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  • Writer's pictureSamantha Wallace, re-mom Founder

Perfect(ing) Motherhood


I get it. You're a high-achieving, high-performing woman - you've excelled in nearly every area of your life, hitting standards that are so high even you wonder how you've managed to do it all. You've been praised, admired, rewarded and promoted for most of your life for your top grades, incredible contributions in the workplace, potential, and highly developed skill. You've always stood out in a crowd. You're an A+ all around and no one can challenge that..until a tiny human you now call your child came along.


The sudden shock to your system from the realization you're unable to achieve perfection in your newfound state of motherhood is not unique to you. As lonely and isolating as it may feel to suddenly feel faced with an identity crisis all at the tiny, chubby hands of a baby, you are not alone. A recovering perfectionist and "control freak" myself, I can empathize with the feelings of loss and mourning over who you once were, and the fear of who you now may be: imperfect, unable, struggling, and constantly doubting yourself. It's scary, it's disappointing, and it's unwanted. It's also incredibly common in high-achieving women. But here's why I'm writing this blog: the issue isn't with motherhood, or your baby, or your inability to do something right.


The issue is with the identity we've built around ourselves that is rooted in external validation and perfectionism.

When you've gone your whole life achieving higher than usual standards, it is completely understandable that we expect those achievements and that trajectory of success in motherhood as well. Here's what no one tells women like us, though: in our lives, we had been conditioned to stay in our lane of what we were good at, continue to excel in it, find ways to constantly be rewarded for that excellence, and continue to hone those skills. We made choices consistent with that identity we built. Motherhood however, is wildly unpredictable and is just flat out uncharted territory that no one can ever prepare you for. Because of this, the sudden loss of control, the apparent loss of choice in how to participate and how to show up, the inability to problem solve with lack of immediate results, and the very little reward and validation mothers receive for the effort, feels soul-crushing.


If there's one time in our lives that perfectionism and control are tested, it's motherhood.

But what if I said it's an opportunity?


If you're a high achieving mother struggling with the feeling of "not measuring up" to either your own or others' expectations, I offer you this: this deep discomfort with motherhood is your opportunity to redefine your identity, and redesign your life to fit that identity...and abandon the unrealistic and harmful measures of perfectionism you've been extending to your motherhood experience.


This is your wakeup call that the puzzle pieces no longer fit. Not because the pieces are too many, or not what you want, or not good enough; but rather, because the puzzle itself no longer serves you.

Here are some ways to redesign your life as a mother living with perfectionist tendencies:

  1. Be mindful of perfectionism's ugly little sister, judgement. Judgement comes in the form of comparison - the tendency to stack rank people and things around you and compare them to yourself, with an underlying belief that you're at the top of that ranking system. I know - this is a harsh reality that sounds horrible, but getting real with judgements you make and why you make them is critical to understanding a) how these are unhelpful to you and your need to be "perfect" and b) how you see yourself if you view others this harshly

  2. Revisit your values. What are your values now, in this new identity? How do your thoughts, behaviours, and experiences reflect these values? Does fitting into a perfect box fit in these values?

  3. Accept help from others. Learning to let go (even just a little bit!) and accept help in the way it comes to you - not in the way you want it! - is an excellent exercise to test your ability to be a student of surprise. Seeing how you can achieve the same, or dare I say, better, outcomes in a completely different way than you would have approached a situation is an excellent way to devalue perfectionism and reduce judgement of yourself and of others.

  4. Love yourself. This sounds cheesy and overdone, but it is said millions of times a day by millions of people because it really is absolutely critical. To truly accept yourself as you are, to love yourself fully, to not force yourself to take form of a "should", is critical to successfully letting go of perfectionism. When you accept and love yourself as you are, you no longer require the external validation of meeting a standard.

  5. Ask yourself, "so what?". If you feel the internal pressure to want to fix or correct something or someone, pause and ask yourself, "so what if that happens?". Over time, you'll find that you have less and less excuses running through your mind, and more and more ease as you allow yourself to let go.


In today's world, motherhood tends to happen around the same time that our careers start to really take off. It's at this time in our life that it becomes increasingly more important to focus on work-life harmony as our responsibilities, priorities, and accountabilities grow, while our mental headspace, time, and energy reduce. This puts the modern working mother at an almost impossible crux between life and work; though it doesn't have to be this way if we are ready to let go of pre-defined notions of how working motherhood should look.


If there's one thing I learned about motherhood, it's that it is an opportunity to re-write my story and reinvent myself. As with many mothers I speak to, I find there is an element of existential crisis that comes along with raising tiny humans, where the identity integration process of who we once were, combined with figuring out who we now are, produces a sort of synergistic effect where we are suddenly so much more aware of who we want to be - not just as mothers, but as career women, as spouses or partners, as individuals with our own interests and desires. While it's shocking and oftentimes a not-so-pretty experience, it is profoundly liberating.


It is possible to be tremendously successful as a working mother, in a way that may look different than your former, pre-motherhood identity would have defined it...and that doesn't make it any less perfect.


 

re-mom offers support for new working mothers, helping women thrive both as mothers and as working professionals. To learn more about how we can help, visit www.re-mom.com/services, or email us at hello@re-mom.com to get the conversation started.


If you want to join in on intentional conversations on the working motherhood experience, join us on instagram (@re_mom_coaching) and keep an eye out for our prompts & pauses each Friday.


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