When you become a mom, nothing can adequately prepare you for all the emotions you’ll have. The intense love and sense of awe when you first see your baby, the pride as they grow and meet their milestones, the frustration you’ll feel when they start to intentionally disobey you.
For me, I also could never have prepared for the level of anxiety I’d feel, a crippling perfectionism that often causes me to not do anything at all, for fear of failing or not living up to my expectations, and then a sense of guilt for not having done said activity in the first place.
There’s a seemingly innate belief in me that the house has to be perfectly tidy in order to do the activities with my young children that I want to do or to be able to relax at all. If you saw my house, you’d never know it, but this desire for order is nearly all-consuming as I cannot focus on anything else when we are home, yet, I feel absolutely powerless to change it.
I often feel unengaged with my kids as I’m constantly running through an ever-growing to-do list that never gets any items checked off. I am emotionally drained, burnt out, and wondering how much energy I’m wasting constantly obsessing about this. I feel constantly stressed, constantly aggravated, a constant need to escape which is difficult given that it’s now winter and we’re still in the middle of a raging pandemic.
I make excuses. All the time.
My kids are too high energy to do structured activities. I’m doing the best I can with my anxiety and OCD. I don’t have the energy to make things better. Any progress I make is quickly undone by two toddlers who can’t keep their hands off anything! I make promises I don’t keep. We will do more activities after I make the house better. We will address difficult behaviors and cement potty training once the house is done. We will have playdates and invite family over once the house is organized.
It has become dishearteningly clear during this pandemic how truly stuck we’ve become staying at home. Our lives have come to a screeching halt in all the wrong ways. I tell myself we’re doing our part in fighting against the pandemic by staying home, but really I know the truth. It’s the chaos and my mental health that are holding us hostage. I want our house to feel like home again. If we’re stuck at home, I want it to be a place we want to be. A place we love. I’m tired of feeling stuck. I’m tired of waiting. I’m tired of making empty promises to myself and my family.
A few months ago, my cousin shared a Ted Talk with me. It was about fighting anxiety. Now, I can’t remember much detail about the talk, but I remember feeling like someone finally understood me and my struggle with perfectionism. The speaker presented a list of three things to do to fight against anxiety.
I only remember one: Do it badly.
I think maybe the main struggle with my house, organization, and all the activities I want to do with my kids stems from the fear that I can’t do it well enough. I’ve “failed” in the past and past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior, right? Well, it’s also one of the biggest motivators for change. Anxiety and perfectionism keep me stuck doing nothing because I don’t want to do it badly. I never make progress because I’m too afraid I can’t get it done. And I’m afraid of the mess it will take to actually get done.
I want things to be able to be neatly tied up and the clutter contained, but I know with my two hyperactive boys, I’m not going to be able to tie it up in a quick 30-minute session. And so guess what, I never even start. Yes, I do work on some things but most of the time I never make any real progress because it’s just moving piles from one part of the house to another. I’m so afraid of an activity with the boys not going the way I want it to that we never even try it.
This year, I’m going to break up with perfectionism. I’m not going to try to be the perfect mom. I’m not even going to try to be a good mom. This year, 2021, I’m going to be a Bad Mom.
I’m going to do the things I’ve always wanted to do, and I’m going to do them badly. And who knows, maybe while I’m busy being a bad mom, I’ll find out I’m not so bad after all.