Walking the line between aspiration and perfectionism

Rope-walkerImage by Nickolai Kashirin

Moms toggle between two extremes: showing how their ideals can be realized to the good of their families (apply these rules, or those principles, or that group of practices and all will work as it should!), and those who want to reassure everyone that it’s okay not to live up to those ideals because we are human.

Weirdly, we need both.

We need to know that some of what we do makes a difference, or why bother? If breast feeding and bottle feeding are the same, why pick one over the other? If holding and rocking a crying baby is no different than leaving a baby to cry it out in a crib, why adopt one over the other?

We scrutinize the results of these possible choices, and then make decisions based on the outcomes we imagine will benefit us and our families.

On the other hand, no one can live up to their ideals 100% of the time. Even if you do, that faithfulness doesn’t prevent disaster, tragedy, illness, or life’s unpredictability from interfering with our best intentions.

So we want both. We want shining examples that inspire us to over-reach and commit to Big Shiny Ideals, and we want humbled examples of people who keep going when they can’t live up to their fantasy selves.

What we really want to know (this is the billion dollar question):

Just how faithful do I have to be to get the benefits of the ideal I believe in?

Is it enough to breastfeed six weeks, six months, sixteen months? Do I have to nurse my child exclusively for four years to really “milk it” for all it’s worth?

Am I committed to healthy eating if I let my kids drink sodas at parties?

If I pick up my baby instead of letting her cry it out, will she ever learn to sleep on her own? Conversely, if I let my baby cry this one time, will she no longer trust me?

Am I an unschooler if my child takes an online class?

Am I a good homemaker if my house is a mess or I don’t bake from scratch? How often do we have to eat together to consider ourselves a closely knit family?

The good news: Ideals are meant to be aspirations. You won’t hit them all. Holding yourself to a perfectionist standard wears you out and causes you to put principles ahead of people, including you and your needs!

Aspire to your ideals, share the wonderful results of the choices you make and how they’ve enhanced your family. Also feel free to be who you are and to tweak whatever aspirations you have to suit you and your time of life.

It’s a back and forth experience of striving and resting, reaching and leaning back, aspiring and being okay with how the ideal plays out in your particular family.

Cross-posted on facebook.

2 Responses to “Walking the line between aspiration and perfectionism”

  1. Kit says:

    Julie, this is so helpful. I have grown weary of all the blog posts assuring me that I really am such an amazing mother, a wonder woman really, all because of the regular things I have done that day. All the while I feel that I really am not that great a mother and there is so much more for me to do and instill in my children.
    As you suggest, there is a balance to be had; it’s a both/and, not an either/or. I must not feel condemned by all that I haven’t done, but should be free to still strive to be better.
    I appreciate your expressing these ideas! I am not a homeschooler but really benefit from your insights and wisdom!

  2. Julie Bogart says:

    Thank you Kit. I’m glad you are reading and sharing here.