Let’s talk about perfectionism in motherhood. There are many ways perfectionism can show up in motherhood and there are effects on the mother, the child, and the family unit. It is important to unpack some of these ideas women and society has around how women should show up in these roles and what is not a realistic expectation. So, let’s dive in.
What is perfectionism?
Perfectionism, as defined by GoodTherapy, “is often seen as a positive trait that increases your chances of success, but it can lead to self-defeating thoughts or behaviors that make it harder to achieve goals. It may also cause stress, anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues. People who strive for perfection out of feelings of inadequacy or failure may find it helpful to speak with a therapist; this can often help people manage excessive self-criticism.”
GoodTherapy went on to explain that perfectionism is often the result of being fearful of feelings of disapproval, insecurity, and inadequacy. This can often times also be linked back to one’s upbringing. Children with a parent or parents who modeled perfectionism as a way of living or children who had a troubled attachment with their parents may find themselves slipping into the perfectionism tendencies.
Perfectionism can show up in all areas of our lives. It can show up in our self-care such as at the gym, it can show up in our relationships, it can show up in our careers, and it can show up in our motherhood journey.
Perfectionism versus the mother!
Today’s society definitely isn’t doing the modern mother any favors with breaking this “perfect mother” idea that so many women strive for. Social media has women competing and striving for impossible standards. There are accounts after accounts of beautiful families, in their beautiful homes, and living these seemingly beautiful lives. It can absolutely perpetuate these feelings of insecurities and inadequacy when one is unable to meet these standards.
However, this has been going on for much longer than our modern times. Think back to the 50’s with popular sitcoms such as Leave it to Beaver with the mother being portrayed as a beautiful woman always done up, keeping a good home, and taking care of her family.
It would seem we have come a long way since the 50’s. We have had a women’s movement, women have made gains in the workforce, and the conversations regarding the load of parenting and the sharing of the load has become more and more in recent years.
And yet, women are still striving for the perfect mother title.
How are mother’s turning to perfectionism?
Mothers are striving for perfectionism in many areas of their mothering. The list seems as though it could be never ending from keeping a beautiful home, to making sure her family’s outward appearance looks perfect, to measuring her children’s achievements as parental successes.
1. Think “People First.” Instead of focusing on making yourself, your children and your world perfect, put your heart into connecting with the people you love.
3. Challenge your negative self-talk by turning the volume down rather than trying to shut out all critical thoughts. Try to avoid comparing your efforts to those of others. Be you.
4. Let your children learn to be who they are rather than what would look best. Remember that they need a little hurt and a few bumps in life to become that wonderful person.
5. Have fun and/or be around others who do. Smile authentically; get dirty and let children get dirty – play. Reward yourself for the effort of having fun.
6. Let go of expectations and try to accept people as they are. We are all unique and flawed as human beings. Don’t judge your flaws or those of others. Embrace your essence and see it as all part of being you. Amazing things will happen if you let go.
7. If this list seems daunting, seek professional help. Change will come faster when you have a guide who can help you be yourself with a little less discomfort.
8. Remember it is never too late. Even adult children will benefit from you becoming lighter.
The negative effects of perfectionism far outweigh any gains keeping up with the other moms in your circle ever could. Medical News Today reported that, “Anxiety, depression, and suicidal ideation are only some of the mental health problems that specialists have repeatedly linked with this form of perfectionism.” The impacts of perfectionism on one’s mental and physical health can be debilitating and life threatening. If you are having exceedingly high expectations of yourself, please seek treatment or contact your provider.
Good Therapy stated, “Brené Brown, a writer and research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work, distinguishes between perfectionism and healthy behavior. She says, "Perfectionism is not the same thing as striving to be your best. Perfection is not about healthy achievement and growth." She explains that perfectionism is used by many people as a shield to protect against the pain of blame, judgment, or shame.”
Perfectionism in motherhood can also create roadblocks to a healthy and fulfilling intimate relationship with our partners. Living with perfectionism controlling your life steals your ability to have conversations that are not feeding that need. You may find that all of your conversations are around the to-do list to maintain the perfectionism and the children. In not creating space for intimacy and authenticity romantic relationships can be affected negatively.
Most importantly, perfectionism hinders one’s ability to connect. Connection is the purpose of the human experience. It is one of our basic needs. In striving for perfectionism, we lose our ability to live authentically which is where true connection lives. Relating this to our motherhood experience, if one lives a life which is hindering to true connection… how will the mother truly connect with their children?
A perfect mother does not do everything perfectly, but rather lives a life connecting with her children and modeling healthy behaviors.