Perfectly Good

Step away from the laundry.  Put down the dishrag.  Drop the mop.

Oh, and while you’re at it, walk away from the Brainy Baby Einstein DVDs and take the baby out of his Little Gymani.  Peel yourself out of the minivan for a morning, and give yourself a break from testing little Ella for Fancy Preschool. 

Hand out the sippy cups, take the kids outside to play, and settle in for a few minutes with a good book — like the recently released Even June Cleaver Would Forget the Juice Box, by Ann Dunnewold.  I recently received a copy of this book from Parent Bloggers Network, and, frankly, it was just what I needed.

Too often we get caught up in overachieving in our lives, and it is really hard to step away and get perspective. When I worked in an office, this was certainly true.  I was so determined, and so dedicated to living that dream, that I lost sense of what else was important in my life.  I was so single-minded in the pursuit of success that the rest of my life was falling by the wayside.

Every now and then  I’d step back and realize that I was pouring my whole self into work and stressing myself out trying to achieve the impossible. 

Now that I’m home with the kids and consulting when I can, I should be enjoying myself, delighting in their every coo and cry, and laughing along with my toddler at newly-discovered worms in the garden.  Right?  Right?  Well, most of the time I do.  But sometimes I still get stressed out.  About the house.  About the laundry.  About the lawn that needs to be cut and the hair that needs to be trimmed and the baby that just does. not. stop. nursing.  There’s so much to do, and it’s so hard to do it all perfectly.

That’s where this book comes in.  Dunnewold has written a book that may just be a survival guide to parenthood.  She discusses the recent spate of Perfect Parenting books, as well as the Slacker Mom rebuttals, and reminds the reader that it wasn’t always thus.  Back in June Cleaver’s day, although the house may have been perfectly clean and Wally and the Beav mostly washed and well-fed, were things really as perfect as they seemed?

Did you ever see June Cleaver down on the floor, playing with her kids?

I didn’t.  Although her kids were older when the sitcom was filmed (hello – this should have been a major clue), I just didn’t see her out with the boys much, enjoying them.  She was almost always shown in the kitchen, cooking, or sitting in the den with their father after dinner.  Enjoying herself?  Perhaps.  But she wasn’t perfect.  And we don’t have to be perfect either.

Ann Dunnewold is a practicing therapist who encourages her clients to cut themselves some slack in their relentless pursuit of being a good mom, a good wife, a good worker, and a good person.  Not the perfect mother.  A perfectly good mother. 

I’ve toted this book up and down stairs over the past few weeks, reading the lessons over and over in between playing Little People and washing raspberries for yet another snacktime, trying to convince myself that it’s okay sometimes to let things go.  To take a day off from the laundry, and picking up after the whirlwind that is Widget.  It’s hard.  I want things to be perfect.  I want to feel that I left work for a reason, and that I’ve got everything under control at home.  But perfection is impossible.  And that’s why we need to let it go, and concentrate on the things that make a difference, and just do what we can on the rest of it.  I’m not convinced yet.  But I am intrigued.  And I’m going to keep reading this book and thinking about how I’m “doing motherhood” until I’m at peace about it.

This review has also been posted at Review Planet and highlighted at Works for Me Wednesday at Rocks in My Dryer.

5 Responses to Perfectly Good

  1. Joyful Days says:

    Sounds like a good book. They grow up so fast, I blink and they have changed.

    Have a great day.

  2. GP says:

    Works for me… as an innkeeper, your “cutting slack” totally called out to me 🙂

    GP in Montana

  3. Amy says:

    It is so easy to forget that we don’t see other moms behind closed doors, and that even our memories of our own childhood can be inaccurate. Maybe that other mom at the library *seems* to have everything together, but it could be that she hasn’t done laundry in 3 weeks. Maybe that mom at the grocery store has her 5 kids in perfect order, and a cart full of fresh fruits and veggies, but she and her husband haven’t had sex in 6 months. Everyone has an area where they aren’t measuring up, and that’s because it’s impossible to measure up in all areas at all times.

    I sometimes have fun looking at other moms and guessing where their deficiency is. I would never say it out loud, and they’re mostly funny, (“Oh!” I think, “I’ll bet there are dust bunnies the size of chihuahuas under her bed!”) I used to look at other moms and think, “They’re so much better than I am! What do they know that I don’t? Why can’t I *do* this???” I think the chihuahua sized dust bunnies are healthier, even though they’re imaginary… The idea that other moms were perfect was imaginary too.

    Another thing I gave myself a hard time about, until quite recently (like, yesterday) was that I wasn’t a joiner. I do not belong to a single MOMS group or play group or anything, and the one group that I *do* belong to, I haven’t been to a meeting in 6 months, and the only reason I belong is because every woman in my family belongs… Anyway, I realized (yesterday) that having kids may have changed a lot of things in my life, but it didn’t change me into a joiner. I’ve NEVER liked groups (especially large groups of women – ack!). I much prefer small groups and one on one interactions (and men). I hate rules and meetings and fund raisers and all of that junk. So why would I expect having babies to change something so fundamental (and non-related to kids) in my life? I might as well expect to suddenly love Brussels sprouts because I’m a mom, now. It doesn’t make sense to feel guilty that my girls aren’t in a playgroup, so I let it go. Oh, the liberation!

    Great post! I’m going to have to pick up that book.

  4. Amy Jane says:

    I had a similar revelation about “good” being enough back when I was pregnant with #3.

    It is such a reassuring truth.

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