Feeling like you have to be perfect--at everything from parenting to Excel spreadsheets--isn't an idea you somehow brought on yourself. Psychologist Ann L. Dunnewold, author of Even June Cleaver Would Forget the Juice Box, points out that the notion of striving is firmly entrenched in the American soil. "We live in a culture firmly-rooted in the idea of improvement. We want each generation to progress, and we feel it is our job as parents to provide a better life for our children." And because we also tend to view things in all-or-nothing terms "we think perfection is required to achieve that success." How can we cut ourselves some slack in the parenting department? Some experts weigh in.
ASK WHAT REALLY MATTERS TO YOUR FAMILY
Some of us spend time obsessing about details that don't matter to anyone else. Zen Buddhist priest Karen Maezen Miller, author of Momma Zen and Hand Wash Cold, suggests letting go of the idea that you have to be all things to all people. "Ask members of your family to choose the things you do that matter most to them. Make those your priorities, and let go of the rest. You might be surprised at the answers you get."
MAKE MISTAKES ON PURPOSE
What's the worst thing that could happen? How about you find out? "Purposely make mistakes or leave tasks undone," suggests Dunnewold. "Put the baby's shirt on inside out; leave the bed unmade; leave one glass in the sink overnight." When you allow little things to be imperfect you realize that the world does not come screeching to a halt. "You'll find that it's not the disaster you fear."
TRY A MANTRA
When your mind starts to reel, use a mantra to ground you, either repeated in your head, or written down on a note card and placed in your wallet or on your mirror. Dunnewold suggests, I'm a mommy, not a martyr; I'm only human, I make mistakes; Control what I can, let go of the rest. "The more you repeat them, the more these phrases will come to mind in stressful moments to help you let go."
DO SOMETHING NICE FOR YOURSELF
"The less time we spend obsessing over our parenting skills, the happier we'll all be," says Miller. Check in with who you are separate from being a mom. "Do something nice for yourself. Not in the name of self-improvement, but in the name of self-care. In your absence, your family will be eager to show you how responsible they are for their own well-being."
ACKNOWLEDGE WHAT YOU ACCOMPLISHED TODAY
Instead of looking at the trip you still need to take to the dry cleaner at day's end, focus on what you have completed, says Dunnewold. "Write a 'Did Do' list at the end of the day, including the hugs given, tears brushed away, carpool runs driven, baths completed."
SEEK OUT THE JOY, JETTISON THE GUILT
No one really cares whether their bed has hospital corners. "The greatest joy in life comes from serving others," says Miller. "Find the joy in doing those things that are truly life nourishing and creative, like cooking and eating together, making art or music together, and being outside in nature together." And if you can't find the time for walks in the park with her family, maybe it's time to check in with how you're spending your time. "Be honest about the real time-wasters and let go of those: keeping up with Facebook, really bad TV, self-criticism and guilt. One more thing to let go of this year: don't sign up to be room mother, and don't feel guilty about it!"
When you feel yourself bogged down in the minutiae of parenting, zoom out and view the big picture. Ask yourself, "When my child is 25, will this really matter?" "Think about what you and your partner value as a family, and what experiences and concepts you want to give your child," says Dunnewold. "Focus on that, pat yourself on the back for committing to those values in your daily life, and let go of the rest."
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