7/9/08

A Perfectionist Parent

People say they like it when I'm honest about how hard life is with kids sometimes. Okay, almost all the time, but I'm desperately trying to stay positive here. But really, people say that and I kinda wonder...

If you have been lying about enjoying my authenticity, and what you really think is that I'm a whiner, then please discontinue reading this cause it's about to get ugly in here.

I totally admire mothers who keep their cool and remain positive and happy about their days. I really do. I strive to be her. But sometimes I'm just not capable. Today for example. I do believe I might combust. There is so much impatience and fatigue and frustration boiling around on my insides, I might actually explode, leaving my finally clean house covered in smoke and dust.

But then I would be resting, so I don't mind.

Maybe I should start a forum for wives with traveling husbands. Even though I don't know what I'm talking about because I've never even entered a forum (is that what you call it? Entering?).

The temptation to completely shut down is huge. Bigger than I ever thought it would be for me. I've seen other moms do that in a way. They simply don't pay much attention to their kids because it's just too hard. There's no way to keep up with it all. No way to remain positive and playful 24 hours a day by yourself. No way to get up at 5:30am and still feel like staying calm during the 400th "discussion" with a three-year-old at the end of the day.

It is so much easier to plop that little angel of yours in front of the TV and hope that their brain development isn't totally stunted. It's so much easier to say, "yes, you can have more Cheetos," just to avoid a fight. It's so much easier to keep your cool by never having the "discussion" in the first place. And maybe it's easier to ignore the fussy baby who cries every time he's put down, just walk away and wait for it to stop. These are some of the things I've actually been told to try, to ease the pressure and to catch a break.

But I can't do any of those things. I can't. Sure I do sometimes, just as anyone else. But for the most part I try really hard to do things the way my gut tells me is right. I follow through. I turn the TV off after the half hour is up. I keep my boys on schedule, leaving places where I'm having a great time to make sure they aren't over-tired. I feed them healthy foods and avoid sugar and other crap. When Miles doesn't listen, we figure it out even if that takes too long and it's the most frustrating thing in the world. (It's really hard to have someone consistently disregarding your every word, even if they're just being three. So I work hard at remembering that he's a little person with his own ideas, and isn't mature enough to understand that his fighting me is mostly for no good reason.)

And in the midst of all of it, I'm constantly considering what's best for them. Constantly thinking about how I want to handle some phase that's new. Constantly weighing whether or not I should worry about something that may be nothing.

It's hard to be a perfectionist parent. I'm tired. And I'm thinking I haven't really found the balance yet. I don't want to compromise on any of the things (and many more) I listed. I'm not saying that to toot my tiny little horn, I'm saying it because I really do know what's best for these people that have been entrusted to Ryan and I. I'm their mom. That means I have intuition about them. I don't want to give up, starting to ignore those pangs of knowledge because it's just too much work.

BUT, I don't want to combust either.

If I'm going to do this mom thing the way I really want to, not compromising on things that matter to our family, I have no other choice than to take breaks. Real breaks. Real refreshers. There is no other way to avoid combusting. A mother cannot work this hard and not lose her temper, her energy, her sanity, herself.

I don't exactly know how to pull it off, what with the traveling husband and all. But I owe it to my boys to figure out how to get more breathers. They don't need a mom that loses her cool every thirty seconds because she has nothing left to give. They need a mom who has enough energy to be a safe place for them. And my heart's desire is to be that mom. Maybe not perfectly all the time, but most of the time, consistently. A place of peace and refuge.

(Don't say you weren't warned...I did warn you at the beginning. Now tell me you love my rambling downer of a post and it'll cheer me up. Thanks.)

10 clicked right here to comment:

joolee said...

Good for you for not compromising....on the Cheetos and TV time and all that. Wish I could say the same...

What momma didn't tell me was that MOST days would be like this, MOST days would be like this momma didn't say....

kimberly said...

