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Why Are Moms Perfectionists?

Why Are Moms Perfectionists?

Why is it that moms feel they have to be perfectionists?

What are some tips on how to stop?

Perfectionism is a trap because we simply can’t measure up to our own expectations of doing it all. And when we don’t, we feel guilt. On some level, this guilt is a connecting point for all women because we all feel it. In small doses guilt makes us human. But when we feel an overdose of it, it wears us down, catches us in a cycle of negative thinking and damages our health.

If we’re working moms, it’s even worse. We struggle with the constant balancing act of taking care of kids and still doing well in our careers. We’re constantly juggling work and family – wanting to be supermoms at home while being at the top of our careers at the office.

Why do we lie awake at night trying to be the perfect mom, the perfect wife, the perfect friend and also perfect at work (when dads seem to be immune to this perfection need)?

1. These messages have been programmed into us since we were young and we – women collectively – haven’t been able to squeeze out from under the pressure of believing we should be perfect. We internalize that message and – even though we know rationally that we lay far too many expectations upon ourselves and we know it’s unrealistic that we can do it all, we still feel torn and distraught that we can’t be perfect.

2. We also feel the pressure from other women – women who don’t seem to be struggling as much as we are; women who are stay-at-home moms and don’t have the extra time restraints; and even our own moms who lived in a different era with different perspectives of life and different obligations.

So how can we get over this need to be perfect?

1. Don’t allow someone else to define what you should and should not be doing. Make your own choices and let go of other people’s expectations of you.

2. Set your own priorities for what you want to do in your day and let the rest go. Realize that there are only three choices – you either lower your expectations of what gets done, or you get someone else to do some of the jobs, or you try to do it all – and we already know that simply doesn’t work. So set aside time for yourself – to work out, to relax and confirm for yourself that your kids will be fine if they’re not with you 24/7. Let the rest go.

3. Make a calendar with the important events in your family life and keep it at your desk at work. Refer to it before you make a work commitment. Make the choice right away and then stick to your choice.

4. If you’ve done something you regret – like missing your daughter’s soccer game because of work – apologize to her and move on. There will always be another soccer game – you have another chance. Your kids will forgive you. Your job is to forgive yourself.

5. Get support. There are so many other working moms out there who are struggling with the same issues. Just having someone to talk with can relieve your guilt and get you back on an anti-perfectionism track.

Read more: Family, Health, Mental Wellness, Women's Health, , , , , ,

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Joanne Stern

Joanne Stern, PhD, is a psychotherapist with a private practice emphasizing counseling with families, parents, couples and teens. She’s a teacher, consultant, speaker, and expert guest on parenting and family topics, including communication, discipline, self-esteem, addictions, eating disorders, grief, and loss. Parenting Is a Contact Sport: 8 Ways to Stay Connected to Your Kids for Life is her first book. A mother and grandmother, she and her husband, Terry Hale, live in Aspen, Colorado.

66 comments

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1:26AM PDT on Oct 13, 2011

I've tried for 33 years to impress 2 people who won't pick up the phone to talk to me. I've been blessed with unique working opportunities but I don't think they even know what I do for a living. I've done everything they asked me to do in life but they are still not interested. I used to wonder if I'd been more perfect if they would love me. It's just that I'm just not high on their priorities and nothing can buy love. People have told me for years to give up but something inside of me still has hope that one day they will see me as someone of worth. I have a daughter now and used to have a nanny until I found out she wasn't taking care of my daughter properly. Example - wiped my daughter's face with a napkin she got out of a trash can, refused to obey doctor's orders, stealing, etc. Its been very hard to find/balance/afford quality care with long work hours. I try to give my daughter, husband, and employers the best of me and also keep a clean house; a neat yard; and be a good friend; etc... Yet there's the nagging comments from unhurried people who think I need to be working on this project or that project too. I haven't had a day off in 9 months. I wonder how many clones they think I have to spread around. I'm just trying to ignore it, but its breaking my spirit.

11:05AM PDT on Oct 7, 2011

thanks

3:15PM PDT on Jul 16, 2011

I'm a new mom...my daughter is 2 months now. I'm a stay-at-home mom and I can barely do the things I want to do let allow trying to understand how working woman cope with the added pressures of their careers. So kudos to all women who work (whether in home or not) and still love and care for their kids. Moms aren't perfect nor should we expect them to be...our moms weren't. Forgiveness and Grace are some of the most important things we can give ourselves. Thanks for the article.

12:00PM PDT on May 8, 2011

Mothering has to be a lifetime of worry and concerns about their children.Sometimes you ask your self what did I do wrong.Sometimes you can say I never raised them to do the things they do. Also most of the time, you can give your child a hug and kiss and simply say, :I'm proud of your acomplishments."I love you very much.:

11:42AM PDT on May 8, 2011

I have punished myself for years because of my ideals of what a bad Mother I was. It was all about my children not turning out the way I had tried to raise them..I have finally been unloading part of the guilt by realizing they are adults with the option on how to live a good life or a bad one..I am now alienated from my family because I chose to live my life in a much better way.I wish my children and I could at least be friends and talk out everything that went wrong..Maybe someday we can.

4:19PM PST on Mar 2, 2011

I ran away @ age14 for 2 weeks because my mother's unreasonable expectations. I realize she always had my best interest at heart but I wonder if those 'messages' to be a perfectionist crept in and pushed her to have a 'perfect family' in everyone elses eyes. Therefore, those mixed messages put pressure on us, her 4 kids.
Not to always blame mom but I'm 36 now and to this day she still doesn't understand why I ran away or that the children have moved far away from home.
Don't worry what other people think!

11:23PM PST on Mar 1, 2011

thanks

8:58PM PDT on Oct 17, 2010

Nice Article!
Thank You so much.
HAVE A VERY BLESSED NIGHT EVERYBODY.
Much Love and Light,
B.D:)

11:31PM PDT on Aug 3, 2010

thanks.

2:02AM PDT on Jul 24, 2010

Thanks for the article.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
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