Maybe you’ve been told you are a “perfectionist” or “Type A.” Maybe you know you like things a certain way and feel like you’re going to crawl out of your skin when something is just not the way you prefer it to be.
You didn’t become this way because you’re a difficult person. And there are actually a lot of strengths of perfectionists. They tend to be thorough, driven, detail oriented, and always wanting to improve themselves.
But a mix of perfectionism and motherhood can result in a lot of frustration, disappointment, and even hopelessness.
Perfectionism isn’t necessarily about things needing to be or look “perfect.” It’s about having 1) control and 2) having tangible or external validation to confirm things are the way they should be.
Let’s talk first about why control is a problem for mothers.
I’ll start with this. And I’m putting it in all caps here for you people in the back.
YOU CANNOT FULLY CONTROL THE PROCESS OF RAISING ANOTHER HUMAN BEING.
That tiny little 8 pound squish in your arms? You can’t control them. You can meet their needs, you can respond the best way you can, but you can not control them.
Before motherhood there was a lot of control you could exert of your life. Depending on your occupation maybe you were able to easily complete projects at work and see tangible results. You probably got performance evaluations where you able to lay out your specific goals for the next year. Maybe you were able to carefully curate how to implement your daily tasks and activities at work or home. You experienced a state of “flow” probably at times where you in so in the zone and mastering something in a way that really fed your soul.
And then motherhood happened.
Now most mothers don’t bring children into this world with the intent to control them. But we do have expectations for what motherhood will feel like and what it “should” look like and that involves a tiny human presenting themselves in a certain way. Most of us don’t envision motherhood when we are pregnant as the 3am sleep deprived out of our minds with a screaming infant that we can’t seem to settle. We see sleeping babies, giggles, motherly instincts, a natural bond and connection. We envision ourselves moving effortlessly through the decisions, adopting this new identify with confidence and grace.
What actually happens is a slow process of learning that many of our high expectations will not be met and that there will be unclear validation if we are doing things the “right” way. If we refuse to learn this then we continue to attempt to control and may over stimulate ourselves with so much information and perspectives to seek the “right” way of mothering that we lose trust in ourselves and become frustrated with our lives.
If we want to continue to live our lives controlling things as much as we did before children we’ll be set up for disappointment. Because motherhood isn’t a project or strategy or a schedule, it’s a relationship.
So when we apply this equation to motherhood (an equation we may have been able to use a lot pre-motherhood)
EXPECTATION + CONTROL + VALIDATION = HAPPINESS
we will be met more with something like this
FAILED EXPECTATION + NO CONTROL + UNCLEAR VALIDATION = FRUSTRATION, ANXIETY, POWERLESSNESS
Applying control, perfection, and high expectations to motherhood is not only unfair for us and our kids it’s just not logical. The more we expect things to go the way we think we should the more we aren’t able to see the beauty of the way things already are.
So what is the new equation for us now that we are mothers?
Probably something more like this-
GRACE + LOVE + TRUST = ACCEPTANCE
When we take control, expectation, and a need for external validation out of the equation our power then lies in the grace we give to ourselves and and our lives, the love we give to o our children and the trust that we will find our way. And what we receive is acceptance of our lives they way they are and learning to love them with or without all the control.
Need to unpack this more and learn more about how to let go of our issues with control? Check out the Resilient Mamas Membership where “Letting Go of Control” is our next weekly module!