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by Diane K. Danielson
Perfection is for people with plenty of free time and personal assistants. At least that’s what I tell myself these days. You see, a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, I used to be one of those perfectionist people. I didn’t enjoy anything unless I was doing it “perfectly.” It was as if I had “six sigma’d” my entire life, leaving no room for any deviation from an unrealistic standard of perfection. While this can work quite well in business, and did for me for a long time, it doesn’t leave a lot of room for error – or fun – in the rest of your life.
However, despite my best efforts, my “perfect” world came to a screeching halt seven years ago. There is nothing like a divorce and a newborn baby to unceremoniously bounce your perfectly-pilated behind right off that perfectionist bandwagon. It doesn’t matter how single motherhood comes about (divorce, by choice, or by accident) throughout all of history and society, it’s about as far from “perfect” as one can possibly imagine.
Yet, my status as a divorcee and single mom was never a stigma that bothered me much. Perhaps I was too sleep-deprived to notice? On the other hand, the shock was learning that I was never actually going to live up to those “perfect” moms they feature in parenting magazines; that the adorable “perfect” baby room was never really going to make it out of the Pottery Barn catalog; and that trying to excel at a 60 hour a week corporate job was no longer my “perfect” life choice. I tried, I really did; but somehow I kept falling asleep in the middle of it all.
That was until I finally realized that falling off the perfectionist bandwagon was the best thing that ever happened to me. Now, rather than ask about trees falling in the forest, the much more relevant question in my life is “if no one is ever going to see my bed is there really a point in making it?” In fact, simply doing the laundry is a major accomplishment. That means washed and left in the laundry basket. Folding it may or may not happen until a few days later. (I’ve even discovered that if you wait long enough, you can actually wear everything again before you waste time putting it away.)
I’ve also come to terms with the fact that work assignments no longer get turned in a day early with “extra research;” and that my only exercise for the week might be running for the school bus in the morning. And, yes, that was me piling the “Kid’s Cuisine” frozen dinners into my cart at the supermarket. Although, with fresh vegetables having suddenly turned deadly, frozen chicken nuggets and freeze-dried corn aren’t looking so bad.
Do I miss my perfectionism? Of course, an orderly house and life would be nice, but I don’t miss how hard I used to be on myself. Nor do I miss those parenting magazines that have finally stopped coming in the mail. I’m also betting my son wouldn’t have much liked the “before” version of Mommy. I highly doubt she would have been game to participate in his preferred six-year old activities which range from normal levels of messy to downright gross most of the time. So, for now, while our street address might say differently, my son and I know that we’re happily living on the Far Side of Perfect.