You know life is harder now all the way around. Even though I am pretty sure our previous generations would disagree with me! In our culture we cannot do anything fast enough or elaborate enough. In 2008 it's okay to be lazy behind closed doors if your outward appearance shows a perfect class act. It is very backwards, really! Alot of families just do what is "easy" because of this. Something always has to give, Heather. In your life it is you who is giving. Giving up your time for those boys, for your husband, for yourself in a way, since mostly YOU would go nuts with a messy house and zero clean laundry. Plus you'd lose even more sleep if you were like most parents in America and just pushed "the easy button"! Just think what your anxiety level would be then! I am not perfect, but boy am I like you in the fact that I don't even want to think about how my child will turn out in this already crazy life if I don't work really hard at being almost perfect. (For the record, I am not even close.) It is exhausting and frustrating when you see others just giving in to what is "easy" and putting themselves first 95% of the time. In the end really its just a choice, well a series of them. The best part is that you choose to be that perfectionist parent most of the time, because of your vision for your family. That's AWESOME! However, there is a time for everything under heaven. A time to be the best mom you can be, and then a time to lay on the couch and watch Clifford with Miles. There are times to order take out and times to wear the same underwear twice. I think that is what balance is all about. Knowing when to take a break and when to get up and potty train or make super baby food! You really are inspiring...some people search there whole life trying to do God's work. You're doing it every single day and I can tell because you are an example for moms out there that need a good mom to look up to!
Love ya!

Troy & Tara Livesay said...

being a mom non stop without a break is hard. i hear you - i get you.

MidnightCafe said...

Honey, I LOVED your post. Whether it's rambling or whining or venting or whatever. I *almost* relate to what you're talking about, except my husband is a teacher, not a traveler. I *know* the insanity of high standards but also how important it is to have them. We're doing the very best we can with what we've got. Sometimes there isn't a whole lot to go around. ...that's when we should..um...live in communes and take care of each other & each others' kids. That's my pie in the sky.

Troy & Tara Livesay said...

heather-
I love Stuff Christians Like -- I read your comment on his post about Red Bull Christianity -- I clicked on your name and saw you were a Minnesotan (I am too) -- so I just checked out your blog based on your comment on his blog -- I like JUNO too ... we like "shut your frickin gob" along with lots of the other silly lines in that movie.

I HATE when my husband is gone. I would not do well if I had a traveling hubby like you. Hang in there!!!!

Kristen said...

I just saw your link on Tara's blog. I love your writing! This post in particular. Um, no, not whining. You are just saying out loud what I think most of us deal with all day. I struggle constantly with the temptation to tune out.

I like this article so much, I'm wondering if I could re-publish it on our mommy blog at www.mamamanifesto.com. With credit, of course. I think you are articulating stuff that many women need to hear.

Jim & Laurel said...

Just found your blog, and enjoyed this post.

I've been a professional mommy for 24 years, and can relate to much of what you shared.

Hang in there ... keep doing what you know you need to be doing ... don't take the "easy way out" ... your kids are worth the time and effort it takes to train them up right ...

But ... also do what it takes to have some "mommy time" ... scrapbooking ... reading ... a hot bath ... a cup of tea and a woman's magazine ... YOU are important too.

Blessings,

Laurel
mama of 13
http://imghanaadopt.blogspot.com

Amy said...

Another hello from MamaManifesto:

I am obsessed with the idea of how to help women give themselves permission for self-care... most of us mama's don't even remember what that looks like! I just wanted to give you permission today to be exactly the kind of mom that you are: fun and sassy, imperfect and loved by your boys, and whatever else goes well with you!

XO
Amy

Kelly @ Love Well said...

Hey Heather. I actually REMEMBER this post because I so related to it. I didn't comment because I had just returned from camp, and I was on Blog Catch-Up overload. I didn't have time or energy to comment on everything I wanted to.

But well said! And if you ever want to start a support group for spouses who have spouses who travel too much (there's a catchy title!), sign me up!

We're off to the lake for the afternoon!

Nicole said...

Wow. These other comments are from months ago. I feel a bit late on the uptake.

My two cents: Know how I got here? I melted down today. I had enough. I took it personally that my son ended up overtired and cranky over god only knows what and I could not calm him. I feel like I am the mom and I should be able to fix everything. A calm, orderly household comes to mind when I think of my visions and ideals.

After I calmed, I decided it was 'me' time. The dishes can wait, right? So I got online and typed 'it's hard to be a perfectionist mom' into Google. I did it as a joke. I didn't think I would find a kindred spirit.

Thank you for your post. It made me realize that I am not the only one who seems 'overly impulsive' about the 'little things' that other mothers tell me to ignore. I only have one child so far. He is a handful enough. I do not know that there is enough of me to go around to have more than one child. I know I would not have as much time and energy as I would expect of myself to spend on my potential future darlings.

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