This is dedicated to all of my wonderful perfectly imperfect mums who do all we can for the ones we love and do it perfectly in our own imperfect ways!
My little big revelation!
I have always been a perfectionist, and as many perfectionists would agree to be a perfectionist is simultaneously one of your greatest strengths as well as one of your greatest weaknesses.
The strength is that you always strive to achieve the best results you can in every aspect of your life, from laundry and cooking to self-presentation and career aspirations. However, the weakness is being a perfectionist also means to constantly push yourself and never allow your mind to rest, as you constantly think about ways to make everything even better and often struggling to be content with what you have. You must have everything in control at all time. As a result, you become your biggest critic. For perfectionists, opinions of others and their praise often mean very little (although we do love some good recognition) because your inner critic is never fully satisfied and your mind magically manages to ruin even the sweetest of victories and find yet another idea to make already great achievement even better (or think you should have done that instead) … tiresome it is to be a perfectionist.
So, when it came to my husband and I finally becoming parents to our firstborn, a lot of my friends and family kept telling me that I would have to learn to let things go and not focus on everything being perfect, because children are of course the joy of our life but they come with no instructions and bring mess as well as chaos…
In addition, I was warned, that I’d be very tired from looking after the new baby so I should just forget about having my home cleaned to my usual desired standards or look as well put together as I used to be.
During my pregnancy I was peacefully thinking about this from time to time, letting the advice from those who have been through it all sink in and decided that I had to tell the inner perfectionist to relax and let it be. Turned out, that was exactly the opposite of what I ended up doing.
From the moment my precious baby boy was born, I was devoting myself to him entirely and selflessly. He was and will always be my all. I focused my entire existence on him being healthy and happy. I didn’t even realise how my obsession with perfection has disappeared. It was just gone.
Not for long though…
My baby was my perfection and nothing else mattered. For the first couple of months, just like most new and first-time mums I was trying to figure out how to be a mum; what was good and right for my boy and what to do when he was hungry, sleepy, unwell, restless, cranky, constipated and the rest of the endless things that a baby goes through whilst slowly adapting to the new world he’s being brought into. I loved every minute of it. I loved learning about my baby just as much as watching him discovering the world which started with his tiny toes and fingers.
As much as I loved that, tiredness was creeping up.
In addition to that, vigorously jumping up and down hormones also kept me ‘entertained’. My mood would change a thousand times a day leaving me feeling happy yet sad, satisfied yet angry, encouraged yet desperate all at the same time. A vicious cycle of being on an emotional roller-coaster is something that so many of us go through after having a baby.
Then of course ‘self-doubt’ visited from time to time which made me hate myself, my body and the fact that the bags under my eyes, from all the sleepless nights and days, looked bigger than my actual eyes. I’ve been robbed of the only feature of mine that I always loved and was very proud of…my beautiful blue eyes were in the past.
‘Hate’ had a friend called ‘self-pity’ and they often visited me together, especially when I’d look in the mirror.
Plus, I was very sensitive to every positive or negative comment or vibe about being a good mum and doing thing the ‘right way’, even the slightest of comments. Suddenly a ‘never caring about others opinion’ I started to ‘listen to what others had to say’, even if it was some stranger’s opinion on social media completely unrelated to me. I drove myself insane thinking that I wasn’t good enough, seeking for everyone’s approval…
There I was, emotionally distressed and physically exhausted, a shadow of the person I used to be waving goodbye to the last memories of a confident and strong wielded perfectionist.
I started to believe that I wasn’t good enough; not a good enough mum, wife, friend, daughter… I wasn’t good enough! These words were in my head 24 hours a day. This is when that desperate perfectionist in me had returned and kept on fighting and demanding me to do a better job and become ‘good enough’.
I pushed myself further and further, to ensure that I had a pristine house, I cooked perfect meals and all of this after weeks of sleepless nights looking after my little boy.
A couple of months later, my perfectionist me and completely exhausted self, have finally got a better grip of motherhood and started to establish a lot more balanced daily routine, which allowed me to breathe, raise my head and finally look around.
I soon was left at peace by the hormonal hurricane, and I came to like myself and my body again.
This is when the perfectionist me decided it was time for a change and take our ‘good enough’ routine to a new level, a level of perfection.
Interestingly enough, none of this ‘being perfect’ thing has ever mattered to anyone around me. My husband or my family and friends have always told me that I was doing a fantastic job at being a new mum and having a lovely home. They would always stress that I looked well and made everything else look so well kept. Little did they know…
And it wasn’t that I looked at other mums and thought “oh wow! she is a perfect mum and she is so well put together and I want to be like her…” No. Neither did I ever compare me or wanted to compete with others. Quite the opposite, I have always been very supportive and understanding of others. All but my own self. I just had it imprinted in my head, that I had to be perfect at everything I do, what was the reason for that? the only universe knows.
I basically challenged myself, called myself up on a fight and competition with … myself…
Sadly, whilst pushing myself to do a better job and to be better at everything, I completely failed to recognise that I have already been doing a pretty impressive job and I was handling everything brilliantly. I also failed to recognise that I needed rest. For months I tormented myself with striving for perfection and completely failed to realise that my own health was badly neglected.
