The other day, I was looking through some magazine articles I’ve written and I came across one of my poems that was published in a teen magazine several years ago.
The poem was written as a prayer and it went like this…
Lord, help me know
that I’m your design,
unique, of your hands,
of your heart
and your mind.
It’s easy to look in the mirror and see
that I am not perfect…
but I am me.
Sometimes I think I’m too short or too tall.
My feet are too big.
My chest is too small.
My skin is a mess.
My teeth are not straight.
I try to be God-like,
but just make mistakes.
I’m crooked and messed up and flawed…
but not really
because, Lord, you made me
and it’s you who heals me.
Though I’m not perfect
I am so grateful.
You are my God.
You are so faithful.
I wrote the poem in part as a reflection of how I felt back in college, secretly struggling with my self-image and food, then coming out of it through my faith. But even though the poem draws from that period of my life and is geared toward teens, how many of us struggle with these types of feelings–striving for perfection, but feeling flawed–into adulthood?
This whole topic has been on my mind a lot lately, for a variety of reasons…
There have been several articles published recently about eating disorders as well as a couple of new books, I’ve been deeply touched by someone I know who is struggling with body image right now, and I’ve been revising (on and of) the Young Adult novel I wrote a couple years ago about a teenager, an eating disorder, and the power of secrets. (I’ll be posting more about eating disorders and resources in response to a reader’s email in the near future.)
But there’s so much more to perfectionism than body image or food.
Trying to be perfect can affect all areas of life–marriage, friendships, family…parenting.
On my About page, I introduce myself as a far-from-perfect mom. And, believe me, that’s the truth. Even though I write a lot of parenting articles and have mentored other moms, there are plenty of phases of parenting I haven’t been through yet.
Like any mom, I’m learning daily
and I make mistakes.
But, while I jokingly call myself a recovered perfectionist, and I’m thankful for the freedom I found from food and dieting, I still sometimes struggle with perfectionism in other areas of my life.
I remember a few years ago when I forgot to take my daughter to one of her friend’s birthday parties…
We’d already bought the gift and I had the party on my calendar. But when the date rolled around, I totally forgot about it.
I didn’t even know I forgot until the next day when my daughter’s friend’s mom called.
I was mortified…
What kind of a mom forgets her daughter’s close friend’s birthday party? I thought.
I beat myself up about it for days.
To some of you, the scenario may not sound like a big deal. But to me–a person who doesn’t like to disappoint or upset anyone–it was like a punch in the stomach.
I hated that I’d messed up like that.
But, the good news is, parenting seems to have a way of softening perfectionist tendencies…
Your house doesn’t always have to be spotless because with kids, it’s impossible to keep it that way.
You don’t have to have kids who never misbehave, because, like it or not, there will be times they will act out, no matter what you do.
You don’t have to have all the answers, because no mom does.
And you can’t expect your kids to be perfect
so that helps you to realize you don’t have to be perfect either.
The longer I’ve been a mom, the better I’ve gotten at cutting myself some slack.
And I’m realizing, with each year that passes,
that life is so much more fulfilling–so much more rich–when we are real as moms
and as women…
when we are
The other day, something happened with my son (9 years old) that reminded me just what an imperfect mom I am.
And it also showed me how much better I’m getting at being totally okay with that…
The kids and I were rushing to get out the door for school and I was throwing their lunches together as fast as I could. I asked my son what kind of sandwich he wanted and when he said peanut butter and jelly, I was sure I made it and put it in his lunch box.
But the next morning, when we were making lunches again, he turned to me and laughed. “Oh yeah, Mom, I forgot to tell you. I ordered hot lunch yesterday because there was no sandwich in my lunchbox.”
I looked at him, surprised, thinking about the morning before and how I’d packed his lunch. “What do you mean?” I asked.
“I ate the pretzels for snack and when I brought my lunchbox to the cafeteria, there was only raisins in it.”
I forgot to make him a sandwich?
“Are you sure?” I asked.
“I’m sure.” He laughed.
And, instead of feeling like a horrible mom, I laughed too. “I can’t believe I did that,” I said. We both cracked up.
“So what’d you get for hot lunch?” I asked.
(He doesn’t like chicken nuggets.)
“How were they?” I cringed.
“Pretty good,” he answered.
Then he put his binder and lunch in his backpack,
smiled up at me
and said… “It all worked out fine, Mom.”
(And in that sweet moment,
through the grace of my son,
I was reminded of the grace of God,
and the fact that, thankfully, perfect is something we don’t have to be.)
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