Mothers of Intention — Why Perfectionist Parenting is Anything But Perfect

Thu, April 28, 2011

Equal Pay, Feminism, Mothers of Intention

Welcome the latest installment Mothers of Intention!  Pleas welcome Becky Beaupre Gillespie and Hollee Schwartz Temple, the authors of the new book, Good Enough Is the New Perfect: Finding Happiness and Success in Modern Motherhood.  While I haven’t had a chance to dig into this book yet, I’m looking forward to it because I’ve been following Becky and Hollee for a long time in their role as advocates for finding a better way to manage work and family in their writing for the ABA Journal.  I know they’re going to have some awesome insights into the path so many of us are trying to navigate — how to keep our sanity in our family and professional lives.

One day last summer, Hollee pulled out of an Ohio campground, excited to be on her way to Chicago.

She’d been enjoying a family reunion at Lake Hope State Park, but she was ready for a bug-free wireless connection and some quality urban time with Becky. The ride took longer than the 1 hour and 27 minutes promised, but Hollee had given herself plenty of time. She parked in the extended lot and shuttled her way to the gate.

That’s when she punched in her confirmation code and got this message: “Sorry, but you can’t check in until 24 hours before your flight.” She knew she was early, but she thought it was more like two hours. Turns out that she’d driven to the airport on the wrong day.

When she returned to camp — having soothed her embarrassment with a stop at Starbucks — her eight-year-old son greeted her with a bear hug.

“Can you believe I made such a big mistake?” Hollee asked him.

That was her redemption moment. The chance to show Gideon that it’s OK to screw up.

When we aim for perfection as parents, we do our children — and ourselves — a disservice. It’s not good for them, and it’s not good for us. And, yet, ours is a generation that often treats motherhood like a competitive sport — aiming to be perfect moms who create perfect children.

The quest for perfection is our generation’s single greatest obstacle to juggling work and family — and, often, it keeps us from achieving the dreams that mean the most to us. That’s one of the biggest findings from the nationwide survey of working moms we conducted for Good Enough Is the New Perfect: Finding Happiness and Success in Modern Motherhood.

In fact, the respondents who took a “good enough” approach at work and home were more likely to be satisfied with their choices, less likely to feel they’d sacrificed too much, and less likely to describe their marriages as a “disaster” or “not very good.” And — this is the best part — they’d given up surprisingly little professional ground to achieve this state of contentment. These women hadn’t settled for second best — they’d simply stopped beating themselves up and scrambling to meet other people’s definitions of success.

We do not need to be perfect to be successful. And nor do our children.

Ellen Galinsky, the president and co-founder of the Families and Work Institute and the author of Mind in the Making, makes a good point about this. When we model perfection, she told us, we teach our kids a heartbreaking and dangerous lesson: Mistakes are unacceptable.

Children who wither when confronted with challenges view their abilities as fixed — once they fall short, it’s very hard for them to rebound. On the other hand, kids who develop a “growth” mindset believe they can improve (in ability and intelligence) over time and with practice. They view new challenges as fun and exciting.

So when Gideon asked Hollee last summer whether the airport mix-up was her first mistake (insert laughter here), she reminded him of several others and told him how she’d overcome them.

She laughed about her three-hour detour through the woods and back and talked about the upside: The Temple family got to spend the rest of the evening together and Hollee brought back some Silly Bandz. And when she headed back to the airport the next day, she felt like he was a step closer to that growth mindset she’s trying to foster.

Which, as far as we’re concerned, is perfect.

You can read more Mothers of Intention voices in just a few weeks, and you won’t need a computer to do it!

Be Sociable, Share!

Related Posts:

, ,

4 Responses to “Mothers of Intention — Why Perfectionist Parenting is Anything But Perfect”

  1. Lisa Says:

    I love, love, love this! Especially these lines: “That was her redemption moment. The chance to show Gideon that it’s OK to screw up.” and “We do not need to be perfect to be successful. And nor do our children.”

    Finally a validation that we’re so much better when we take our masks off and pursue transparency with our children and in all areas of our lives.

  2. Christine Says:

    I think I need to buy this book. Thanks for posting.

  3. Susan @WhyMommy Says:

    Love this! What a great way to turn a disappointment into a teaching moment. Of course it’s okay to make mistakes! I just got my copy of this book, and I’m excited to start reading it!

  4. Sam Says:

    Love the article! I’m a stay at home dad and rarely try to be perfect. I did notice you used the term “successful” where I would have said “happy” in the sentence, “We do not need to be perfect to be successful.” I wonder if they are often thought of the same thing by many moms/dads/parents?


Leave a Reply