My baby and his needs would always come first. Nothing would ever change that! The only time I could just be my happy and loving self-was with my baby. Whatever he needed, whether it was for 5 minutes or for hours, I would be by his side.
I would then turn on the ‘perfectionist button’ and be the best housewife I could be. I would try to clean up everything to the highest standards I have created for myself.
You could often find me arranging books and shelves keeping up with the strict angles and patterns, with my baby hanging in the sling in front of me, just like a mama kangaroo with her baby sleeping cosily in the pouch over her tummy.
I did the perfect cleanups over and over again; folded clothes and colour coordinated for baby, husband and myself, perfectly ironed and starched shirts for my husband, perfectly hovered rugs and carpets, not an ounce of dust or a pet hair anywhere, bleached and sparkling bathtub and sinks, perfectly cooked meals.
As a result, I was so physically exhausted that it made me emotionally drained and yet again it felt like a hormonal hurricane had struck again, except it wasn’t hormones it was the perfectionist me doing it all to the human me.
Not surprisingly, I was struggling but I would never admit it to anyone, especially to myself. I was getting further tired but I would refuse to give in and just let it go.
One night when my husband was away on a business trip, I was home alone with my baby. As usual, I was up very early that day, fair to say I actually didn’t sleep. I spent all day looking after the baby, nursing and rocking him to sleep plus cleaning the house getting the laundry done and make everything Perfect… I felt a new level of exhaustion that evening and decided that once baby would fall asleep I would try to sleep too. I rocked my boy to his night sleep and as I was getting into our bed whilst holding my sleeping baby in my arms (we had the baby sleeping with us for a while as the baby had lengthy and particularly painful colic so he would sleep peacefully only with us).
So, in my exhausted state, I lost balance and I literally rolled off the bed and fell on a hard floor. As I was falling, it seemed like I was seeing everything that was happening in a slow motion. I knew that I would fall pretty bad as I would drop on the floor with my entire body weight so I squeezed my baby and brought him close to my chest and wrapped my arms around him tightly so that he wouldn’t get hurt. Until today I don’t know how, but I managed to divert and angle my falling body in a way that it would land on my back and ensured that my baby would remain unharmed, and he was completely fine! just woke up from the motion.
There I was, home alone, laying on the floor, with my baby in my arms. My head felt numb and uncomfortable with an odd hot sensation all around, that made me think that I was bleeding. Luckily, I wasn’t.
I couldn’t get up for a couple of minutes. I looked at my boy, peacefully resting in my arms, and an alarming thought crossed my mind “I am not ready to die because I have not finished writing the diary for my baby”. Hard to believe but in that moment I thought about a diary I was writing for my boy to read one day when he is older and I was collecting different quotes and sayings for him in addition to all the thoughts and feelings I wanted to leave on the pages of that diary. If I was to die, he would never know what I thought of him and how much I loved him.
At that moment, I didn’t think about the cleanliness of my house or the perfectly arranged wardrobe, no, I thought of what I would have had left behind for my boy, and it certainly wasn’t the perfectly hovered rugs.
Funny, but these thoughts instantly flooded my head.
I’m not saying it was near death experience, but it was an enough of an experience for me to open up my eyes to the problem I have self-inflicted.
When you are laying on the floor home alone and you can’t feel your head and can’t get up or move your body and your baby is this small and unprotected it certainly puts things into perspective. My little boy has never needed me to be perfect, he has always needed me to be there…
There at my lowest, with a bag of frozen peas on my head, I realised that perfectionist or not, I was first of all a human and just like any other human I was allowed to have feelings; and I could feel imperfect and I could look imperfect and I could simply be as imperfect as I wanted to be.
Since I was born a human, I was allowed to be one! I was only learning to be a mum and it was ok to feel the way I did.
The love and devotion for my baby saved me from self-destruction. Every time I would look into his big beautiful eyes, I’d feel the warmth and love in my heart, that would spread throughout my body filling me up with strength and energy. No matter how tired or however imperfect I was, I just had to carry on being the most imperfect mum for the most perfect baby.
The next day, I looked at my perfectly clean house from the day before and I realised that it was all in my head. The truth was, that since I had my baby I have always had a nice home with a touch of messiness which was actually cute. Despite moments of self-doubt, I actually always looked quite nice for a new mummy, as my husband always used to call me a ‘yummy mummy’. At last, my husband’s words of love, he has been saying to me all alone, have been heard.
I have always looked after everyone and everything and I didn’t do any less of that since I had my baby, I just balanced it differently. And whilst I was doing it all so well, I was so blind to see it and I only kept criticising myself for actually nothing. I pushed further and further. Why did I continue to push myself if I have already had the perfection although totally imperfect, only the Universe knows…
This is how my life has become a perfect imperfection which I have created. It made me so happy deep inside but I failed to notice my own wonderful creation for so long.
My perfectly imperfect way of looking at things has been the happiest life discovery I have ever made. I have been doing a pretty good job all along, yet I let my own bugs in my head stop me from seeing it. I am still a perfectionist but I am not a blind perfectionist anymore.
Who said that perfection is one dimensional? It’s certainly not! The perfection is what you want it to be and what makes you happy with yourself and things around you.
So, a big pat on the back to all mums doing it their way, you are all great and its ok not to feel ok sometimes. Please do remember if you ever feel imperfect you are not alone, let’s all be imperfect together!