Tuesday, August 19, 2008

good enough

This is not an answer to the Hump Day Hmm question, but it is a response to Julie's post about Elizabeth Edwards. Read it first, if you have a minute. And you know you do.

I spent the day at Georgia's Mom's house, admiring the view (you should see her back yard), changing diapers, and talking about maternal guilt. (As an aside, old friends are like siblings without the mess. You get all the comradery of shared experience, without the stickiness of family dynamics. It's really nice.) Anyway, we were talking about guilt created by expectations, and learning to accept that sometimes "good enough" has to be good enough. Not an easy lesson to learn for either us, repentant perfectionists that we are.

Then I came home and read Julie's post, and it reminded me of something I heard recently: Others' opinions of us stick only when they confirm something we already believe about ourselves.

I have this friend who is completely put together. Her family eats only fresh and organic food, she works out every day, she's involved in several clubs and groups, she disciples other women. She's one of those people that I would love to hate, if only she wasn't so genuine and thoughtful and kind. And on my bad days, she becomes the measuring stick of everything I'm not doing right. I was saying this to my mom one day, about how I couldn't even get a shower, and here so-and-so has a week's worth of dinners prepared. My mom's response was, "Well give her a gold star."

Indeed. What do I win for being perfect? Only the chance to do it all again tomorrow. When I think of the energy I have spent trying to live up to perceived expectations, which are really only my own perfectionistic tendencies bouncing back in my face, I'm ashamed.

So when I hear Elizabeth Edwards - then Julie - say, "You don't get to say," I know that I mostly need to say that to myself. I don't get to say that my best wasn't good enough, not yet. Because in mothering, my measuring stick is not whether the floors were vacuumed (they weren't), or even if nobody cried (they did). It's in the strength of my relationship to my husband and children in ten years. It's in seeing my children internalize our family's values and faith. Toward this end my success remains to be seen. I don't get to say it didn't work, not yet. Clean floors and extracurricular activities, well, all I get for them are gold stars.


Elizabeth said...

Food for thought...really helps put all the frustration of not getting things done into perspective. What good is it, really, to make sure all the dishes get done by the end of the day if my child is hanging on my legs begging to be held the whole time I'm cleaning? I think we put too much pressure on ourselves as SAHMs to have the perfect children, the perfectly clean house, the perfectly-prepared dinner. I blame 1950s sitcoms for starting the "perfect housewife" image!

Julie Pippert said...

BRAVO! Absolutely.

This, "Others' opinions of us stick only when they confirm something we already believe about ourselves." is a realyl great quote.

I'd tweak it slightly for me to be, "Others' opinions of us stick only when they confirm something we FEAR about ourselves."

We all have different capacities and priorities, and as one commenter said: it's just as simple as having respect for differences.

I will say I first said, "you don't get to say..." in my 20s, but it was situational, and not a life theme. It has taken nearly 20 years (slow learner here LOL) but it is slowly becoming a theme.

Great post, glad you wrote about this (and I'm flexible!).

Anonymous said...

We had an awful morning, with the boys acting up horribly in the children's museum. I felt like all the mothers were judging me and I felt like a failure b/c the morning was no fun for any of us. But then I read this. And you are right. It is the aggregate of all our mornings that will matter in the end.