take precedence, in other cases you hear the French horns or the trumpets blast. If you heard all of these things at the same intensity all at the same time, it would sound like chaos all the time! But when they all work together in harmony, allowing each instrument in its turn to have a chance to shine, a beautiful masterpiece is created.
Life is like this. There will be times in life when the drums take over, when the unexpected things come up and have to be dealt with right here and right now. There will be times when the melody takes over and life feels like you are gliding along smooth waters and things are actually balancing out. But then, before you know it, the French horns start playing and another aspect of life comes front and center.
The key here is not to fight this. The key is to accept the fact that life will not be perfectly balanced. (Although, in those rare moments when it does feel balanced, enjoy it!!) Know your priorities. Know those things in your life that are most important and need to remain most important.
Don’t fight for everything to be perfectly balanced. Strive for harmony.
Embrace Your Uniqueness
You are the best you there will ever be! Did you realize that? No one else has your unique set of gifts and talents. No one else is better at being you.
Your home will not look exactly like anyone else’s. Your morning routine will not look exactly like anyone else’s. Your day will not look exactly like anyone else’s. You are unique. Not only that, but you have a unique mix of personalities in your home. No one else has the same mix that you do because no one else is you.
One of the hardest things to overcome, particularly as a mom, is to stop comparing yourself to other people. And, my Friend, I’m not going to lie to you: This one is incredibly hard!
Part of what makes it so hard is because there is a great deal that we can lean from others. We can glean so much knowledge and helpful tips and advice from seeing how others do things. But the danger lies when you get so caught up in doing something just like someone else and forget yourself in the process.
How you approach things will look different – sometimes very different – than other’s. You need to remember that just because a certain routine or system or pattern works for someone else, that does not mean that it is the exact right fit for you and your family.
You need to embrace the fact that you are uniquely you.
So learn from others, yes. Glean advice and wisdom from others, yes. But never forget that you are uniquely you. Embrace it.
Tying It All Together
There is no other you on the planet. You are uniquely created.
You are here for a purpose. You are uniquely gifted to serve your family in the best way you can, knowing that you are imperfect – and being okay with that.
While letting go of those unrealistic expectations, that Wonder Woman mentality, that Super Mom complex is difficult, it is not impossible.
Oh, don’t get me wrong, it will rear it’s ugly head every now and then and you will have to fight it back down, but when you have the right tools…
The right mindset…
When you set realistic expectations…
When you give yourself credit for trying…
When you own your mistakes..
When you seek harmony instead of balance…
the fight gets a lot easier.
And you know what, Friend? I think that you are supremely wonderful just the way that you are!
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Elizabeth Tatham, founder of Inspiration in the Everyday, is a homeschooling momma of 5 who loves helping other homeschooling mommas create a unique homeschooling adventure your kids will love…without the overwhelm! Join in on the journey with 7 simple steps to make your homeschooling day go faster, easier, and with less tears here.