*Disclaimer: I swear more in this post than usual. If that offends you I'm led to wonder 1) how we're friends and 2) why you read this in general.
I've spent my entire life trying to be perfect. I'm all about goals, so why not shoot for one that is literally unobtainable? The thing about perfection is that it's completely subjective. My definition of perfect may be completely different than yours.
For me perfection is about efficiency. The more I can accomplish the closer I get to my goal of perfection. If you leave me to my own devices for any length of time I will come up with some kind of project. Over Christmas break it was things like organizing my pantry and organizing my son's closet (a task I find myself doing every few months as he grows out of things so quickly.) I rarely stop moving. While my son's nap time should be an opportunity to take a break, for me it means time to exercise, fold laundry, vacuum, and (insert other project here). There are some days where the only time I sit down is when I am running errands in the car. I am exactly like my dad; I'm not wired to relax.
Last night while my husband was giving my son a bath (what...maybe 15-20 minutes tops?) I took decorations off of two artificial trees and dusted my dining room. Today during my lunch break I walked home and put dinner in the Crockpot, put away Christmas garland and vacuumed the entire downstairs of my house. Who needs time to eat?
I love cooking (or more accurately the idea of cooking), but making dinner has become the bane of my existence (coupled with my son's picky eating). I get two hours max of time with my kid every night, and I don't want to spend it fixing dinner. However the perfectionist in me feels like I need to cook. Last weekend I decided to tie on my apron and make my husband a full on holiday feast: turkey, homemade garlic mashed potatoes (side question: is there a trick to getting the smell of garlic off my fingers?), green bean casserole, stuffing, rosemary gravy and corn. It was totally my idea, but I wanted to do it because I knew it would mean a lot to him. Later I found myself with every burner blazing on the stove on a Saturday evening wondering why I couldn't just order Chinese food like a normal person. Or fix a more appropriate meal for two people. Because that would be too easy, and my expectation of perfect in this scenario meant a more extravagant meal. Because in my head my crazy makes me think I can actually pull off being a flawless domestic engineer (while also being a working mom) like I'm June Motherfucking Cleaver.
After two weeks at home with my son I've discovered that the world's most difficult job is parenting. It's amazing and wonderful and the hardest thing ever. I would be lying if I didn't admit part of me was excited to come back to work to get a break. A nice cappuccino, a half an hour (okay maybe longer) in my colleague's office sharing holiday war stories without someone shouting "Ah gah!" (translation: "all done") to me over and over. I love the idea of staying home, and I feel so guilty to be relieved that I don't. I am so thrilled to have gotten more time with my son in December than I have since I was home on maternity leave. It was a blast. I'm also thrilled to come back to work and for him to be back at school with other kids and more structure (because I know for a fact their schedule is 100 times better than mine).
I think I'm a pretty good mom, but I fall short of my own expectations of parenting perfection all the time. It happens any time I feel impatient. I don't love television for my kid, but when he actually discovered the TV over break I was guilty of putting him in his jumper to watch Daniel Tiger. It's on PBS. It's good for him right? (#perfectmomfail)
My to do lists at work are epic. It's not uncommon for me to have multiple lists that I continue to mix together and reprioritize. I also manage to fit in running and working out although some days it feels nearly impossible.
I don't say any of this to brag. I say it to illustrate that I'm fucking crazy. On the day last fall when my father passed away, I was driving back from the hospital with my mom. I will never forget how the day was so sunny and beautiful. My mom started talking about my dad in that far away voice someone uses when reality hasn't quite hit them. She said my dad was never able to relax. He was always going and ultimately it was probably part of what killed him. I wasn't about to make that moment about me, but in my head I thought, "Holy shit. That's what I'm like too."
Despite the myriad projects and chores I was actually able to relax some over Christmas break. It's easiest when I'm away from home and am not beckoned by all the things I need to do. I read 4 novels, something I haven't done in a while (reading is the easiest way for me to unwind).
Before my son was born my dogs were walked for two miles every day. Now they are lucky if they get two miles a week. One of my goals in the new year is to walk them at least once every day as long as the weather permits. Last night I desperately wanted to put on my pajamas and sit down. I had been moving all day, and walking the dogs in the cold did not seem fun. I forced myself to take them out after my son went to bed.
Izzy, our Portuguese Water Dog/Poodle mix loves it when there's snow on the ground. She was immediately bounding into it in the joyful way that only a dog can. We walked toward the state buildings and onto the walkway toward the State Capitol Building. It was a completely silent night with only the sounds I could hear being my boots hitting the pavement and my dogs panting. As we got closer to the beautifully lit Capitol I could see snow flurries dancing in the murky light of the street lamps. We walked around the building, running up the steps in the front as we always do. I paused to take in the view down Michigan Avenue and the state Christmas tree (I think the most beautiful one since I moved here).
The night was so peaceful, and we were undisturbed in our admiration of the building and its surroundings. As we headed back toward our house I found myself so grateful to be out walking. I was tired and I was busy, but I was grateful for forcing myself to take the dogs out. I realized that perfection doesn't always mean striving to be the working mom's version of June Cleaver. Perfection can be found in snow flurries. Perfection can be found in the quiet moments when we least expect it. My main goal for 2016 is to find perfection in the less than perfect and cut myself some slack. This goal may be less attainable than my idea of perfection.